Sustainable Prospects – Photography as Therapy – Judy Weiser
In her book ‘PhotoTherapy Techniques’, psychologist Judy Weiser suggests that photographs can be used as a therapeutic tool when working with self-portraits. Her clients are encouraged and supported to understand the images they make themselves. They can also see other perspectives of themselves when they examine photographs taken of them by others.
Weiser also suggests that we take photos of what is important in our lives, often at a subconscious level, and that in many ways all photographs we take are to some extent also self-portraits of ourselves. They show what we care about. There is a little bit of us in each image; we are connected to the image; we feel the emotion we felt when we took the image.
How we frame and set up a photograph will define the interpretation of the image. We all have different perceptions and unique life experiences that will subconsciously affect how we frame the images. By viewing images that either we took or that others took of us, we will interpret what we see as real based on the framing and our experience.
Our personal snapshots are taken to record important moments in our lives. These permanent records have emotions and feelings etched into them. Our memory links the two things together. These images are very effective, therefore, in enabling us to access and interpreting the emotions.
The impact on my project of the benefits and techniques that Weiser has pioneered has been in the way the images behind the mask have been captured. By encouraging the volunteers to talk through their mask and by using a trigger release so that I can make eye contact with them, the images were able to be captured spontaneously and when the volunteer was unaware when the shots were being taken. The volunteers then get to see themselves in a way that they would not have staged. By confronting the emotion and reality in the image, they can then start to understand what they are dealing with.
Weiser, J. (1993). Phototherapy techniques. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.