Forrest Smith Opens Up About Mental Health As A Creator

Forrest Smith Opens Up About Mental Health As A Creator

Forrest Smith is a Portland-born, now-NYC-based photographer and videographer who is balancing it all: creative projects, being on-the-go as a travel photographer, his mental health and how he uses creative outlets to cope. He uses his Instagram to open up the conversation about mental health, especially as a creative, passion-driven person.

When did you first get into photography?

I first picked up a camera when I was seventeen years old – it was the summer before I moved to Oregon for college. My parents went 50/50 on a Canon 70D with me as a graduation present. That gift changed my life.

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Do you shoot digital or film? If both, do you have a preference?

I shoot both film and digital and I think my preference depends on what I’m shooting. Digital is an easier medium for me – you can see exactly what you’re shooting when you shoot it. Film is more malleable. There’s room for error and experimentation.

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What are some of the coolest projects you’ve worked on or events you’ve worked at?

This last year I’ve had the opportunity to work on some pretty cool projects. One of my favorites was a trip to Newfoundland with Canada Goose. More than anything I was very excited to see a lesser known part of the world – Newfoundland is such a unique and more or less un-traveled area. Another one of my favorites was shooting Anderson Paak in New York. It was insane being feet from one of my all time favorite musicians.

As a travel photographer, is there anything cool happening or any big goals you’re working towards accomplishing?

Yes! Always always always. This summer I’m taking a 1-2 month long road trip through the American West. I’m going to be bringing brands along for the journey to create authentic and (hopefully) inspiring work for them alongside the journey. I’m so unbelievably excited to hit the road and start making things.

Oh yeah – I’m also working on a music video for a friend of mine. I’ve never directed a video before, so I’m super excited to be challenging myself with something new.

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What’s a day in the life like for you, as a photographer?

I’m big on routine. Everyday when I wake up I stretch a bit, make myself coffee and breakfast, and do a couple hours of work in my room. There’s really nice natural light in there and it’s such a good space in the morning. Depending on what I have to do I usually head into Manhattan to shoot around or go to a coffee shop. I like to be making new stuff constantly – even if I’m not sharing it, it’s so important to keep trying new things.

When it comes to your creative outlets, how do you balance your work life and your personal life?

Taking time for yourself is so important when your passion is also your profession. I think having hobbies and not getting completely consumed in doing one thing actually helps my creativity. I love to read, I love to go to concerts, I love to paint/draw. All of these things, even though they aren’t directly related to photography, really helps me stay balanced creatively and personally.

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Do you have any words or any advice for other creatives who are trying to follow their dreams while trying to take care of their mental health?

My biggest piece of advice is to be honest with yourself and the people around you. I think my biggest dilemma is the fact that my job doesn’t come with much of a safety net. I’m a freelancer – if I don’t wake up and work hard almost every day, I won’t survive. It’s always been hard remaining disciplined and motivated, especially when my mental health fluctuates.

Realistically, if I’m feeling suicidal there’s no way I’m going to respond to my emails, stay up on projects, etc. It’s important to know when to keep going and when to stop. When it does get bad, having friends and collaborators who both know what’s going on and are supportive makes things much more manageable.

What’s something you want other travel photographers to keep in mind when they’re looking to expand their career?

I think in the outdoor space there’s a lot of repetition, primarily on social media. A lot of photographs find niches, out in the outdoor space, photographers become completely stagnant, literally only shooting one thing. Trees Fog. Fog in trees. Lakes. Cabins. Bridges that split the composition exactly in half, etc.

Don’t do this. Be unique. This is less of my personal taste and more of actual solid advice. Trendy stuff eventually dies, and if you build a career off of trendy things, you’re setting yourself up for failure. It may seem cool right now because there are people getting 20,000 likes on a photo on Instagram, but I bet you $5 most of those trends have an expiration date.

Think about your experience. Make it unique. Make it yours. Make it interesting.

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