Week 2 – Melancholia Universalis

Under this theme would come photography acknowledging how much we have to be sad about, helping to reduce our anger at the frequent disappointment of reality. Photos will show that we have not been damned, we are simply experiencing part of the accidents and sorrows that come with being alive. Not to be reduced to a “Negative Nancy” or a “Debbie Downer” position, rather these artistic responses should push against blind optimism and feigned perfection our filtered photos on social media might try to convey.

Melancholia Universalis Prompts:

  • A photograph might help to show grief belongs to us all and is what binds us together rather than what isolates us.
  • A photo might bring dignity to our downbeat states
  • It might show behind the curtain of the created realities
  • They could show our darkness is shared — helping us understand and reach out to afflicted strangers.
  • Photos could show laughter against the onslaught of reality
  • Levity amidst the storm
  • You can find a way to show compassion in isolation
  • Photos could also acknowledge the absurdity of our situation — of fear, of guardedness, of isolation, of distancing — not against such truths, but alongside them.
  • Photos push against our commercialized stories and filtered selfies.
  • There is depth here if you can settle in, absurdity if you can find it, and soul if you can dig it.


To join in on Instagram, use hashtag #7Lenses #melancholia and tag @7Lenses in the photo.


Excerpt from A Replacement for Religion on Melancholia Universalis

We are under undue and unfair pressure to smile.

But grief is our more natural, and more consoling home.

Nothing good will be easy or go entirely well:
We can expect frustration, misunderstanding,
misfortune and rebuffs.

Though there is a vast amount to feel sad about.
We are not invidually cursed.

Against the backdrop of sorrow
The small sweet things stand out:
A sunny day, a drifting cloud;
Dawn and dusk,
A tender look…

We can believe in cheerful despair. 


*Excerpts from Chapter 4 & Chapter 6 in “A Replacement for Religion” by The School of Life.