Through a Sober Lens: A Photographer’s Journey
Cape Cod Life / November/December 2020 / Nature, People & Businesses
Writer: Christina Galt / Photographer: Michael Blanchard
After many years of working as a healthcare executive and struggling to overcome addiction, local author and photographer Michael Blanchard found himself at his lowest point. His journey to sobriety began with his place of healing, Martha’s Vineyard, and a camera he has yet to put down. When he began his venture into photography, he spent his days watching videos and learning all he could. His goal, he says, has never been to impress, but to simply enjoy the process.
Blanchard quickly came to the realization that his new venture helped him get outside and interact with the world, something he had been missing. “I came out of isolation, which is so important for anybody in recovery,” he explains. Blanchard began posting his photography on Facebook and discovered that his photos revealed deep truths about his own life, as well as others. “Photos are universal,” elaborates Blanchard. After recently earning his Masters of Psychology, he learned why. “Photo therapy is when individuals who aren’t in touch with what is going on inside of them speak through their photography,” he explains. “I love storms and the sun peeking through the clouds; a lot of my pictures were crashing waves. I found that I was working out the stuff in my brain with my pictures.”
One day, he decided that he wanted to do more than post photos on Facebook. He began writing captions to go with his photos, focusing on his personal struggles and what he was working through. His goal was to hopefully help others who were in the same place. “I started to write from the heart, and the words would always match up with the photograph,” he explains. “In no time at all I went from 10 likes to eventually 20,000. I started to write about struggles and stories of hope. I’ve received thousands of messages from people all over the world who have thanked me for giving them faith.” For the first time in his life, he found that he was helping other people and that feeling became contagious.
The realization that he was truly helping and reaching so many people turned his passion into a true labor of love. Blanchard began fundraising; he made calendars and eventually turned his writings and photos into his first book, “Fighting For My Life,” which raised $10,000 for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services’ addiction treatment program. He donates a portion of everything he’s done to addiction treatment centers or nonprofits. With his latest book, “Through a Sober Lens: A Photographer’s Journey,” he is raising money for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) on the Cape and Islands. “I don’t do it as a business gimmick; I do it to stay alive. If you’re not in a good emotional state, the disease of alcoholism never goes away. You have to do the right things to stay in that good emotional state,” explains Blanchard.
When talking about the book, he says, “Some of these stories have nothing to do with alcoholism. They really have to do with having hope and making a difference in other people’s lives, whether you have cancer, depression or anything; it goes beyond alcoholism and addiction.” Blanchard has transformed the darkest points in his life into writings and photographs that truly resonate to those who have known struggle. He is showing the world that there is indeed light at the end of what often seems to be an endless tunnel.