CK Goldiing, a photographer from Sheffield in the UK, and Ivohé, a London-based singer-songwriter – ‘two friends hanging out… ready to shoot later that day’. This is how the story of Vitae started. ‘As we finished our coffees, she went to the bathroom. Three minutes later, she returned, with a helpless look in her eyes. Right there, in front of me, she broke down. I’d never seen her do this before, though I did know she battles with depression’, Goldiing recalls.
‘Depression creeps up on you when you least expect it. I had a panic attack (…), cried in front of him, and just let my emotions flow. I felt so much, and at the same time, nothing at all: too much, too little’ Ivohé explains. Originally from Germany, the 21-year-old woman says: ‘before I moved to London, I knew it was going to be hard. I thought I was prepared, but depression follows you wherever you are, and it unleashes its wings at times you can’t comprehend its timing.’ She adds: ‘I’m learning how to breathe in this sticky mist, built so narrowly – it makes you wonder how much more this city can take.’
Not sure of what to do, the photographer suggested they cancelled the shoot, until Ivohé said, ‘no fuck it, I’m doing this!’ ‘Someone recently told me that the most important thing you can do is stick it out, keep going, even though you feel like drowning,’ the singer says.
Two months later, CK still hadn’t touched the images, let alone published them anywhere. ‘I simply couldn’t see how dropping them on Instagram, for example, would do justice to the vulnerability and bravery my friend showed that day,’ he explains. So he decided to ring the young music artist and asked her if she’d be willing to compose five songs about the emotions she felt that day, in order to later merge the photographs and the audio. ‘I wanted to see if images could be experienced on a deeper, more immersive level,’ the photographer says.
The avant-garde series of audible images thus came to life and was named Vitae, which means ‘living’ in Latin. ‘The word not only reflects my keenness to breathe new life into how we experience photographs, but also honours how lucky we are, as humans, to be alive – able to experience highs, lows, lights, shades, braveries and vulnerabilities,’ Goldiing states.
In the following Q&A, the English photographer further explains why he used this format and talks about the aim of the project as well.
1) Why an audio-photo format?
My fondness for the human element of photography is why so much of my content is documented in video form via my #CKShotMyFace YouTube series. Plus, as a creative, my default is to avoid the status quo – I think I might be allergic to ‘ordinary’, to be honest. After a little pondering, I remembered the one thing that makes Ivohė one of my favourite people is the fact she has the voice of a freshly-born angel, and if we’re honest, the face of one, too. With that in mind, an audio-photo series was my Eureka moment. I didn’t know if anyone had done it before, and I still don’t, but that uncertainty was enough to intrigue me.
2) Why start this project in the first place?
For two selfish reasons: firstly, because if I don’t create stuff, I get moody. For me, creating unique, original content is like eating fried chicken… I’ll probably never tire of it. The second selfish reason is because as well as being mates, when it comes to Ivohė, I’m also a weird fan guy. Long before the Vitae series was born, she wrote and produced a song called ‘Waltz of the Stars’ and I can’t begin to tell you how that song makes me feel. As far as I was concerned, if sharing Ivohė’s story introduced people to her remarkable bravery and authentic artistry, then my work would be done.
3) Do you see it as some form of therapy for your friend?
Frankly, I didn’t see it as anything other than a piece of real-life storytelling. Ivohė, on the other hand, saw it as something a little more cleansing. Days before the series entered the public domain, Ivohė told me how nervous she was about the potential ‘fallout’ from her being so vulnerable and open about her depression. She was concerned people would think she was attention-seeking. Understand at no point did I usher Ivohė unwillingly into this, at every stage I asked if she was sure she wanted her personal stuff released into the world. She did want it releasing into the world, because she hoped it would help people with similar challenges feel less isolated. That said, she was still scared of the response. Two days before Vitae went live, she called me saying she wasn’t going to post about it on her social channels, instead, she was going to watch the responses via my socials. Two weeks later, she wrote this on her Instagram.
I’ve been thinking really hard about what I’m going to say here, pondering about whether I’d be brave enough to be honest at all or just shut up. Much on here, or any social media in general, is a small dosage, a moment, of something I, and many others, decided to share. We don’t really want to show the bad times, the roughness of life and the struggles we go through because that’s when we’re at our most vulnerable. I’ve had such a long episode of bad months, I thought I’d never snap out of it again. It was fucking dark. Only very few people knew and tried to help as much as they could but there’s only so much you can do. I think the worst bit was being ashamed of struggling with mental health issues, what others might think about you if they knew, that you’ll be judged for it and not being taken serious. So it gets harder and harder to open up about it, to talk and seek out help. It’s something a lot of people go through yet no one really shows because they’re scared. Fuck the amount of people I’ve met here that went through similar shit and you’d never know if you’d scroll through their insta let alone meet them irl! I read articles about people opening up, admiring their braveness! Yet I told CK I didn’t really wanna share the article and project we did together because I was too damn scared of judgment, of coming across as too whiny, too weak too anything because that’s what I’ve been told all my life. And its overrrr with that now. Think the only judgement I was really scared of was mine. I’m still not 100% comfortable with a lot of myself and the things that make me, me. But I’m working on it, hoping I’ll not fall back into old patterns. If you’ve read this far, congrats and thank you. Here is the link to the article and music/spoken word /photography project I did with @ckgoldiing. One of the realest people I have ever met in this jungle. Thank you. Thanks to everyone who was and continues to be there for me (you know who you are).
4) How would you describe the music she made for this series?
I’ve tried to describe her music before. I always fail. Don’t know, it’s just Ivohė.
5) Would you say this project/experience reflects the importance of having projects, things to do, and people very close to you who don’t give up on you when you’re living with depression?
In the greater scheme of things, Ivohė and I haven’t known each other very long, but she knows I’ve got her back. She occasionally sends me the sincerest texts when she’s feeling bright and optimistic, revealing how it’s thanks to the people closest to her that she continues to jump hurdles that’d otherwise bring her down. Based on my personal experience, the people I know with depression are actually the strongest most resilient people out there, but curiously, almost none of them are aware of this. Bizarre.
‘After what felt like ages, I feel I can cope with things better than before.’ Ivohé writes. ‘This city breaks you down, but if you let it, it can build you up again, too. I’ve met so many inspiring people. Life here is intense, a dream in itself, a struggle, a melody, a cold blow of wind, a warm blanket.’
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