Therapeutic Photography Healing Processes

This project is the result of an idea that has been brewing in the back of my mind for over a decade. It will be a collection of work that embodies a unique concept of "Double Exposure". The series will showcase the strength of female-identifying people overcoming some event. I want subjects to tell a story that brings to the surface a strong emotional reaction: sadness, vulnerability, or anger. I want the subject to react purely to their own story, while also being able to offload the burden of having to hold those emotions in check. The story can be of anything the subject chooses, be it about losing a loved one, a broken heart, a breach of trust, a traumatic experience, or any other topic.

The project is an entire process that revolves around a one-sided conversation coming from the subject. The conversation had is entirely the subject's choice, but goal of the process is to expose (and perhaps expel) a sensitive topic. The subject just needs to talk and let their emotions take over. They aren't talking to me, the camera, or anyone in particular - they're just talking.

Finding strength in vulnerability through therapeutic photography.

The goal:

This project has two distinct objectives. 1) Produce an image that captures the raw emotion of the subject that both intrigues and creates a connection to the viewer. The image will contain the facial expression of the subject, unless otherwise agreed upon. In some cases a secondary photo highlighting a physical representation of the event (a scar, generally) will also be captured. If the subject agrees, of course. 2) By the subject exposing this emotion, it is the hope of the photographer the subject can feel free (or perhaps just freer than before) of the topic. That by viewing in the final image, they can find strength from the experience and continue to do so whenever needed.

The setup:

Shoot will be held in a controlled and private environment. Minimum staff on hand so as not to be distracting - consisting of one (male) photographer and one (female) assistant (unless otherwise discussed). Photographer and assistant are completely free of judgement, opinions, and influence on the subject; their only purpose is to document the subject's telling of their story.

The process:

Several conversations between subject and photographer will be required before coming to the studio. These conversations will consist of shoot details, methods, setting terms and boundaries. When the shoot begins, subject will be given a blanket, if desired (or they may bring their own), or some other item they can hold. Subject should be nude, or as exposed as agreed upon earlier. This is what gives the project its title. The subject is exposed both physically and emotionally, but the produced image will not contain any nudity. The purpose of the nudity is to take away some of the emotional armor from the subject, allowing them to feel their emotion more purely. They are *not* required to expose themselves to the photographer, and the photographer will not capture any portion of the subject not previously discussed. Subject begins telling their chosen story, unfiltered and without emotional reigns. They are free to pause, yell, whisper, cry, cover up with provided fabric, curl around themselves, etc - as long as they remain inside the dedicated area set by photographer. As the subject tells their story, photographer will capture various expressions and will not interrupt the subject for any purpose, within reason (as in, if subject gets violent towards self, staff, or equipment).

The wrap up:

Once the session is complete, subject will get dressed. If any sort of aftercare or consolation is needed, it will be discussed during the early stages of communication and provided as requested (whether time alone or food, etc). After everyone departs the shoot, photographer or assistant will reach out to subject to get feedback on their experience. Firstly to make sure subject is doing well and secondly to verify they still want to participate in the project. If the subject declines participation afterwards, they will still receive their images (if desired) but no images will ever be published in any capacity.

The photographer's workflow:

Images will be reviewed and filtered down to a selection of two or three images for post production. Once that work is complete, images will be shared privately with the subject before any publication in any fashion on any platform. Subject must agree a final time in writing to participate before photographer publishes the end result.

Examples of story ideas:

- While in a relationship, a woman discovers her partner does not want to continue their path together. - After a serious car accident, a woman confronts the 43 staples and giant scar spanning her torso. - A previvor's tale about a double mastectomy. - A woman talks about her history with self-harm. - A woman's struggle with her own self-worth through false validation.

Past participants have expressed a feeling of closure afterwards, getting validation of their pain without requiring another party's involvement. The availability to open up and break their own shell gives a sense of freedom from it. Once the weight of the experience was gone, leaving a clear mind, they are now able to process and move forward.

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