Art as therapy has been in use since man first started making images. It wasn’t until the 1940’s, in the U.S., that it became a distinct profession. The American Art Therapy Association promotes art as a way of helping in the healing process and life enhancement of individuals in need. From children to teens to adults, art as a form of therapy is highly powerful and beneficial.
I first started to notice I was using photography and photo manipulation as way of dealing with problems I was going through about a year and half ago. I don’t know if I could have remained sober through that first year without having the ability, through art, to work through all the things I was feeling. Through the ability to use a visual medium I was able to deal with and remain sober. It’s not that I didn’t want to write how I was feeling, it’s just that at the time, for me, the ability to create an image, be it through the use of converting something to black and white, or heavily processing something, gave me something I could see and understand immediately. It’s like I didn’t have to think about what the right words might be, or using the correct phrasing when I wrote, in that this visual medium of photography/post-processing allowed all that to come through in a an image. What I needed to get out I could just get out very easily with a photo or a post-processed image. It wasn’t until later I started to put words with my images. Be it lyrics or part of a poem or story. That combination of an image with words to go with it helped to solidify my feelings in my head. It might be argued that by putting words underneath or above on the side of an image steers the viewers into a certain path the artist wants them to go down as opposed to allowing the viewer to go where they want with the image. That may be true, but that’s a whole other article all together. For now, for me anyways, putting words with an image was just the next progression in my therapy if you will.
Art is highly personal. It could very well be argued that it’s not for other people to understand; that it’s a way of working things out within you, expressing your feelings, emotions, uncertainties about life, and your view on life at the moment. A creative outlet that you have chosen to use. It can be used as a visual record of where you have come and where you might want to go. You might have milestone images that when looked back on you can recall with extreme clarity what you were doing, what you were feeling, who you were with, where you were. All of this allows us to connect the past with our present. Though it’s usually not healthy to live in the past, remembering it can provide many beneficial effects. Learning from it and moving on towards your next goal, overcoming your next obstacle, all of this benefits us in the here and now. Art is for the here and now, but also helps to keep the past in perspective.
Sometimes words fail to come out, sometimes words alone just don’t cut it and in trying to be honest with yourself on how you feel it is sometimes, not just easier for some people, but more fulfilling to create a visual representation of those feelings.
I don’t create images for other people, I never have. I do it for myself. That’s a big catch 22, as when I create something that I think is some of my best work and it doesn’t get many much feedback, I will often sit and wonder why. To me it’s pretty phenomenal and yet to others it didn’t even warrant a simple “nice image”. When this happens after a few days I accept once again, just as I did originally, that I did it for myself and if others don’t ‘get it” or if it didn’t warrant the same WOW emotions in them as it did for myself then that is fine. Everyone has different feelings about things. Everyone is going down life’s path at different phases. I can’t sit here and mope because I didn’t get incredible feedback, I just have to push on and keep doing what I love doing and accept the fact that some images will get amazing feedback and others won’t. It’s not the feedback that matters. I mean, yes, we all want feedback. We all want some recognition that what we do is accepted to a certain degree, but we all also need to just do our own thing for ourselves. Sounds selfish huh? Look we aren’t donating kidneys here, or performing life saving surgery, we are creating art, taking pictures, making memories. For whom do we do this though and for what benefit? Think about it.
The image above is entitled ‘Piece of the whole.’ Click for the explanation.