The fusions and confusions of a curious mind

Learning from the heart outwards, by kempspace

Tag: psychoanalysis

Who is the portrait really of?

This was an interesting experiment for the photographers involved. The video shows how different contextual information about the person to be photographed may prime each photographer to produce quite different representations of the same person. Of course we know little of the usual style of each photographer and could expect differences between them, but it’s the photographer’s own reflections that are interesting. They respond to the direction to get to the ‘essence’ of the person, then seek to understand the person in the context of his (given) background to create the portrait. How they represented the person seemed unsteadying to them and revealing about how we work with information we are primed with.

As a psychologist in photography I want to think about how the knowledge I bring makes me see this. In cognitive terms, our perceptions and assumptions colour how we interpret information about others and the world outside of us. In psychoanalytic terms, our reading of the intentions and actions of others can often be skewed by our own unconscious projections. It becomes important to know that we interpret the outside world through our own internal world, without knowing this, we deny ourselves the hope of changing how we could see things differently when life gets difficult (by changing the bias behind our interpretations). How is this relevant in portrait photography? Who are we really seeing through our lens? Who is the portrait really of?

I believe that what we ‘see’ down the lens, and the image we create, is a blend of ourselves and the other. In a similar way, the therapeutic relationship and work is created of two minds in concert, that of the psychologist and the client. Whatever is created, whether a relationship or a portrait, is a meeting of the internal worlds of both involved. In the case of the photography experiment, much of the internal world of the person to be portrayed may have been assumed by the photographer due to the context given. How this influenced the image may have shown more about the associated concepts in the photographer’s mind than the ‘essence’ of the sitter.

I’ve learned that what moderates the extent to which we recognise the individuality or ‘essence’ of the other, is the extent to which we know ourselves. The more we know ourselves, the more we are able to partial out our ‘essence’ or associations and more clearly ‘see’ or portray the other’s. I wonder if these photographers felt quite exposed, but hopefully only insomuch as understanding that these processes are normal to us all.

Exploration of the shadow in photography, psychoanalysis and astronomy

I was completely blown away at a recent Photography Gallery talk inspired by ‪Viviane Sassen‬’s work and her exploration of her internal shadow world. Links were made about the ‘shadow’ between an astronomer (Marek Kukula, Public Astronomer, Royal Observatory Greenwich), a psychoanalyst (David Morgan, Psychotherapist and Psychoanalyst) and a master curator of photography (Simon Baker, Curator of Photography, Tate Modern). It was a fusion of three fields that fascinate me.

Photography as the art of ‘fixing the shadow’, the basic coordinates and building blocks of photography. Photographic art as a way to symbolise the deep and dark fears in an attempt to understand them and to recover from the mental ill health that can occur from the inability to speak of them (Moriyma’s return to the basic blocks of black and white photography during recovery from deep grief) NSFW:

The shadow (Jung) as the deep inner psychic space to which all unthinkable things in our experience, illiciting deep conflicting emotions, are split off and assigned to. The shadow as projected onto others, who carry these shadow distressing emotions for us until we can take them back and recover our real selves.

The shadow as the other side to the detection of light in the universe. The dark side of the moon, the dark energy and dark matter of outer space, that constitutes 75% of the universe and is unknown, or only ‘known’ because of its relationship to light – the absence of it. The disturbance that comes from staring deep into the hubble photo showing a chronotope tunnel of 9 billion years of the development of our universe – and only ‘seeing’ a fraction of what we are a part of. Not being able to know who or how we are without also knowing the shadows that we are a part of.

In all, our need to explore the shadows in our internal and external world, will only contribute to a deeper knowledge of ourselves and our place in the universe. This kind of cross fertilisation of ideas between disciplines is the bedrock of creating original thought, it’s exciting to see mirrors between fields.

a penny for your thoughts

a penny for your thoughts I said
but this I cannot do!
why not?
because I’m caught! She said
I haven’t seen them through!
It takes a while to capture them
until that comes I’m stuck
between a full and empty space
and what I need is luck!
not so, I said
for there’s the space
that needs to be explored,
that very gap
is where it’s at
not to be ignored!
ah so! said she
from what you say
it’s easier to see,
that in the middle of it all
is where my words find me


Two chairs

on being a psychologist in psychoanalysis…

take these tools
I can lend,
my head and heart
the path we tread,
as side by side
we learn to step,
I find your pace
you find my tread.
I see your grace
you speak your truth,
the best you can
the best you could,
you see me there
sat forth to listen,
witness to
anothers presence.

we seek the links
that carry pain,
that hold you back
against the grain.
you stay in mind
feel through my heart,
until your own
can bear to start,
and when it does
as beat shocks breath,
I’ll stay until
the floor’s at rest.
The parts you gave
that I protect,
you take them back
you hold intact.
hearts returned
heads rediscovered,
a moment shared
a mind recovers.

you’re leaving now
we both are changed,
through what was shared
through what became.
my tools are shaped
by each new us
that walks into
the chair across.
I use my head
I use my heart,
one without other
couldn’t start
to fathom what
its like to be
the person sat
across from me.

a person sat
across from me
bears the things
I fear to see,
opens space
that’s stilled around
the sound of truth
pursued by hounds.
like northern star,
a lit path cleft
through darkened scar,
truth seeps like pain
through fractured mind,
aches that bind.

both chairs,
the reach,
the possibility,
to bear
our shared
no difference
in the
space between,
the bridge?



what a fool
to think too small
to rush and grasp
loose sight and focus

when no doubt
a moment out
would find control
an inner locus

racing hard
to leave the start
in bitter fight
against unconscious

day is won
when story’s spun
with threads that lead
from dark to conscious


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