Thinking About the Hard Stuff

This article in Scientific American is the great:

There is another possibility: that, in most instances, depression should not be thought of as a disorder at all. In an article recently published in Psychological Review, we argue that depression is in fact an adaptation, a state of mind which brings real costs, but also brings real benefits.

One reason to suspect that depression is an adaptation, not a malfunction, comes from research into a molecule in the brain known as the 5HT1A receptor. The 5HT1A receptor binds to serotonin, another brain molecule that is highly implicated in depression and is the target of most current antidepressant medications. Rodents lacking this receptor show fewer depressive symptoms in response to stress, which suggests that it is somehow involved in promoting depression. (Pharmaceutical companies, in fact, are designing the next generation of antidepressant medications to target this receptor.) When scientists have compared the composition of the functional part rat 5HT1A receptor to that of humans, it is 99 percent similar, which suggests that it is so important that natural selection has preserved it. The ability to “turn on” depression would seem to be important, then, not an accident.

It goes on to conclude that getting depressed is a good way to spend time thinking about difficult things:

Depressed people often think intensely about their problems. These thoughts are called ruminations; they are persistent and depressed people have difficulty thinking about anything else. Numerous studies have also shown that this thinking style is often highly analytical. They dwell on a complex problem, breaking it down into smaller components, which are considered one at a time.

There you go – it was time well spent… at least it would be  if i could remember actually reaching any meaningful conclusions!

Yes, of course i’m being glib and lighthearted. Depression is a serious problem for many people. However, it’s interesting to be able to see it in evolutionary terms.


A Style… Who Knew?

Yesterday, while pulling together a bunch of shots for a prospective show / gallery exhibition, i had a something of a revelation. It would appear that i’ve developed quite a distinctive style of photography… or actually, a couple of different styles, that are more or less apparent depending on theme.

You’d imagine that this would be hard realisation to arrive at with any element of surprise. However, one of the side-effects of uploading stuff, in a general haphazard fashion, both here and at Flickr, is that it’s easy to lose track of the threads that run through things.

This doesn’t seem like anything to get upset about, after all, it was a nice moment of, “oh! that’s all come together rather better than i expected!” And, i’ve long acknowledged a begrudging respect for those who can maintain a single minded focus in their artistic endeavours (at the same time as enjoying rolling around in my own little puddle of chaos…)

If i’m honest with myself, i guess i’ve been more focused than it appears (not that you’d guess from the mess that you see on flickr…), and been quietly plugging away at a couple of themes for most of this year. It comes and goes, of course, but that’s the way it has to be. This is a hobby not a work assignment. When i enjoy it, it’s great. When i don’t, it’s not the end of the world… although it sometimes feels like it!

It’s also worth acknowledging that limiting choices, in terms of, film, development process, lenses, etc. seems to have as much to do with developing a sense of style, as the actual approach you take to the setting up and capturing the shot. It’s harder to realise this until you stick with a certain combination for a period of time, but it’s certainly there and part of the deal.