SELF-PORTRAIT DOCUMENTARY:
A MEANS AND A TOOL TO HEAL THE EMBODIMENT OF EMOTIONS

The aim of this project is to show the importance of emotions that occur on the human body and affect the psyche as well as giving simple tools to help individuals heal and grow themselves.

The project consist of a metaphysical approach to healing as well as an open mind towards a controversial psychological field.
My hypothesis is that emotions imprint the physical body in unique ways, manifesting both within the body and on its surface through many signs. In this self-portraiture study I will look at the embodiment of emotions by using various portraiture methods having the camera act as a gateway of communication between the external and the internal self. I am interested in developing self-healing techniques easily replicable through the use of photography.

First of all, it is important to understand that our personal growth and development has the ability to change both the mind and the body in relation to each other. This symbiosis is due to the exquisite relationship that the body has with the mind and vice versa as they form a conscious organism (Rockwell, 2006). Language (Rosenberg, 2005) and body language (Pease and Pease 2004) are the most common ways of observing these emotional changes. People express different vocabulary, tone of voice, postures and gestures according to their emotional response to an event whether it is a smell, touch, sound or visual memory.
The body, metaphysically speaking, is the physical representation of the soul or rather the tangible representation of the persona. By being more conscious and emphatic towards the body, acknowledging the emotional symptoms not as separate to the self but as a causation of a physical issue or problem, one observes a fluid relationship between the self and the body (Tomkins, 2008). Otherwise the stress caused to the organism by emotional imbalances weakens the immune system depriving the body of vital energy to fight illnesses. Therefore, the elusive concept of emotions affects the physical external self and its biological construct (Lipton, 2005). However, western medicine still gives little attention and value to emotions.

Self-portrait photography lends itself as a powerful tool. Acting as a mirror, it places the self in a self-critical position reflecting the viewer’s intentions onto the image, allowing for a dynamic revision of the self. This is also due to the psychological, emotional and visual work done prior to the photo-shoot. Implying that the photographer has to be willing to acknowledge the symptoms and to initiate the process of healing the self. By being both the photographer and the sitter, the duality between these two roles merge together. This helps one to fall into a state of meditation, encouraging both an inner as well as an outer stillness. In this mind state, one is able to access deep seeded emotional memories that have fallen into the subconscious realm.
Tools such as exercising, creating, writing or listening to art are all forms of basic meditations. As photographers, these tools can be as simple as a heavy clumsy tripod. Due to stillness generated my the equipment, the photographer becomes immersed in the moment creating a sense of oneness between the machine, the place and the emotion. This natural symbiosis generates a mindful contemplation of a deep self-reflective state allowing the photographer to expand the ‘now’ until it is successfully captured within one or multiple images.
With the ability to shift perspective from a detailed close up to a panoramic overview, the photographer greatly beneficial from the juxtaposition between these two styles of imagery. This technique has been used with great effect to represent societies in general, such as Jonathan Swift’s satirical Gulliver’s Travels book, where he alternately finds himself as a giant in Lilliput or as tiny man amongst 72 ft. giants in the land of Brobdingnag shedding light over these two otherworldly perspectives. By capturing the body as a landscape, similarly to Bohnchang Koo’s gigantic images of hands and feet, the self is removed from the emotional association with their body due to the unnatural abstraction of it.
Contradictory, the panoramic shot pulls out the internal self-perception for the external self to perceive and analyse it. This first-hand insight provided by the portraiture has a tremendous effect on the case study as it brings in data otherwise only provided by second-hand accounts. As Hermione Granger once said “Is that really what my hair looks from the back?” while seeing herself escape from Hagrid’s hut.

In conclusion, portraiture has the ability to aid the viewer and in the case of self-portraiture the self, by observing the image as a reflection of the subject. I feel that this study can help photographers and whoever might be interested, to initiate their own self-discovery journey further researching within the fields of psychology and the esoteric.