Depression: moving photo project shows how those affected suffer You wanted to know what depression “looks like”. How did the photo project come about?
Nora Klein: As a trained photojournalist, I want to tell stories with pictures. I also had people in my circle of friends who were suffering from depression. I found it difficult to imagine anything because I am not affected myself. I asked myself what do those affected think and feel. I then approached the “Deutsche DepressionsLiga eV” – a self-help organization for those affected – and presented my project. They were enthusiastic and passed my project on to those affected. That was good, because I had people on board who felt the need to communicate themselves.

The project went on for several years and you worked with nine people. How did the pictures come about?
I have only had preliminary talks. Those affected, who then decided on the project, were able to determine the time period for the recordings themselves. For example, I lived with Sabine Fröhlich for three days in a row.

I met some others in blocks, sometimes four times three hours a day. That always happened in a stable phase of depression. We had very long conversations in which those affected tried, among other things, to describe their feelings. That helped me develop motifs. In Sabine’s picture book, for example, you can see the bed from which she could no longer get up or the wallpaper that she stared at for hours.

You have taken anonymous or non-anonymous portraits, photographed the retreats of those affected or taken nature photos. How did you decide?
That happened very individually and was up to the respective people. I always listened to my intuition and thought of the conversations with those affected. I also went looking for motifs in my everyday life. Sometimes I had concrete approaches, like the gloomy hallway of a person with whom I was just having a conversation. Sometimes I chose more open motifs in which I wanted to depict symptoms such as the emptiness and loneliness of depression. The feedback from those affected and other photographers helped me a lot with my selection.

What did the project teach you about depression?
In part, it is still a big question mark. But I have now understood much more the complexities of the disease. I realized how complex depression can look, how many symptoms, forms and courses there are and how serious the disease is.

The photo tape is now even used in therapies. How exactly?
Yes that is great. It is one of my goals to have a medium at hand to facilitate communication. Some people find it easier to talk about their depression when they look at pictures that trigger something in them. For example, they see a mood, certain gestures or postures of a person in which they find themselves. They then use that as a starting point to talk about themselves.

You can find more information about the photo book, the photo exhibition and the lecture series at: