This past weekend I went home for a few days. Part business, part pleasure, I was able to spend time with my family and see some friends while also participating in an amazing workshop on Phototherapy.
As some of you know, I’m currently a graduate student studying Clinical Psychology, and I’ve decided to look at various forms of self-created media (photo, video, etc.) as aides in psychotherapy. There’s very little research that exists in this area. About four years ago I began reading articles and researching different aspects and in that time the field has grown, but whereas before there were 0 articles, now there are about 5. So when I contacted Ellen Fisher-Turk (the leader of the workshop I went to and a pioneer in this field) I jumped at the chance to participate in the workshop she gave this past weekend.
The process of Phototherapy, as she practices it, is a relatively short one compared to most forms of therapy practiced by licensed clinicians (Ellen holds a degree in special education but is not licensed by NYS to practice psychotherapy), but it has profound effects. Women contact her suffering from body image and self esteem issues from a broad spectrum of severity and causes. She speaks with them a head of time, then photographs them, goes over the photos, and speaks with them afterwards.
While no in depth research has been conducted, it is clear that there are profound affects on the women being photographed. As part of our participation in the workshop we went through the process, and even I walked away having learned something about myself and an improvement in my overall self-image.
As some of you may remember, last year I took boudoir pictures for Nick’s birthday. I wanted to give him something special and challenge myself as well. This situation was similar only in the sense that someone would be photographing my body, but it was more for me than for someone else. As I watched the women (Sharona Jacobs of Sharona Photo also participated) take my picture and I thought about what it would be like to have an eating disorder and go through this process, I also thought about the stack of artwork I had gone through the night before. My mother is an artist and I wanted to take some pieces home with me for our apartment, specifically some nude sketches she did decades ago. And while the cameras clicked away, I thought about those pictures, the people in them and myself, and I started to feel like art.
Afterwards as I walked around New York City running from one place to another (I had a very late lunch at Ray’s Pizza, then visited the Guggenheim to sneak in a quick visit to see an exhibit on Post-Impressionism, then had dinner with my friend Jen), I reflected on myself further and all I could think was good things. When I watched Sharona go through the process she looked like a Goddess, so sure of herself and so much like a Botticelli painting or a Greek statue. And I hoped that I, eventually, was that comfortable as well. Or at least would be one day.
The next day we received copies of the pictures, looked them over, and discussed how we had felt being photographed and how we felt looking them over. Having now been photographed on three separate times by many different and talented photographers I knew was it was like to feel as if you were not the most photogenic person only to realize that you were all it took was the right person behind the camera. This time, though, was different. The purpose of the pictures was not to be shown off, but to reflect on. As I said before, they were for me, and as I peered over my contact sheets I couldn’t help but be a little surprise and more than a little happy at what I saw. I saw a woman who was actually comfortable with herself (instead of hoping she would be). Someone who was happy, very happy. I didn’t think I needed to be photographed to grow from the process. I don’t have an eating disorder. I am not depressed. And I am finally at a point (and have been for some time now) where I love myself. But taking those pictures and seeing the finished product had more of an effect than I thought they would. I could finally see all those things that I was pretty sure I thought about myself (and I hoped others saw too), and I realized that I need to gain 5 pounds.
The workshop was amazing on a personal level and has also given me so many ideas for my own research and has helped to further direct me with where I want to go with my career. What a good place to be.
Here’s a few photos that Sharona took: