This is interesting. One of the themes, or leitmotifs, of post-transition photography seems to be the use of photographs as data. I'm not really capable of evaluating the rigor of the methodology of "How an Algorithm Learned to Identify Depressed Individuals by Studying Their Instagram Photos," but the source, MIT Technology Review, is prestigious.
Bottom line? Researchers have trained a machine to diagnose depression based on the photos you post on Instagram.
An interesting idea. I've heard of discussions about how slow, sad music seems richer and more meaningful to depressed people, and that depressed teenagers tend to listen to music more than their non-depressed peers. In the old movie Three Days of the Condor, Robert Redford's character diagnoses the lonliness of Faye Dunaway's character, ostensibly a photographer, from her pictures on her wall. (The article says that pictures without people in them might be "sad selfies" of the photographer's mental state, but concedes that this "hypothesis is untested.")
I also don't know how the machine could separate authentic sad photos from poseur sad photos. But maybe there's a way.
The article concludes by saying that such algorithms "provide hope that mental illness can be accurately detected earlier, allowing for more effective intervention," which seems dubious. How's that supposed to work—you get an email from someone saying that their robot has detected that you're depressed, based on pictures you've posted online?
Seems to me if you were depressed, you might just find that...depressing.
But as I say, I'm not really qualified to evaluate.
(Thanks to Ned Bunnell, whose photos on Instagram make him seem like a happily retired businessman)
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[A different] Mike: "As someone who has suffered with depression since childhood I can attest that it is a very real phenomena. It's a constant battle to keep moving forward through life, and when things happen that make people who are not depressed sad, it can devastate a depressed person.
"Depression is a complex disease that comes in many forms, and there are no simple answers as each person is unique. Some people can overcome depression, while others can only cope with it as best they can.
"People who don't have depression cannot possibly have a clue as to what it's all about. The glib comments from ignorant people can be offensive, but it's so commonplace, I just do my best to let it go.
"Yes, my depression comes through in my personal work. It's there that I find a voice for how I feel about what I see. I'm highly attuned to noticing things that most people don't see. Body language and facial expressions say more than one can imagine. And when I see someone that is expressing something that I can relate to, I make the photograph. Depression is the filter through which I see the world. I can't help that; it is what it is.
"Making photographs that express how I feel is very much a form of therapy for me. When I'm out shooting for myself I'm in the zone and everything else fades away. It's the most peaceful place I can be when I'm making photographs, there's no past or future, only the now.
"I keep my depression at bay in my professional work, and even find many expressions of exuberance and happiness to photograph for my employer and other clients. It does bring me a bit of happiness to find and photograph those moments, and it reminds me that there is much joy in the world.
"And, it's not that I'm morose all the time or lack a sense of humor. I tell the best/worst damn Dad jokes ever. I can interact with regular people and not seem any different from them. But I see how they are in the world, and I know that I'm different. In the end, I'm comfortable with who I am."
Tim (partial comment): "I seem to make some of my best photos when the mood is non-average, either a bit depressed or a bit sunny."