06/12/2014 09:17 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Painfully Beautiful Photos Document One Father's Personal Breakdown

It can be strangely difficult to identify the signs of depression. Suddenly, someone familiar may become something of a stranger, his or her sense of self-assurance lost to a sudden invasion of darkness. And yet, even when the mind is in shambles, the body often barely reveals the turmoil occurring inside, leaving those on the outside struggling to understand.

Martha Fleming-Ives is a photographer whose father has served as minister of a Congregational Church in Northampton, Massachusetts for 35 years. On the verge of his retirement, the community leader's sense of self came into question, prompting a downward spiral into a state of sadness. Once a source of strength for others, Fleming-Ives' father fell into a fragile, even child-like state, rendering his behavior almost unrecognizable to his loved ones.


Fleming-Ives was determined to understand her father in his time of need. To do this, she turned to her camera. "I have always felt most inspired to make photographs of the people and places that surround me," she explained to The Huffington Post. "Often, the desire to create an image stems from a curiosity to better understand who or what I'm looking at. 'The Waking Hours' is a project that reflects my ongoing interest in creating imagery that examines my immediate family, in this case my father."

Fleming-Ives' photos, taken between 2010 and 2013, capture the shifting ground between the familiarity of the home and the otherness of depression. The series, which the artist describes as existing "between the candid and the staged," features her father standing before a seemingly empty church, an expression communicating both pride and fear written on his face. Other photos depict baths, naps, and moments of solitude that, for some ineffable reason, don't look quite right. The placid domestic activities appear somehow disrupted, alluding to the psychological struggle brewing within.

"My photographs are always attempts to reflect on key moments of transformation in the fabric of feeling and thought that support our lives," the artist continued. "Ideally, I suppose in all my pictures I want to convey the deep admiration and love I have for my subjects. However, human relationships are complex -- especially among family -- I think we can feel love and pride, anger and frustration towards those we are closest, all at the same time. So it is my hope that the images reflect the breadth of those complex emotions we feel in our daily lives."

Despite their darkness, Fleming-Ives' photos convey love above all else. Even the fact of their very existence speaks to the intense love she has for her father, and her devotion to understanding his thoughts and fears at any cost. See the brutally candid photos below and let us know your thoughts.



Roger Ballen