I follow photographer Sean Tucker on Youtube. He doesn’t talk about camera gear. His videos aren’t flashy and he talks a little to slow. It’s mostly him talking into a camera. But he’s incredibly articulate and always has something thought provoking to say. This video that he released today about the healing power of self portraits really resonated with me and my experience as a photographer. Watch the video and I’ll put my inarticulate commentary below.
Sean is talking about self-portraiture as a therapeutic medium of sorts. But I’d like to propose that photography in a broader sense can be a tool for healing. And I’ve seen that from my own experiences in the studio with clients. Here are a few examples of people I’ve shot and some of their stated (or what I believe are their unstated) reasons for shooting with me:
- A woman with body dysmorphia who, like Sean, is able to see herself objectively in images and is using this perspective to manage her eating disorder.
- A young woman who was in a terrible accident and is using photography come to terms with her scarred body.
- A woman who was scheduled for a double mastectomy and who wanted to capture herself whole before the operation.
- A young adventurer who at one point was on the brink of death and wanted to celebrate the experiences his body has provided him.
- A woman healing from complex PTSD.
- And more than one person dealing with a history of repression and deciding to take control of their bodies.
As a massage therapist, I’ve spent most of my adult life helping people heal through touch, so it’s no surprise that these particular kinds of photographic experiences are some of my most satisfying ones.
Of course, these are some of the more powerful examples of photography as therapy, but every day there are people who are changed by the experience.
What’s interesting to note is that almost all of these shoots have been artistic nude shoots. These beautiful people have chosen to deeply connect with their vulnerability as part of their healing journey.
Being in front of a camera, clothed or not, is an experience of vulnerability. But there is strength in vulnerability. My subjects have the courage to show up and be seen when they have no control over the outcome. They stretch themselves. And once stretched, they never return to being that person who walked into the studio.
When I first started photography I was taken by this medium for creative expression. As I continue on my photographic journey, I’m grateful that people have trusted me enough to invite me on their healing journey.
I’ll leave you with this lovely message left by this beautiful soul who I recently worked with…