How Can Photography be a Form of Therapy?

Photography can be more than a profession, hobby, or art form—for many people, it is also a form of therapy. Just like other forms of art therapy, photography allows people to express their thoughts and emotions and promote personal healing, growth, and understanding. However, unlike other art therapies, photography is the most accessible. For many, it is easier to express themselves with a camera than brushes and paint.

Mindfulness is a type of meditation and cognitive therapy that allows a person to be fully aware and present without becoming overwhelmed. It helps people observe thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they arise with a curious, kind, and nonjudgmental mindset. For those suffering with anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD, brain injuries, or past traumas, calming the mind to reach this level of focus and awareness is difficult indeed.

This is where photography comes into play and becomes its own therapeutic mindfulness technique.

Using a camera has a meditative and calming effect that—instead of emptying or numbing the mind—allows people to relax their minds enough to fully inhabit and explore the moment. Individuals can then discover thoughts or emotions that were previously difficult to unlock and understand. When looking through the lens, individuals have sufficient distance to look at situations clearly, recognize emotions, accept them, and let them go.

The camera lens removes labels and allows people to become impartial viewers to their own lives. Being an impartial, objective viewer eases the anxieties that often prevent people from becoming truly aware. In addition, photographs themselves allow people to capture and reflect on topics, memories, or emotions that are difficult to talk about or put into words.

The mere experience of photography—looking behind the lens, clicking the shutter, and capturing an image—calms the mind, provides relief from stress, increases dopamine, and has even been proven to enhance psychological resiliency.

Through photography, people with past traumas or those struggling with mental illness can safely explore themselves and the world. The process of therapeutic photography restores people’s sense of authority over their own mind, body, and surroundings, starting a journey toward healing.

The Epic Artwork Story

Epic Artwork & Photo all started in 2005 when Andrew Bourne was deployed to Iraq at the Syrian border. He needed a camera for intelligence reasons, so his wife Karen sent him a digital camera. He also photographed the life of the Iraqi people around him. After he returned to the states in 2006 and Karen had a chance to finally view all the images that he took, she realized that Andrew had captured beautiful and harrowing images that later earned him a gallery show.

While in Iraq, Andrew suffered a traumatic brain injury. When he was finally diagnosed in 2008, he was told he needed a hobby to help rework the neurons in his brain, so when he brought up doing live event photography to Karen, she encouraged him to do so. Not only was live event photography a tangible exercise in therapeutic mindfulness, but it also engaged the brain and encouraged the development of neuroplasticity.

Andrew and Karen Bourne are a traveling photography duo with incredible experience and passion. Check out Epic Artwork and Photo’s portfolio here to explore their live event photography and the images Andrew captured in Iraq.

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