Photo Therapy? Is a thing!

by Quiana Jackson

“Therapeutic Photography techniques are photographic* practices done by people themselves (or their helpers) in situations where the skills of a trained therapist or counselor are not needed — for example, where photo-interactive activities are used to increase people’s own self-knowledge, awareness, and well-being, improve their relationships with family and others, activate positive social change, reduce social exclusion, assist rehabilitation, strengthen communities, deepen intercultural relations, lessen conflict, bring attention to issues of social injustice, sharpen visual literacy skills, enhance education, expand qualitative research and prevention methodologies, and produce other kinds of photo-based personal/emotional healing and learning.”

If you are not in my Concept & Development class you may not see my weekly work that I have been submitting. I am working on an emotion project regarding my past that has taken a toll on me. However, I still need to photograph it because it serves as my therapy. Until now I never knew what Photo Therapy was until my therapist told me that was what I was doing since I only check in with her about once a month until I am done with this class. She wants me to work through the emotions and continue on as far as I can go. I will admit that it is hard but my project must be created. In my Concept & Development class, I had to write a Project Description for my Midpoint Review. While I was writing the description I felt a terrible wave of sorrow for myself. I have never looked at myself as a victim and I immediately wanted to go back in the past and protect this young girl that was being abused. After I wrote the description (which is about 4 or 5 lengthy paragraphs) I asked the class not to comment because I needed a few days to get myself together. I cried through the typing and at that very last sentence I cried even harder.  

Mother Help Me, 2017

Mother Help Me, 2017

My project description has taught me two things. One, I am still that fragile young girl that is now an adult. I have physically grown but I am still that little girl that was molested. The second thing that I have learned is that I am more courageous than I give myself credit for. Producing an emotional body of work is something that I have been known to do. However, it was not my story but a documentation of someone else’s story. When I turn the camera on my life I have to relive each moment as if I was there again. In all of this, I inspire to push through it. I mentioned in my project statement that this body of work is compared to birthing a child. Something in me wants to expel and create this because it is time for this body of work to come out and present itself to the world. I cannot stop it even when the pain gets too intense.  

Some of the purposes of therapeutic photography are: 

  • Increasing self-knowledge, awareness and well-being
  • Assisting rehabilitation
  • Bringing attention to issues of social injustice
  • Producing other kinds of photo-based healing and learning
House of Secrets, 2017

House of Secrets, 2017

Each one of those bullets is what I am striving for. I want my project to not only help me heal but to show how rape forms people into who they are today. I did not fold to my abuse. I am not ashamed of my abuse. My abuse is a part of me and I want viewers to be able to relate in certain ways because if they can help one person then I have done a good thing!