By: Christina Calderon
I can’t remember a time when photographs were not a part of my life. As a child my mother would make clothes for me and my two sisters, then dress us up and take our photo. It was something my friends looked forward to at sleepovers and one of my fondest memories of being young and having fun with my mother and sisters. These snippets of time are forever frozen in two dimensional realities. They remind me of the brevity of my emotions and how important art has been to me from early childhood. Photographs not only tell stories, but they document time, places, culture. They are windows to inner worlds and emotions.
The camera becomes a tool used to explore anything, and the photographer is then endowed with new insight to self and the world around them. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I began to take photography seriously as an art form and later still that I began to apply this medium to therapeutic processes related to mental health. There aren’t many books on the applications of photography in the world of expressive therapies, yet the possibilities of using this medium are boundless. Techniques can deepen and improve a client’s understanding of their relationship to emotions, people, or even addictions and trauma.
Like art therapy, photo therapy allows individuals to speak in ways that words alone cannot do. One of my favorite tasks in session is to ask my client to take the Polaroid camera outside, and take three to five photos that will tell me something, anything, about who they are or what they are feeling. The results are always profound.
Here are a couple of resources you can uses in your own exploration of photo therapy.
Exploring the Self through Photography: Activities for Use in Group Work
Book by Claire Craig
by Katie Hall
I recently created this stop motion animation for a class at Southwestern College. This course assignment inspired me to pull together my childhood interest in moving images with my current love of the expressive, fluid process of art making.
As I tapped into my inner child, the directions I could go with my imagination felt limitless and full of possibility.
I am excited to share this project and continue my experimentation with this, because I envision it to be a potentially healing art therapy technique. I see it as a way to formulate meaning and gain perspective on one’s narrative by integrating layers of imagery into one whole and complete visual expression.
The process of making the animation can be easily utilized in art therapy sessions. I used my IPhone camera and voice memo device, IMovie on my laptop, and then converted the movie to Quicktime. I stopped to take a picture after every mark I made. In this way, the process is time consuming but can also bring an aspect of mindfulness to the experience. It is extremely rewarding to see the hundreds of still photos come together to form something new in the end. I feel like this could be used with both individuals and groups. With individuals, this project could focus on a time period, particular experience, or problem in the client’s life. Dreams and fantasies could also be animated and imagery could be built up naturally without a direct focus to observe the unconscious mind. Groups could work together creatively to help build a new way of seeing and develop a sense of empowerment in their lives as well.
I believe this technique could be creatively explored in many different ways. Any medium, including paint, charcoal, clay, cut paper, pastel, shadows, photography, melted wax, etc. could be used. I appreciate the versatility of this process and the way that it highlights the metaphor of the flow and constant nature of change in life. The imagery is never permanent and continues to morph and transform. Similar to the way of capturing one mark at a time, we are all in a process of becoming. I feel being able to see our life experience as if it were a movie can be a great way to pinpoint negative patterns. This can provide clarity and open doors for real change to occur.