Photography as therapy

Ryan DeFusco


Note: I originally published this in my photography blog in November 2013

Done with imagination and energy photography is therapeutic on both sides of the camera. It reveals, and it heals.

My Facebook newsfeed is packed with statements of anxiety, worry, fear, and lack of hope. The patients are not well, and you might think therapy would be welcomed in whatever form it takes. In my experience relatively few people submit to the therapeutic effects of photography. Maybe they are too busy. Maybe they don’t have confidence in it. I am on a crusade to change that.

What are the effects? And how are they achieved?

I often feel that people come to me to be photographed as they would go to a doctor or a fortune teller – to find out how they are. – Richard Avedon

Being photographed is an exercise in imagination. What do you imagine is true about yourself? What do you imagine is not true about yourself? The camera will serve as a kind of witness to confirm, or not, your acts of imagination. Maybe the “bad” things are not all that bad. Maybe the “good” things are better than you expect. Let photographs inform you.

The point is to relax into the work of noticing the degree of alignment between your self-image and what is really taking place in your world. Costumes, sets, unusual poses, inventive juxtapositions are devices that enable us to imagine ourselves in a different context, something that we don’t normally allow ourselves to consider. That’s healing.



I have done a fair amount of photographic work with people who have considerable physical handicaps, including a bride at her wedding. The experiences have been remarkable.

The next time you see a photograph that makes you pause, think about why. And then think about photographs of yourself and how you respond to them. It might lead you to something remarkable. It might help you express how you are.

I notice that when I am shooting my only concerns are about how to get the shot. All my usual concerns recede to a place outside my awareness. It is a wonderful experience, and it reminds me that it is possible to achieve such a state.

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