Using Photographs in Therapy
Phototherapy has been defined as 'the use of photography or photographic materials, under the guidance of a trained therapist, to reduce or relieve painful psychological symptoms and to facilitate psychological growth and therapeutic change.' Thanks to digital photography and social networking sites, photography is more accessible than ever, but have you ever considered it as a way of promoting healing and personal growth?
There are several ways in which photographs can be used in therapy:
- using images to explore your perceptions, values and moods
- using self-portraits to gain insight into how you see yourself
- exploring how you see the world through the camera's eye
- exploring how people see you, through others' photos of you
- reviewing albums and libraries as ways of exploring family history.
Photography connects how we look outside of ourselves with how make sense of our inner lives. If you are interested in using in photography creatively, perhaps we can explore this in therapy.
* More of my photography here
I was on a retreat but it had reached the awkward stage. The novelty of sitting in silence, surrounded by the wilds of Scotland had worn off. I wanted to be outside and I wanted to take photographs!
Released from the retreat centre, I was delighted to find that the rain had stopped and the air was fresh and cool. I began to walk along the lane beside the loch when my eye was drawn to a sudden brightness a few yards ahead of me.
The sun was appearing from behind the cloud cover and it reflected hazily in a shallow puddle, while a twig rested on the water, delicately piercing its muddy surface.
This sight was both unremarkable and quite beautiful, but I doubt that I would have been alert to its beauty had I not spent the previous hour becoming still and receptive. I raised the camera to my eye, careless of its settings, but eager to capture the immediacy of the scene before me.
This was first the time I felt conscious of receiving a photograph, rather than taking it, although I had often felt the same sort of excitement when out with my camera before. For just a few moments the drabness of the country lane was transfigured by light and the twig became more than a twig, even though it remained a twig all along. It was a a moment of revelation: of the beauty of this simple natural scene, but also of the creative possibilities of photography.
Ansel Adams says that a true photograph need not be explained. In this blog I am setting myself the task of attempting to explain what is happening in those few moments when we see, not only the thing before us, but also what lies beyond it, in the worlds of insight and imagination and creativity.
First, our attention is brought to some quality – often below the surface – of what we can see.
Then we feel a desire to capture something of that hidden quality and to preserve it in a photograph.
Finally, we use the camera, not just to capture what we see on the surface, but to point towards what is otherwise hidden or concealed.
Anyone can take a photo. Focus on a subject and click the shutter. But if you are only interested in some pre-conceived notion of a “good photograph,” the richness of the experience is lost. Put aside your expectations and immerse yourself in the present moment – light, shadow, colour, texture and the rest – and then try to capture what you saw and felt in the moment of perception.
That is what it is to photograph truthfully.