Healing Through The Lens: Photography And Mental Health
There are very few things in life that can contribute to emotional wellbeing as profoundly as art. Whether you prefer to consume or create, there’s no doubt about it.
Looking at a painting, listening to a piece of music, watching a film, or dancing can fill you with an inexplicable sense of purpose and connection. And, scientific research suggests, it might also be the best way to heal from traumatic events.
The Beginnings of Art Therapy
It’s practically impossible to pinpoint the exact moment humans started using art to address troubling emotions they were facing. From prehistoric times, the human experience has been closely interwoven with artistic expression. Reality always shaped the arts, and not too rarely, art helped shape reality in return.
However, for the longest time, people did this unconsciously. Yes, visual artists like Jackson Pollock, Frida Kahlo, and Evard Munch are all known for having used their creativity to express the troubles they faced. But even if people understood the healing powers of art, they didn’t necessarily look at it as a form of therapy. That is, until the aftermath of World War II.
As the world recovered from one of the most devastating events in human history, psychologists understood that war victims needed more effective ways to deal with the PTSD they had experienced. So, one of the methods they started exploring was artistic expression. Holocaust survivors were encouraged by their therapists to put their stories into words, to write them down, and by doing so, to work through their traumas.
Bit by bit, the effectiveness of writing to process and overcome trauma became evident. Soon enough, creative writing workshops had become a widespread part of psychotherapy, giving the world artists like Sylvia Plath. They proved that absolutely everyone could find comfort and healing in the act of creation.
How Photography Fits In
Now, some may argue that the idea of using art to deal with everyman’s trauma is an elitist concept. However, there are plenty of arguments to the contrary.
Photography, for example, is an activity accessible to a huge number of people. According to Statista, there are approximately 3 billion smartphone users in the world. This, ultimately, makes 3 billion people with a camera in their pockets.
In addition to being widely available, photography has other healing benefits as well. For one, it’s an activity that can be performed practically anywhere. It’s an excellent way for the artist to express their emotions. It can be an effective way of taking in (and understanding) the situations we find ourselves in. And it’s one of the easiest mediums to share.
Depending on the type of photography in question, it can even benefit physical health, particularly when enjoyed outside.
If you’re interested in taking up photography as a hobby, whether to improve mental health or just as a way to relieve stress, you might be wondering where to start.
Well, the first thing you need to understand is that you don’t need any expensive equipment. Yes, a $3000 camera setup may make it easier to photograph cheetahs on your next safari. But you can make art that’s just as beautiful with what you already have.
Secondly, be committed to your art. If you’re serious about using photography as an exercise for emotional and mental wellbeing, you will need to seek out opportunities to take snaps. For many photographers, travel offers an excellent incentive to take photos. However, you don’t have to go far to get a great shot. Who knows, perhaps that amazing potential is hidden away right there in your backyard?
Finally, if you’re dealing with overwhelming events or traumas, you should consider seeking professional help. Simultaneously working on your healing and talking with a therapist will help you put things in perspective and get more from your hobby. Alternatively, you can look for a specialized art therapist in your area and set off on your journey with some photography-specific help and guidance.
Whatever your personal story, there’s no doubt that art can help you lead a better life. Whether you prefer to write, act, paint, or photograph, there’s nothing more empowering than the ability to create.
Perhaps you’ll put your personal experiences at the forefront of your photography. Or, maybe you’ll choose to empathize, to understand novel points of view.
Whichever your choice, you’ll come away wiser. And the reason is simple: you’ll have allowed yourself to go on a journey of learning and acceptance, committing to make an artistic expression even out of the most mundane, painful, or even invisible experience.
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