Change How to Relationships Therapeutic Photography Therapy

Bringing More Light into Focus

Editor’s Note: Bringing More Light Into Focus is a guest blog post written by Richard Wood. His post is a great way of introducing the concept of using photography to explore the interior world within us through an external avenue. While his account is personal and touching, the pracitioners at SDC recognize Mr. Wood’s experience as his own and not a means of therapeutic advisement for others.

In January 2007, I got my first cat, Phyllis. Phyllis McGillis Amaryllis, technically.  I found Phyllis while searching online for kittens and discovered the “Itty Bitty Kitty Committee” in Tacoma, WA, where I happen to be living at the time. If you ever visit the IBKC site, you’ll find amazing photos of beautiful kittens, adorable stories about their actions and complete personality profiles.  And to sweeten the deal the kittens are being adopted out on behalf of the Pierce County Humane Society.

Well, my entry into photography started there!  The site was so beautiful, the kittens were adorable and their website had THOUSANDS of followers who visited daily!  So, I thought Phyllis might want to continue her relationship with the followers of IBKC.

All photos courtesy of Richard Wood of

I started out with my point-and-shoot camera, but almost a year after getting her decided the PnS was NOT cutting it.  So I got my first dSLR camera, a Canon XSi kit with the 18-55 lens.  It seemed SO expensive at the time, ringing in at about $700!  But to see the photos go from great to fantastic was WELL worth the spend!

Shortly thereafter I adopted two more kittens with my partner.  These kittens, Rosalie & Renatta Pettibone (the IBKC started giving each litter cute last names to identify the litters).  And then started the new blog about all three called “Phyllis and the Aliens” (later transitioning to, mostly because that’s what Phyllis thought of the two new youngsters!

Anyway, this post isn’t necessarily about the adorable cats in my life. It’s about life change, what I saw as tragedy.

On November 2, 2009, I discovered that my partner of almost 10 years was having an affair… well, not really.  He was finding random strangers on Craigslist and having sex with them.  He asked me to help fix an issue with his BlackBerry and I happened to find (by accident!!!) contacts and messages from people (three) whom he had recently “interacted” with. My life took a quick and harsh change.

I moved out immediately, filed for divorce (we were Registered Domestic Partners in the State of Washington), he fell into a year-long drug addiction with methamphetamines, making the divorce process very fun.  As if his drug issue didn’t complicate matters enough, I essentially hit the self-destruct switch on my own life.  Having to move, I kicked out renters (friends) from a condo that he and I bought years before.  Because he refused to give me anything from our home in Tacoma to furnish it, I ran up tons of debt furnishing and rebuilding my life. I was broken.

Yes, these things sound terrible. The worst part was how destructive I was with the relationships in my life.  I performed HORRIBLY at work, I dropped out of sight from two different non-profits leaving them stranded with lots of projects I started but didn’t finish.  I decided, “This new life I’m building needs to be about me!”  Screw everyone else and their needs.  I have needs!  I am hurting!  My life, the only life I’d known for 10 years, had imploded.  I didn’t even know who I was.

One amazing thing happened from the irresponsible spending spree. I upgraded my camera (twice actually, first to a Canon 7D, then very recently to a Canon 5D Mark III).  I splurged on a few amazing lenses.  I bought more and more and more camera equipment.  It became an addiction.  Many have said that photography is an expensive habit.  But I turned it into an addiction. In a matter of about 9 months I spent more than $10,000 on camera equipment.  This spending spree (tied to about $30,000 of other frivolous spending) has taken me into an extremely difficult place financially, but I’m attempting to dig myself out.

When the debt started rising and I could see my new “therapeutic spending habit” growing, I decided I needed a method to feed my new “therapy”, and I started taking more and more photography classes with the hope I could turn my money-sucking addiction into a profitable business venture!  Dozens of courses and more equipment happened.

All photographs courtesy of Richard Wood

I started shooting events for free, kept shooting my cat (I got Phyllis in the divorce, he got the Aliens), started shooting my dog, Lucy, (I got a dog a month after the divorce was finalized).  And… something changed.  I had always posted my photos to Facebook, Flickr and Twitter.  But a tide of support was swelling.  More and more compliments were coming in about my photography, my adorable pets, the fun events I photographed, the cool portraits I did, and some pretty intense landscapes!

I can’t put my finger on a date, or even a month or quarter of a year when this started happening, but it seemed to coincide with the founding of my photography business, photography (also to be found on Facebook

I founded the business in June 2011 with the sole intention of making this damned equipment pay some rent!  What I didn’t realize was that I was shifting my life “focus” from solely internal to an external outlet.  My photography, my art if you will, was becoming more and more popular.

At the time, I didn’t realize the amount of “therapy” my photography was giving to me.  I just felt great satisfaction in the end results, watching my skills grow, watching the end products get more and more beautiful, watching the complex technical skills simplify the end resulting beauty… and mostly feeling the warmth of those around me encouraging my photography, encouraging me in my new life.

Here are some of the simple lessons I can now see during my life transition:

  1. Photography saved my life. Period.
  2. Spending will not “buy” peace in your heart. It can, however, purchase you a panic attack when you open your credit card bills.
  3. The skills I found for capturing photos and editing them almost directly correlated to the capturing and editing of my life path.  Just as I thought when I first looked through a viewfinder of a camera, “Wow, what is it that I want out of this photo”, eventually I didn’t see it as a viewfinder but as a mental “scope” focusing on something amazing.  The same thing happened with my life.  In a world I didn’t recognize, I felt I was staring through a viewfinder until I developed instinct and skill to use that viewfinder as a scope to take control of my life.  A shuttler speed change here and there, an f-stop adjustment, maybe a little more ISO and things looked much brighter, more beautiful and crystal clear.

I’d love to hear from folks who have had similar experiences with photography.  I’d also love to start teaching some photography from a new angle, perhaps a different “focus” than just to take beautiful photos.

One frame at a time, I’m conquering my present and future by letting that out-of-focus, blurry past fade away.

Editor’s note: Richard Wood’s post will be published on the photography page of this website. As curator of the website, I welcome guest bloggers to submit stories about how their Craft has helped them think through life’s complexities and challenges. Please consider subscribing to SDC to receive the latest articles on mental health and wellness, culture, art, and the intersection with technology and Social Media.

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