Caspar Claasen

We met Caspar during an evening around burn-out at Fotodok in Utrecht. He was invited to talk about his own experience of burn-out and the photos he made during this time of his life. Photos that eventually ended up in a book, Even Firemen. We were surprised and pleased to hear what he had to say and to see a  bit of his photographic work. It is not commun to hear a man talking about his weackness and own troubles but behyond this,  Caspar Claasen translated very well, in his own specific visual way, the distance you feel between yourself and the rest of the world during a burn-out. You are there and you are not. You are physically present but so far away in your mind. We are very proud that Caspar agreed to answer our questions and we highly recommend you to have a look at his work via his Instagram profile or via his website where you can also order his book.

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-Who are you?

I am an autonomous photographer from Amsterdam, Netherlands. I have also worked as a visual designer.

-When did you understand you had a burn-out?

That must have been somewhere early 2014. The acute symptoms started a few months earlier. The headaches and anxiety attacks made it clear something was not right, but the diagnosis took a while.

-How did you explain to your entourage what you were going through?

That differed. Close family and friends I could explain how I felt, and why I sometimes couldn’t do certain things, couldn’t join certain occasions. And later on I could simply say: I have a burnout, it is horrible, I need peace and quiet. These people I could ask for help and mostly they offered help generously. For which I am thankful. Other acquaintances were harder to deal with. Because I didn’t want to open up to just everyone. So I made quite a few silly excuses when cancelling things…

-What helped you to recover?

Time, patience, acceptance. Mindfulness. And professional help. But in time also realizing that it will pass and get better. That repeating more positive actions and attitude will become part of you. You become what you repeat, so to say.

-During your burn-out, you intensively photographed your daughter in different landscapes and activities, the result is a beautiful book, Even Firemen. Why did you choose to put her in your photography and not photograph empty landscape, for example? Which role did your daughter play in your creative process and recovery?

Lora played such a big role in my burnout as well as in recovering from it. So she had to be in the photos – the book is about how she, unwittingly, guided me through this dark but wonderful episode. Because, as you know, life does simply move on if you have a burnout. You can try to hide, lock yourself in your room… but you will never succeed in escaping life entirely. Lora was part of my life I simply had to deal with. And sometimes that was hard. Even though I love her, more than words can express, she was (and is) also a kid and kids sometimes drive you nuts. And even more when you experience headaches, panic attacks, anxiety, depression… But the fact that she made me get out of the house and into the park, playground, etc., in the end that really helped me. Photographing her helped me ordering my thoughts and emotions. It made me feel useful and happy. Also, in the end when the book was there, it made me proud that such a dark and heavy period could give live to such a beautiful story. Which will, I believe, be a precious gift to Lora forever. And for anyone who is touched or inspired by it, for that matter.

-How do you feel now?

Much better! Although I don’t think I will ever experience the same carelessness as before. I will probably be wary of my mental condition more than before. At the same time I now actively enjoy some simple things more. Quite a few things seem to have more value to me nowadays.

-Do you have an idea of what will be your next photographic project?

No, not really. But I am sure something interesting will come along.

-What did you learn from yourself thanks to your burn-out?

That my thoughts aren’t what is real. And that those thoughts, the same ones that I identified with so much, are the ones that made me miserable. That I do have a natural tendency towards worrying. And that those worries do not help me in any way, nor do they change the outcome of things.

-Do you have tips for people who are dealing with it now?

Quite a few open doors. Get help. Take it seriously. Don’t feel stigmatized. Don’t feel alone. Be patient. Take time and effort to do things that make you happy and peaceful. Don’t be afraid it will change who you are. Trust it will be better in the future, because it will.

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