At the end of April this year, memobottle Co-Founder Jesse Leeworthy set off to trek over 800km across the mountains and plains of Spain on the enduring Camino De Santiago.

The first day took him over the gruelling Pyranees, from St Jean Pied de Port in France across the border into Spain. Deep within Basque country, half way to the summit, with piles of snow on ground and the morning mist surrounding the hills like a blanket (basically a majestic scene from an art house movie). Jesse bumped into a fellow pilgrim covered head to toe in photography equipment. There must have been a reason why this guy was carrying over 18kg of gear including four lenses, three SLRs and a polaroid up a mountain.

This Pilgrim was Connor McCracken.

 

It quickly became apparent that Connor wasn’t just walking the Camino for himself, he was on a mission. He was on a nomadic journey to start a conversation, a conversation bigger than himself, about mental health.

Introducing Project Pilgrim.

 

 

Connor what were you in your past life?


I grew up in Vancouver, Canada as a generally normal kid who played all of the popular sports and always had a love for music. Exercise has always been a great stress relief for me and that always complimented my passion for photography which pushed me to explore the British Columbian wilderness every chance I got. Ever since I was a teenager you could find me hiking mountains or camping deep in the woods on my days or weekends off. The outdoors and exercise are something engrained in my personality and I take every chance I’m offered to put myself out there and explore.

 

Photo: Connor Mcracken | Founder of Project Pilgrim, photographer and lifelong Pilgrim.

 


What are your experiences with Mental Health and how has photography helped you?


Mental health first became prevalent in my life when I entered university. I was in a new place in a city where I knew no one and like everyone else, I found it really difficult to make new relationships. I found I would isolate myself in my single dorm room in order to prevent myself from being in situations where people meet others. This all came to a climax in my second year of school where I found I would avoid attending class or socializing because of the risk of meeting new people. This caused me to become depressed and soon my grades started to tumble and I decided it would be best to leave school in order to get help. So, I headed home and set myself on the path to getting help. I found because I was no longer in school and had more free time than ever, I chose to occupy myself with new hobbies and activities. One of those things I chose to do was photography and that is when I first fully immersed myself in it. Everyday I would take photos and it became a sort of therapy for me to be able to escape from the thoughts inside of my head. My skill grew exponentially and soon I was able to portray a certain emotion I was feeling or mood I was in through a photo. I really like that ability to show others what I was feeling and since then that has pushed me to continue excelling in photography.

 

 

 

 Pilgrim: Pilar from Argentina

 


Why did you choose the Camino de Santiago, why did you decide to walk 800km across Spain?


I chose the Camino de Santiago mostly because I had cycled it as part of a family vacation three years previous. I knew from my experience cycling that the Camino was a place people went to take a break from life and that the people you met along the way always were happy to talk about anything. This pushed me to do Project Pilgrim on the Camino because I wanted to tap into that introspection all of the pilgrims were experiencing. I believed that if I could catch people in a moment of deep reflection they would have something powerful to say and that excited me. Apart from the nature of introspection along the Camino, I wanted to challenge myself as well. With my depression it can be debilitating. When I’m at my worst, I can go days without getting out o