Personal Development
Learning to love yourself through photography

Learning to love yourself through photography

What if a device invented in the 1820s, now digital and multifunctional, helped us to reconcile ourselves with our self-image? Explanations from a clinical psychologist and a photographer.

The problem: we don’t see ourselves as we are

How are you feeling physically? Many of us respond to this question in a laconic tone: “Too big”; “Not big enough”; “Meh”; “It depends on the days “; “Not too bad except my nose/my hair/my stomach”… As for women, only 3% of French women consider themselves beautiful, according to a Harris Interactive survey for Dove in 2015. One thing is certain: we do not see ourselves as we are… but as we represent ourselves. And this self-image, more or less lovable, is not only linked to reality, more or less graceful. It is less the appearance that ultimately matters than the intimate and subjective way in which we perceive it. The way we look at ourselves is full of a sometimes painful history, made up of experiences (corporeal, psychological, but also emotional and relational) difficult. The inner unease takes shape in the mirror. A discrepancy arises between a “real” self-image and an “imaginary” one, inevitably riddled with defects.

Photography can open our eyes. And in this, have a therapeutic effect – without being a therapy in itself, it is better to specify this from the start. Since the 2000s, these two words have been joined together willingly, without a very precise name being able to be given to this current, due to lack of method or official school: phototherapy, therapeutic photography, photo therapy, photography-therapy… Not all professionals in the sector are okay, and for good reason! These are actually two types of professions who offer it: therapists or psychologists, often specialized in behavioral and cognitive therapy; and photographers who, for some (but not all), have trained in support tools or coaching.

The solution: another self-image

“In therapy, photography is a tool that we will occasionally use as a support,” explains Sébastien-Marie Nicolas, clinical psychologist. It may happen, during the work undertaken with the patient, that we highlight a difficulty surrounding self-image. We can then offer photography as a therapeutic task. This will be an opportunity for the patient to talk about what he experiences in front of the lens and in the eyes of others, emotions that run through him. The work will then continue in view of the clichés: why does one like this photo? How does one feel about this? »The images are used here as support for classic and essentially verbal therapeutic work.

“In the studio, it’s a shooting session to which we invite people,” explains Jean Mahaux, a photographer who has developed his own PES method (Self-Esteem Photography). It aims above all
to reconcile oneself with one’s appearance, but not only that: it is a special moment that one dedicates to oneself, and it is this positive experience which can be restorative. Such an approach is complementary to therapeutic work and can act as a trigger by removing certain blockages. Repairing your fragile self, accepting yourself as you are, regaining self-confidence on your journey. Shooting is a step. “Without comment or interpretation, it allows us to “see ourselves to believe ourselves”, because the photo is proof: we would be rather happy with this one.

In practice: psychologist photographer or photographer psychologist?

Obviously, the framework is not the same in therapy and in the studio. “When a therapist suggests using this tool, it is within their support itself, for five or six sessions, the duration and the price (from 50 to 80 euros) does not change,” specifies Sébastien-Marie Nicolas. Of course, given ethics, the client will never be asked to pose naked. If we choose to “consult” a photographer, the budget will be greater given the equipment needed for the photo shoot. Prices vary between 400 and 800 euros. “At least several hours of shooting are proposed,” says Jean Mahaux, who devotes an entire day to it. The session takes place in my studio, in natural light, with a makeup artist-hairdresser to enhance the person, but without a stylist, to avoid disguising them. » Couch or projectors, the choice is yours! With the same objective of giving yourself a new perspective on yourself.

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