Photographer Vanessa Ifediora talks finding inspiration through her mental illness

Aine O'Boyle

Vanessa Ifediora embraces her unique style of photography as a creative medium to overcome her own mental health issues.

The Irish-Nigerian, Belfast native has always had a creative flair and has expressed this through various outlets throughout her life.

“I’ve always loved creating things whether I’m good at it or not, I used to be really into making jewellery, then it was knitting. I bought my first camera 2 years ago and that’s been my major passion ever since” said Ifediora.

Ifediora explained that it was never her plan to get into photography, and that she used it more so as a tool to overcome her own anxiety than as a potential career path.

“When I first got my camera, it was really a tool to help get me out of the house since my anxiety was so bad back then.”

“I used the camera to push me out of my comfort zone, to maybe travel a little further from home this time. My camera gave me a lot of freedom and the expression came from there.”

Ifediora is self-taught in the art of photography. With a friend teaching her the basic functions of the camera and from there on mastering her art through trial and error and learning from the widely accessible medium of YouTube tutorials.

In her most recent exhibition, ‘Zone In’ that ran from September 27th– 29th, a creative process and journey is evident as Ifediora draws on her own personal experiences with mental illness and how she overcame them.

Inspiration for this exhibition came from feelings of being zoned out from life. This state of complete daydream brought Ifediora further away from reality and she struggled with a disorder known as Maladaptive Daydreaming that distracted her from real life.

The name ‘Zone In’ is synonymous with her own recovery, when in 2018 she sought medical treatment for her depression after living for many years in the fear of the stigma that is associated with it.

“I was Zoned In” said Ifediora.

The exhibition explored 10 songs that Ifediora selected on a random basis and she visually interpreted these songs in the form of portraits of nine strangers, representing the feelings that these songs triggered for Ifediora.

“I love portraits. I love working with people. I love people’s faces and their energy. I want to try and make that energy come out in the images” said Ifediora.

Ifediora explained that she particularly loves working with people who have no previous modelling experience. “I love seeing their confidence change as I show them how good they look in camera. I’m not sure how I’d draw that kind of emotional reaction out of a picture of buildings.”

Rather than profiting from this exhibition, all proceeds went towards the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre whose work Ifediora hailed as being “lifesaving”.

“[They] need all the funding they can get” said Ifediora.

Struggling with her mental health, Ifediora sought help from GP’s and others, but said that “without the help of the Rape Crisis centre I’m not sure I’d ever have been brave enough to make any further steps.

Advising creative youths on overcoming artistic blocks or lack of inspiration, Ifediora said “I would take pictures of anything at all just to help me learn how to use my camera, how to compose an image, how to edit.”

“Keep drawing, keep painting, keep practising whatever your medium is. Everybody finds inspiration in different ways, so don’t get caught up in what other people are doing or whatever trend 5,000 IG [Instagram] photographers are churning out. Just keep doing you.”

Aine O’Boyle


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