Daina Smith

Photography, BA (Hons)

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NB. Views and opinions of students in the degree show are their own and do not represent the views of the University.


Catharsis in Nature visually represents my experience of catharsis through immersion in nature. During periods of turbulent emotions and difficult situations I immerse myself in the natural environment, where the issue causing me to feel anxious has no relevance, in order to feel grounded and present again. This sense of calm derived from tranquil natural environments is represented by close-up photographs of leafy plants emerging from between rocks on the bank of the river Kent. Scribbled handwriting is overlaid conveying my unfeigned thoughts in the moment of writing, with intentionally little concern for tidiness and positioning to avoid restricting the raw emotion it expresses. Catharsis in Nature concerns my own general experience of anxiety, but towards the end of completion in April 2020 it also became inevitably influenced by the nationwide lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic, which significantly restricted my ability to get outdoors and resulted in a temporary strain on my relationship with nature.

The experience of catharsis is integral to the production and post-production of this work. From practicing mindful walking while I capture the original photographs, to finalising an image, catharsis is intrinsic to every step. Working in this way has given me an improved ability to project raw emotion and narrative into a still image, as well as a better relationship with myself. By prioritising my feelings, thoughts, and reactions to every method of practice, from initial photographing, to experimental manipulation, to the final image, I have communicated with myself more clearly and consistently and learned to understand how I function and why. Catharsis in Nature, for me, has resulted in a much more coherent concept of self. The past eight months of catharsis-oriented creative practice has brought me a stronger sense of identity, as well as understanding and acceptance of the anxiety and trauma I live with, and forgiveness for myself and others.