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Photography: Art and Healing

A Story of a Girl and a HorsePhotographic images can be a powerful form of expression for creative people, and also a tool for therapists and anyone to help explore our inner selves.

This image by artist Jennifer Moon is titled “A Story of a Girl and a Horse: The Search for Courage.”

A news article about an installation of her photographs, sculpture and text-based works at UCLA Hammer Museum’s “Made in L.A. 2014” biennial, describes the piece as a “self-portrait, a chromogenic digital photo [that] depicts Moon on a chocolate brown horse, leaping over a bed of clouds shot through with electricity, as if she were riding a flying Unicorn.”

From ‘Made in L.A. 2014’: Jennifer Moon continues phoenix rise at Hammer, by Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times, July 30, 2014.

Moon has commented about being an artist:

“What I love and find the most potent about art is its ability to transform the way we perceive and interpret information and, hence, the ability to transform how we interact with the world and with ourselves.”

[LAartstream / Ear Stream]

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PhotoTherapy and Therapeutic Photography

On her site The Preconscious Eye, therapist Rosemary Bannon Tyksinski, PhD describes the use of photography as a tool for exploring the inner life of others and oneself.

She writes, “Art is play and communication for children and adults. For many who cannot directly talk about what they think and feel art allows them to speak in images, sometimes as directly and sometimes in metaphor.

“For me, photography is serious play that lets me communicate what I see, what is important to me, and what I experience. It allows me to say things for which I have no words.”

She comments, “To me, the most exciting photographs are those that evoke deeply buried psychic material thereby functioning as a vehicle for people to connect more deeply and authentically with the true self and with those hidden but very much alive aspects of others both living and long past.”

On her page Therapeutic Photography and PhotoTherapy, she explains that PhotoTherapy has been practiced in Canada, Europe, and the United States for more than 40 years.

“Many art therapists and psychotherapists, me included, have used photographs in the context of therapy, such as working with a client’s personal photo albums, photos of family, other important people and pets, or photographs that they have taken with their cellphones that are nearly always present in the therapy room.

“The client is not necessarily involved in creating the photographs used but could be. Photos provided by the therapist, found in magazines, family albums, or on the clients cell phone can be used.

“Photos can be looked at and talked about, arranged in various configurations, made into collages, spoken to or made to speak for the client, to the client, or to another photograph.”

A title by Judy Weiser is, Tyksinski says, “perhaps the most comprehensive, accessible, and useful book on the topic both for the theorist and especially for the practitioner”: Phototherapy Techniques: Exploring the Secrets of Personal Snapshots and Family Albums.

A complementary use of the art is therapeutic photography: “the process by which the act of making a photographic image is the therapy itself with or without a therapist involved at any stage of the process.”

She cites as one example the author of the book But Beautiful.

The description includes: “In 1988, in an attempt to overcome personal problems, Cristina Nuñez began taking self-portrait photographs. Giving shape to her emotions and revealing her presence to the world, enabling her to turn an uncompromising gaze upon herself, but also to project herself as she wanted to be, these images became a form of self-therapy and self-discovery.”

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Little Prince by Matej PeljhanOn her therapy practice site, Dr. Tyksinski has a page of Examples of Therapeutic Photography.

One of the photos is this one from the “Little Prince” series by Matej Peljhan.

He is a psychotherapist and photographer, who “uses therapeutic photography in his work with children with disabilities.”

“In this photo-essay he works with his friend, 12-year-old boy Luka, who cannot do the active things he sees others do because he suffers from muscular dystrophy.”


The ExperienceMaggie Taylor is an artist who uses a camera, combined with images she makes using a scanner, to construct “narrative photomontages” as a Photoshop site describes her work.

This is one of her images – from my article Maggie Taylor: Making Images That Invite Reverie – which also includes a video about an online course with Taylor and her husband, photographer Jerry Uelsmann.

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There are many other online opportunities to explore photographic approaches to making images.


One example is the course Family Photography: Modern Storytelling with Kirsten Lewis – “Learn how to capture genuine, emotional images of families.”

It will be offered free Aug 7-9.

See other free and paid classes at the CreativeLive site.

There are also a number of online photo editing tools such as PicMonkey [free] that can enable you to use photography artistically or therapeutically.


Photography: Art and Healing

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2019). Photography: Art and Healing. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Mar 2019
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