PHOTOTHERAPYPhototherapy or empowering photography?
Empowering photography is a therapeutical method of arts education, but it's not actual phototherapy. Coming from different contexts, the orientation of phototherapy can be revealing, but with empowering photography it is always supportive. The main point is to make one's capacity visible using photographs, even if the capacities are very fragile or hidden behind the difficulties of everyday life.
Therapeutical powers of photography
A photo itself is not empowering or a therapeutical device, but the means of its use always depend on the motives and the basis of the use. Used on the right way in various everyday situations, this flexible method can achieve promising results among the people, who are not easily reached by methods based on verbal comminication.
The therapeutical power of photography is based on its bodily probative force. People believe the self-given meanings of photographs to be true because of the intense emotions, physiological reactions, images and memories they arouse.
When constructing one's life story, family relations or identity, photographs can be used to outline the feelings, memories and significance that are included in the pictures. In therapeutical or pedagogical process the photographs function as means for cognitively complex, absrtract experiences and understanding and regarding emotions, as well as emotionally believable proof for positive changeprocess.
The conditions of empowerment
The use of photographs can only be empowering when the domination that is linked to the practice of photography is demolished and turned over to become a medium for one's right to self-definition. In the method of empowering photography the photographing situation is dialogical interaction, where the person in the photograph is in the leading role. The photographer has to listen to the person he is photographing, how one wants to be seen. Also the myth of everyday photography is turned around to one's means for self-definition and identitywork: a photo can not be objectively true, but it can be subjectively true. Every person has the right to define for themselves, what kind of photographs one wants to use for contstucting a picture of oneself or a lifestory.
The conditions included in the method of empowering photography, equivalence and the right to self-definition mean that the person using the method first has to go through a personal photography process, before one can apply the method with another person. At the same time this is the strength of the method: it can also create empowerment for employees on demanding therapeutical fields and whole work communities.