Ralph Wilson has been a successful photojournalist for nearly 25 years. He studied editorial and fine art black-and-white photography at DeAnza College in Cupertino, Calif., and has since won awards from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association and the Associated Press. His work has appeared in USA Today, Time, Oprah Magazine and metropolitan newspapers throughout the country.
His current project, then, is quite a divergence for him as a photographer. "Stay" will consist of 20 to 25 metaphorical fine art photographs, many of which will be accompanied by the journal writings of "sufferers of depression who either lost their struggles through suicide or have found a source of healing," Wilson said. Another part of the exhibit will be the writings of people who have lost loved ones to suicide.
"Throughout the developed world," Wilson said, "self-harm is now the leading cause of death for people 15 to 49, surpassing all cancers and heart disease." With the number of suicides in Lycoming County on the rise (15 thus far in 2013 versus 12 in all of 2012) the subject doesn't just hit close to home. So, if every tenth person you see is suffering from a potentially-lethal disease, why is it so hard to spot?
Photojournalist Ralph Wilson is working on “Stay,”?a photography project that will deal with clinical depression. A fundraising event is planned for Oct. 4 at Farrington Place, 416 W. Third St. For more information, email stayexhibit @gmail.com.
Fortunately there's more good news than bad. The bad news (in diagnostic terms) is that in most cases, depressives don't develop purple spots or an elevated level of something that can be sussed out with blood tests. Depression also has a tendency to cause sufferers to react counter-intuitively - cloistering themselves off when they should be seeking counsel and communicating just what it is they've been going through.
The good news is that depression is very much treatable and becoming more so every day as doctors and scientists learn more. Though it can't be diagnosed with a blood test, depression does come with its own distinct set of symptoms. With the right application of cognitive therapy, lifestyle changes and (when necessary) medication, even the most severe cases can be improved.
For Wilson, the inspiration for "Stay" came through conversations with a college intern who worked with him during 2012. Her senior project focused on "her own struggles with depression, suicidal ideation, self-injury, and the healing process that was beginning for her," Wilson explained. "Through our conversations, I realized how many people were leading similar lives and facing similar struggles. Most of those never let on that their life was in any way different than anyone else's," he said.
Together, the veteran and apprentice photographers defined a mission for "Stay," with two objectives in mind: "To make people aware of how these issues touch a large portion of our population without any outward signs, [and] to allow viewers of the exhibit to relate the scenes to their own lives to realize [that] they are not alone and [that] healing is possible," Wilson said.
Research for the project began in May 2013, shooting began in June and will continue throughout the fall. Production is expected to run from November through the opening of the exhibit in the spring.
"Stay" is scheduled to be displayed at the Pajama Factory in April 2014 and again in May 2014 at the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg to coincide with Mental Health Awareness month.
Wilson explained that there is a potential for an exhibition of "Stay" in Connecticut, and that ultimately his goal is "to create a travelling exhibit."
Working with him has been model Stephanie Carey, assistants Sarah Duvall and Sarah Andrew, and consultants Katelyn Traxler, Brian Spies, Sally Cohick and Christine Helton.
There are several ways to contribute to "Stay." Wilson et al are hoping to receive more writings on the subject of depression and self-injury, as well as "messages of hope written by those on their journey to healing," Wilson said. Also, like most projects dealing with social issues, Stay has a budget to meet and resources are limited. To donate to the project, contact Ralph Wilson at 971-2571.
A fundraising event is in the planning stages for Oct. 4 at Farrington Place, 416 W. Third St. A silent art auction is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. with a reception followed by an after party until 11 p.m. that will feature local musicians. The entire event will be free to the public and will be a chance to make financial contributions to "Stay."
Find out more at www.stayexhibit.blogspot.com, on Facebook or by emailing stayexhibit@ gmail.com.
For those in a crisis, please reach out to someone at one of the following resources: The Crisis Intervention Hotline at 326-7895 (Lycoming County), or 748-2262 (Clinton County), National Suicide Prevention at 1-800-273-8255, or online at www.lifeisworthliving.org, www.afsp.org, or Suicidepreven tionlifeline.org.