Photography as a Therapeutic Art Form


Sometimes it takes an external lens to see our insides more clearly.


By capturing an image, people can share their opinions, feelings, their imagination, frustration and interpretation of life. Photography is a medium of communication. It is a visual record which can help individuals document, reflect and revisit a journey. Photography can also be used as a tool for the healing and transformation of an individual, and this can be seen as a therapeutic activity.

PhotoTherapy is a practice conducted by trained mental health professionals that use people’s personal photographs, family albums, and pictures taken by others as catalysts to deepen insight and enhance communication during their therapy or counselling sessions. This practice is carried out by people, either by themselves when a trained therapist or counsellor is not needed or through guided assistance. People also use photography to improve social interaction, self-knowledge, to understand their relationships with friends and family. It can be used to become more aware about their inner journey — often, a photograph taken of the outside world could give us indications of the taker’s inner journey. PhotoTherapy or Therapeutic Photography can both be used with any kind of photographic imagery. Technology allows this method of therapy to be extremely accessible to all. There is no extra equipment involved — just a person and device that can capture an image. This makes it both convenient and beneficial for the photographer. One does not require a high-resolution photo, because that is not the aim of PhotoTherapy.

A lot of times, it happens that human beings cannot understand their emotions. The aim of PhotoTherapy is to give a person another set of lens with which they can view the world. The process of taking a photograph could reveal patterns, for example, with respect to the method or subject chosen, the colours, and the lighting. PhotoTherapy, therefore, helps people interact with their own unique visual reality. Photography shows us images that may depict how we really feel and brings to light the often-guarded thoughts we keep in our minds. This helps us to become mindful of the present moment, and also to our own thought processes. Developing mindfulness in photography is therapeutic because it helps liberate a person from feelings that may have been previously misinterpreted.

Photography allows us to pay more attention to what we hear, feel, think, and see. Photography can help us to appreciate everyday experiences. What used to be ordinary for me, changed after I took a photo of it and created a memory of the image. Engaging with our world through a man-made lens is cathartic.

Photography can help unleash artistic and creative skills. Knowing that you are capable of doing something despite the challenges and setbacks is definitely therapeutic. Because the focus is less on skill and more on using photos as a medium to explore the world, people are freer. Without inhibitions, without the fear of failure, our creativity flourishes. PhotoTherapy helps to regain self-esteem and understand one’s experiences.

PhotoTherapy shows us that it is important for people to be able to express ourselves and not feel afraid or suppress our vision. Photography gives us a picture that is an external manifestation of our own thoughts. It is important because it allows us to see ourselves through the pictures we take.

Sometimes it takes an external lens to see our insides more clearly.


Feature Image Credit: Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash


Mubaraka Motiwala is a Research Associate (Gender Justice) at One Future Collective.

Mapping and negotiating power

Uncuff India Episode 10: Dimensions of conflict and peace: visioning a utopian world

Uncuff India Episode 9: Civic space and dissent: A pathway to social justice