Kevin Briggs Photography

“Serotonin”

Kevin Briggs

It must be stated upfront that I have absolutely no formal training in biochemistry or neurochemistry whatsoever. This should come as no surprise to those who have any knowledge of my educational background. My training is in the political sciences. Nevertheless, I have long been fascinated by a molecule that was originally discovered in 1948: serotonin.

One of the most comprehensive overviews of serotonin can be found in a 2011 New York Times article. Here is one of the juicier portions of that article:

“For all the intricacy, serotonin in the brain has a basic personality. ‘It’s a molecule involved in helping people cope with adversity, to not lose it, to keep going and try to sort everything out,’ said Philip J. Cowen, a serotonin expert at Oxford University and the Medical Research Council. In the fine phrase of his Manchester University colleague Bill Deakin, ‘it’s the ‘Don’t panic yet’ neurotransmitter,’ said Dr. Cowen. Given serotonin’s job description, disturbances in the system can contribute to depression, anxiety, panic attacks and mental calcification, an inability to see the world anew…” 

A link to this fantastic article can be found here.

The latest research suggests that this molecule has neurotransmitter, hormonal, and tissue-building properties all in one. In fact, scientists have recently noted that serotonin is implicated in the construction of nerve tissues themselves.

Furthermore, we’ve all become at least somewhat aware of the bounteous supply of pharmaceuticals — both legal and not so much — which seek to enhance serotonin’s unique properties in the bloodstream and particularly its effect upon the brain.

In short, it may be said that serotonin represents — in the most comprehensive and intricate of fashions imaginable — the essential “just chill” biochemical particle. It is both wonderfully simple and yet at the exact same time extraordinarily powerful in its constitution and in its effect.

More to the artistic point, serotonin has a profound effect on how we see the world and its constituent parts — literally.

Given this very brief background on the molecule that is serotonin, some may already begin to see a connection between its properties and the essential nature of this color abstract photography work. However, I must highlight the fact that I did not intend to create a work symbolizing serotonin’s effect upon human consciousness.

Rather, and as I have already noted in a prior post, when it comes to my color abstract photography work, “I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else.” (Pablo Picasso) It is as veritably true with “Serotonin” as with any of my other works.

Over the many months of intensely focusing upon “Serotonin” and then leaving the work alone for a period of time — repeating this pattern over and over again — I began to gain a sense of not only how I was impacting the work but how the work was impacting me (something which happens with each and every piece of fine art I am fortunate enough to create).

Therefore, and if it may be possible for me to note, I began to notice more keenly serotonin’s actual biochemical/neurochemical effect upon me the more I sought to evoke serotonin’s presence in the color abstract work itself.

It’s been a wonderful time of discovery.