Bronx native Nick Cicogna has dealt with anxiety for 30 years, but photography helped him cope with his struggles and even led him to publish a book about the ups and downs of his journey.
In June 2021, Cicogna, 42, released “Through the Lens of Anxiety,” which details some of the hardest moments in his life and how receiving his first camera in 1999 helped him battle anxiety.
Using photography gave him a reason to explore new places and at the same time look through the lens of the camera and focus on what’s in front of him. The book features more than 70 photos, including many from the Bronx and a scavenger hunt with 100 items/scenarios to give people the inspiration to get out and photograph what’s in front of them.
“I want people to know they’re not alone when they’re dealing with anxiety,” he told the Bronx Times. “There was a time it was hard for me to deal with anxiety and panic attacks.”
Cicogna, of Connecticut, was born and raised in the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx and graduated from Lehman High School in 1997. His parents divorced when he was just 9, and a year later he experienced his first anxiety attack on a school trip to City Island.
He felt like the walls were closing in and since then, has had panic attacks for nearly three decades.
For several years things were tough, and it was hard for him to even leave the house. But what really helped him overcome the panic was his love for photography.
His late father, Nick, a former cop in Mount Vernon, passed the love of the camera onto his son. They took photos together in Rhode Island, of the Twin Towers, the Bronx and many other places. While his dad passed away in 2000, Cicogna carried on their love for photography.
“It was something we bonded over,” Cicogna said.
According to Cicogna, the camera has provided him comfort, but it did not solve everything. Over the years, he would get anxious in social situations and on long trips — in 2008, he lost his job and divorced from his wife. After not wanting to leave the house in 2019, Cicogna felt the need to tell his story and hopefully help others like him.
“I experienced a bad wave of panic attacks in 2019,” he said.
Laid off during the pandemic in 2020, Cicogna decided to write a book about his battle with anxiety.
“Through the Lens of Anxiety,” was originally planned to be a dark book about anxiety and depression, but he chose a more upbeat tone that focused on how his photography helped him cope.
“I knew I couldn’t write a novel,” he said. “I thought maybe this could help other people.”
While he has not sold a lot of copies so far, he hopes people learn from his story and realize that depression and anxiety can be dealt with. Whether it was taking pictures of the Bronx, different baseball stadiums or sites throughout the country, having a camera in his hand gives him peace.
Now with a new job in marketing, seeing a therapist and the guidance of his mom, June, sister, Nicole and wife, Trish, things are finally headed in the right direction.
“They’re proud of me for putting my story out there,” he said.
Reach Jason Cohen at email@example.com or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes