Copyright Robin Titchener 2018

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Too Tired For Sunshine by Tara Wray




The nice thing about being in here is that it is warm. I can feel sunshine on my face, but a gentle breeze - always the perfect temperature - moves over me, past me...cooling. If I listen hard then I can hear soft birdsong.....water lapping against a river bank and the rustling of leaves through trees that are forever green, with branches that cradle me in the protection of their shade. No one ever argues or raises their voices. Fruit is always sweet, bread never goes stale, and I never run out of eggs. If I see a dog it is friendly, and good natured, and I always have the right change and never have to queue or wait in line. Life is good and I have forgotten what the word worry means....but sooner or later and with a certain inevitability that distant cloud rolls across my line of vision....and I have to open my eyes.....

Out you come....oh and grab your coat. It’s cold out here.



The subject of mental illness is still one of the more uncomfortable areas of conversation in our modern world. It is not a broken leg....or a shadow on an x ray. It is not a rash or a fever that can be assuaged with hot soup and a mother's kiss.

It is ephemeral, it is an unwelcome visitor.  We do not understand, no more than that, we do not like what we cannot see....and we cannot see this.

It is gas in the air. It is that shadow in the corner of the bedroom when you are bleary with sleep. It is the total ominous silence that happens just before it all goes wrong. It is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is chaos.

We close the door and turn our backs.



Tara Wray decided to document her own experience living with depression by photographing the mundane things around her. In travelling around her adopted home of Vermont, she captured the everyday minutiae of existence. 

This is a beautifully nuanced collection of images that allows a jet black streak of dark humour to be observed in the ordinary,

For example, to take a joyful image that could be so easily be at home in a Martin Parr shoot. That of a dough nut, it's icing shining and glinting in a tempting "come hither" way. Then to remove Parr's signature colours and replace with Wray's more muted pallet, and squash the dough nut under it's protective dome....welcome to her world.



And so it goes on, beautiful and yet subtly twisted takes on "happy"

To catalogue the images for you would remove the delight of discovery...but to select one or two....well.

A children's slide positioned at the edge of a stunning frozen lake, a mound of snow where the splash should be.



A kid's legs sticking out from under it's bed, green  monster socks on. An interrupted game of hide'n' seek ? Perhaps, but the hands, flopped flat and without purpose....if those hands don't scream "O fuck it!"  I don't know what does.



Then the slow descent into another world. A stack of boxed plates, each with the word "disappointment" printed on it's end.



A field in long shot with a bonfire crackling hungrily by itself, a single house creeping into the edge of the frame.

And then there's that dog. Dogs feature regularly through the sequence...but there is one image that encapsulates the entire project. A black dog sitting on a snowy porch with what looks to be the trappings of Christmas decorations nudging into the picture. I have NEVER seen a dog look so human. The shape of the mouth, the slumped posture...and those eyes.



The contradictions of all the images described above crystallize in this one picture. The humour in this picture is laugh out loud funny....and then you look into those eyes, Past the laughter is a sadness so infinite it chills. Too tired for sunshine indeed.

Laughter and tears, light and dark. Never far away from each other, unable to exist even without the contrast that allows either it's very definition. These pictures take the humour of Erwitt and the observations of Soth and quietly perform alchemy.

As a result of the response to her work Wray started the Too Tired Project, which allows those suffering with depression a platform to engage and share their own work online in the hope of providing a cathartic outlet.

This is not only a beautiful book of photographs, it is one of the most healthy therapy sessions you are ever likely to engage in.

It is warm. It is human. It is essential.




www.tootiredproject.com


An edited version of this review first appeared on

theodreview.com