Photography as a soul therapy

Started Aug 11, 2022 | Discussions
alpshiker Senior Member • Posts: 1,754
Photography as a soul therapy
12

Needless to say, for many of us, photography is a medium on which we have set our sights to help ourselves heal from the attacks on our mental health of the reality of a fleeting world, in constant upheaval and largely unpredictable. Well, maybe you hadn't thought of it like this yet.

I would like to start this thread on the subject of the consolation that photography can bring us in various situations. I remember having suffered from the disappearance of landscapes that I loved, of beautiful trees or witnesses of the past. As we get older, the effects of age and illness on the people we love and of course on ourselves, and sometimes, of a change that has come too suddenly and leaves us on the floor, such as when the death of a loved one occurs. These are times when we turn to photographs, to remember how things were and ought to be in a world set right side up.

On a personal note, I had mentioned six months ago on this forum, the loss of my friend. I have now prepared a photographic tribute about her, the link of which you will find in my August ramblings – please bear with me. Apologies also because this is nothing elaborate and these are not images taken in medium format either. We had known each other for a good dozen years. Photographing her was tricky at first because of her disabilities, and she needed to tame the photographer. But she got hooked on the game and quickly took pleasure in these moments of complicity and in the peculiar gaze that the camera sent back to her. Showing her how I saw her, turned out to be a great way to prove to her that she was still a truly worthy and remarkable person despite a debilitating illness. And this exercise helped me heal myself from a failure in my past. She had never posed for a photographer, nor did I have the experience of a portrait artist. Everything was improvised, as is often the case with the finer things in life.

 alpshiker's gear list:alpshiker's gear list
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III Sony a7R II Fujifilm GFX 50S Sony a7R IV
New to DSC-World Regular Member • Posts: 451
Re: Photography as a soul therapy
2

alpshiker wrote:

Needless to say, for many of us, photography is a medium on which we have set our sights to help ourselves heal from the attacks on our mental health of the reality of a fleeting world, in constant upheaval and largely unpredictable. Well, maybe you hadn't thought of it like this yet.

I would like to start this thread on the subject of the consolation that photography can bring us in various situations. I remember having suffered from the disappearance of landscapes that I loved, of beautiful trees or witnesses of the past. As we get older, the effects of age and illness on the people we love and of course on ourselves, and sometimes, of a change that has come too suddenly and leaves us on the floor, such as when the death of a loved one occurs. These are times when we turn to photographs, to remember how things were and ought to be in a world set right side up.

On a personal note, I had mentioned six months ago on this forum, the loss of my friend. I have now prepared a photographic tribute about her, the link of which you will find in my August ramblings – please bear with me. Apologies also because this is nothing elaborate and these are not images taken in medium format either. We had known each other for a good dozen years. Photographing her was tricky at first because of her disabilities, and she needed to tame the photographer. But she got hooked on the game and quickly took pleasure in these moments of complicity and in the peculiar gaze that the camera sent back to her. Showing her how I saw her, turned out to be a great way to prove to her that she was still a truly worthy and remarkable person despite a debilitating illness. And this exercise helped me heal myself from a failure in my past. She had never posed for a photographer, nor did I have the experience of a portrait artist. Everything was improvised, as is often the case with the finer things in life.

Photography certainly provides a welcome chance to step back from a very busy and challenging professional life. I have three jobs across academia and the NGO world, in three different countries, all focused on work I love, which is improving vision care in low income countries. But sometimes stepping sideways into a field where the stakes aren't quite so high, and my own expectations for performance can be a bit more relaxed, is quite invigorating. And there is a connection that I like with photography and my work: It is all about seeing!

Another example: My mother is now very severely demented, and wouldn't reliably recognise me when I do have the rare chance to visit her in the US (I live in the UK). But she is certainly the one from whom I caught the photo bug, and I have a picture of her here in my office, sharp as a tack, that I took many years ago on my 4X5 Linhof and printed at 16x20. Just the way I remember her. I look at it every day. There is another one in the house, a 12X20 Platinum print of her swinging a baseball bat with that most competitive look that very much characterised our relationship. It wasn't any easy picture to take (there is after all a reason people aren't doing a lot of sports photography at 12X20"). But it gives me a lot of peace to have that bit of her.

I've always kept some of my photography at my various offices over the years, as a reminder of another part of myself.

Thanks for the good topic, I am guessing this may be a popular thread!

Best regards,

Nathan

 New to DSC-World's gear list:New to DSC-World's gear list
Sony RX10 IV Fujifilm GFX 100S Fujifilm GF 32-64mm F4 Fujifilm 120mm F4 Macro Fujifilm GF 110mm F2 +6 more
OP alpshiker Senior Member • Posts: 1,754
Re: Photography as a soul therapy

Nathan, thank you for this moving testimony. Yes vision is a so important aspect of life and a heart vision is even more. I feel for you for the loss of the complicity you had with your mother due to this form of blindness that she is afflicted with. At least you have her engraved in your spirit and on prints, as she was and will be when this is over. My own mother has lost most of her sight due to AMD. At 92, she cannot live alone and I stay with her. And she is also the one who taught me the importance of documenting life in its progression by taking pictures. Her sorrow now is not being able to dip herself in her archives of pictures and writings without assistance, and these archives have become all the more important to her. Makes me think of gathering my own in an organized form while I can, for my kids.

Kind regards, Paul.

 alpshiker's gear list:alpshiker's gear list
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III Sony a7R II Fujifilm GFX 50S Sony a7R IV
Michael Floyd Senior Member • Posts: 1,457
Re: Photography as a soul therapy
1

Hi Paul,

Apologies for my slow response here, I was not sure what to say.  Nevertheless I do want to respond even though I still don't know what to say. Lol.

It's very brave to show the vulnerability of an open heart in a public space and I believe this should be revered.  I'm sorry to hear of your loss, it's never easy losing someone that we love.

-

As a through and through introvert, by which I mean as someone who gets recharged by being in my own company, photography is definitely soul therapy for me.  This is indeed a great part of why I am involved.

Of course, without the intent to print at least some images, it would be difficult to hold on to the therapeutic mental focus during shooting that I find feeds my soul so well. Regardless, for me, the final output is almost secondary to the process, although of course neither can exist without the other.

Rob de Loe
Rob de Loe Senior Member • Posts: 3,598
Re: Photography as a soul therapy
2

Photographs can be talismanic. My mother also has severe dementia, and also lives far away. I haven't been able to visit nearly enough to assuage my feelings of guilt and sadness. On each visit, I somewhat frantically make photographs, sometimes of her, and sometimes selfies of her and me, to prove something: that she was still alive and looked a tiny bit like the person I remember, or that I was there with her. Each time I look at the last image I made from that visit, I think, "This could be the last one."

Years from now I hope I will look at these photographs from the end of her life and be pleased that I was able to make them. But I fear they will just bring sadness. We'll see.

On a slightly less maudlin note, I've seen photography described as "shutter therapy". This makes sense to me. When we're deeply engaged in making photographs, we're (hopefully) not thinking about everything else. When I'm deeply engaged in making photographs, I'm usually in the woods. So I get the benefit of a focused mind and nature -- both of which can only be positive. Shutter therapy indeed.

Thanks for the thread Paul.

Theia Contributing Member • Posts: 528
Re: Photography as a soul therapy
2

I purchased my GFX 50S on the same day that my mother died. Through the grief and guilt (I live in Canada and she lived in the UK) I was aware that I needed something to keep me connected/together. Reviving my earlier interest in photography was part of the solution.

Focusing on and working methodically at seeing and capturing photographs was a lifeline. I’m sure other art forms also offer therapy, but not all pursuits. Photography has that special blend of the technical and artistic in its creation, and its product is those captured fleeting moments in time which we know are gone as soon as the shutter has closed – for future enjoyment, as aids to memory, or even as tangible anchors in the turbulence and change around us.

My last photo of my mother was a selfie, taken on an iPhone, in the old folks home where she lived after my father died. It shows a little old lady, sitting slightly askew, hands folded. She was a force of nature, immensely accomplished, extremely knowledgeable; you’d never guess. But for those of us left behind, that simple photo brings it all crowding back.

OP alpshiker Senior Member • Posts: 1,754
Re: Photography as a soul therapy
1

Thank you for sharing.

Paul

 alpshiker's gear list:alpshiker's gear list
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III Sony a7R II Fujifilm GFX 50S Sony a7R IV
OP alpshiker Senior Member • Posts: 1,754
Re: Photography as a soul therapy

I don't want to force this thread to continue, but maybe others would like to express how photography helped them or even came to their rescue at some point.

It doesn't have to be about a sad event, but I link here as an example this article that the serendipity of the Internet allowed me to discover. The photographer was lucky enough to capture this amazing image on the morning of the funeral of a friend's wife.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-62051232

 alpshiker's gear list:alpshiker's gear list
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III Sony a7R II Fujifilm GFX 50S Sony a7R IV
RaajS Veteran Member • Posts: 6,651
Re: Photography as a soul therapy
1

alpshiker wrote:

Needless to say, for many of us, photography is a medium on which we have set our sights to help ourselves heal from the attacks on our mental health of the reality of a fleeting world, in constant upheaval and largely unpredictable. Well, maybe you hadn't thought of it like this yet.

I would like to start this thread on the subject of the consolation that photography can bring us in various situations. I remember having suffered from the disappearance of landscapes that I loved, of beautiful trees or witnesses of the past. As we get older, the effects of age and illness on the people we love and of course on ourselves, and sometimes, of a change that has come too suddenly and leaves us on the floor, such as when the death of a loved one occurs. These are times when we turn to photographs, to remember how things were and ought to be in a world set right side up.

On a personal note, I had mentioned six months ago on this forum, the loss of my friend. I have now prepared a photographic tribute about her, the link of which you will find in my August ramblings – please bear with me. Apologies also because this is nothing elaborate and these are not images taken in medium format either. We had known each other for a good dozen years. Photographing her was tricky at first because of her disabilities, and she needed to tame the photographer. But she got hooked on the game and quickly took pleasure in these moments of complicity and in the peculiar gaze that the camera sent back to her. Showing her how I saw her, turned out to be a great way to prove to her that she was still a truly worthy and remarkable person despite a debilitating illness. And this exercise helped me heal myself from a failure in my past. She had never posed for a photographer, nor did I have the experience of a portrait artist. Everything was improvised, as is often the case with the finer things in life.

Paul, thank you very much for sharing this and your images. I loved your Vimeo presentation. This hits a very personal note for me - my father is wasting away, in an advanced stage of Parkinson's. Over the last few years I've seen a man who I consider to be a transcendent genius be essentially reduced to a vegetable.   I wish I had made more time to photograph him over the years.  The few images that I have I value deeply.

Cheers,
  -raaj

OP alpshiker Senior Member • Posts: 1,754
Re: Photography as a soul therapy

RaajS wrote:

Paul, thank you very much for sharing this and your images. I loved your Vimeo presentation. This hits a very personal note for me - my father is wasting away, in an advanced stage of Parkinson's. Over the last few years I've seen a man who I consider to be a transcendent genius be essentially reduced to a vegetable. I wish I had made more time to photograph him over the years. The few images that I have I value deeply.

Cheers,
-raaj

Raaj,

I'm sure these pictures will be invaluable in remembering the man your father truly is. We all age and sometimes with more difficulty. But deep inside, an unaffected spirit is growing stronger. Your father's condition speaks to me because my father was an entrepreneur and he too had Parkinson's disease. He couldn't walk much, couldn't eat normal food in his later years, but he fought depression with some attainable occupations and was good spirits. He still lived 93 years. Keeping in touch with the family was very important to him and he could also flip through a few photo albums from time to time and think "We made it".

Thank you also for your kind words about the presentation. My friend had a settled spirit despite the storm in her body and mental life slowly slipping away. She shied away from the camera in her late years, but we could use a smartphone to catch a few smiles and the sparkle in her eyes on a birthday or a visit from her kids. Prayer and photography really helped us all recover from the trauma.

 alpshiker's gear list:alpshiker's gear list
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III Sony a7R II Fujifilm GFX 50S Sony a7R IV
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads