Cast your mind back to a time when you cracked a big smile and your brain overflowed with joy. Maybe, it was a joke enjoyed with friends to the point where you're laughing like seals. Or a particular sporting event from your childhood? Perhaps it is a memory you can no longer pinpoint, yet this question has recalled the forgotten joy to your conscious mind.
These moments have the potential to become invaluable memories that can have a lasting positive impact on your mental health. However, many people cannot experience or capture joy in this way; for those suffering from anhedonia, experiencing or remembering joy can be difficult or impossible. Anhedonia is a symptom of low mood and refers to the loss of the ability to feel and experience pleasure and remember it. In the throws of anhedonia, it can feel like you have lost not just the ability to feel pleasure, but every past joyous experience is also dulled - like a camera drifting out of focus.
Remembering joyful moments is made easier when we have photographs or shared memories that our friends or photos can remind us of. Photos are extremely valuable even for those who do not struggle to remember joyful moments because they provide us with a stable sense of context, self, and personal history. And looking back through those photos has been proven to strengthen your memories and relationships and reduce anxiety and stress. Photographs which capture joyous moments are truly precious and irreplaceable!
There are many benefits to capturing joyous moments, relationships, and events with the help of a camera. These benefits are particularly useful in a world dominated by mass media and capitalism. Photographing personal, joyful moments can help push back against a popular culture's toxic standards and values- as it reminds us of our personal history, connections, and worth.
Capturing these valuable and timeless moments is Elva Villarreal's (@elva.mx) passion. Elva is based in Mexico and specialises in adventure, running and mountain sports photography, with experience in many other areas. Although photography is her world, Elva also focuses on her family life, working hard to help her three children find and develop their passions. Elva spoke to us about how and why she continues to commit herself to capture moments of joy and offered some wisdom on how to do it yourself.
"Photographs have always been a powerful way to experience some of the most cherished moments of our lives. As an athlete myself, my passion lies in creating images that document real moments intentionally, artfully and emotionally. My goal is to create images that show it all: Our humanness in split seconds, our connections, and our emotions, showing what it feels like to be an athlete.
I am going, to be honest with you, shooting for joy is not an easy task! It requires a lot of effort and energy because joy starts with you. You cannot capture what you don't feel. As a photographer, you must consciously relax, focus, and reconnect to your inner joy, no matter the circumstances.
Having a camera in your hands is a big responsibility, so you have to be fully present in what you are about to document. It doesn't matter if you haven't slept for days, if it's cold and rainy, or if your dog is hungry. You must forget about yourself to be fully committed to the assignment. To capture joy and emotions, you have to be in the mood first, with your eyes, heart and mind connected at the same level. And there is where the magic happens!"
Elva Villareal's work is a testament to her skill and her dedication to her craft- you can feel the joy, the journey, and the hard work that went into getting every shot. You can find her portfolio on her website to get a more accurate idea of the breadth of Elva's talent.