© 2006, Ayres Marques Pinto, Photographer - fototerapia@libero.

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Re-inventing Phototherapy in Italy
by Ayres Marques Pinto, 2006 I didn’t know anything about the existence of Phototherapy when I had the idea of sharing with other people the pleasure of taking pictures. What I did know was that some changes took place inside myself whenever I went out carrying my camera with me. I paid more acute attention to the things around me, emotion became stronger and a new kind of visual contact with the other people came out. That was enough for me to write down a project called "Photo-Unconcious" which consisted basically on getting the guests of a psychiatric community to take active part in the various moments of the photographic process: from posing to shooting (inside and mainly outside the community), from creating their life album to writing about it; from developing the film to printing the photos in the darkroom, from scanning the pictures to manipulating the images using the computer, from choosing the pictures to organizing an exhibition. The idea first occurred to me in 1995, in Natal, RN, Brazil, while making the video anthology “Um Dia – A Poesia”(One Day – The Poetry), to celebrate the National Poetry Day, 14th March. The visual poet, Doctor Franklin Capistrano, was the first one to accept the invitation to take part in the video anthology which was made at his work place: the town asylum. While the psychiatrist said his visual poem along the corridors of the hospital, I noticed that the patients looked at us with curiosity and that many of them wished to take part in the performance. It was in that period that I began to imagine how interesting it would be to use photography in activities with mentally disturbed people. The opportunity to carry out that idea was offered to me in 2001, in Italy, when a friend of mine, the psychologist Rita Messi, mentioned my work to Loredana Chielli, the director of the psychiatric community “Il Filo di Arianna” (The Arianna’s Thread), administrated by the social co-operative ASS.COOP of Ancona. When I first visited “Arianna’s Thread”, I was received by an elegant and polite gentleman who listened attentively while I presented the project. When I finally finished, he conducted me to the director’s office. It was only then that I understood I had not talked to the psychiatrist but to a guest of the community. There were two other people in the office with the director: a young man who chewed nervously the ends of his long hair, and a woman with fire red hair and a heavy make-up who spoke in a low pitch voice while smoking avidly. Noticing that I felt uncofourtabe to talk about the project in the presence of the others, Loredana introduced me to those strange people: they were two operators.

© 2006, Ayres Marques Pinto, Photographer - fototerapia@libero.it

I explained again, this time with less enthusiasm, the proposal of initiating an itinerary to be explored by the community guests and operators together through the world of photography. It was approved. For about two years we went around Ancona taking pictures and developing the films and enlarging the photos which then became a powerful and original exhibition whose success went much beyond our expectations. We learned from this experience the therapeutic value photography could have. It’s true that everything is potentially therapeutic; walking, sleeping, practicing sports, going to the cinema, playing an instrument, laughing, chatting -- and also taking pictures is therapeutic, but in a very particular way, for at least one reason: As the photographic image is not hand-made but directly captured from the exterior world, photographers are obliged to get out of themselves", to make a contact with reality and by doing so to install a connection between the inside and the outside world. This kind of inside-outside relationship mediated by a camera gives photographers a decision power that very few other activities can offer them . The photographer is the only one to decide, among the infinite possibilities, what to immortalize. During that experience, I saw people who were usually completely absorbed by their own thoughts, people who didn’t usually get out of themselves lift their eyes to start looking at the world, just because of carrying a camera. I saw people who thought very little of themselves proudly show to the public the beautiful pictures they’d taken and printed themselves. I asked once a fifty-year-old guest, F.D., who had spent most of his life in different kinds of psychiatric institutions why he enjoyed taking part in the project so much, and how he thought photography was helping him. He told me he had always suffered from anxiety, but when he went out to take pictures he was able to spend a lot of time looking through the viewfinder -- and while waiting for the right moment to shoot a picture the way he wanted, this would happen without any feeling any anxiety. On the contrary, he felt as if he were suspended in time as if there were no past, no future to worry about, but only the present moment. He revealed himself to be a very original photographer with an acute sense of geometric composition, in which the town appears a urban empty landscape without any inhabitants. I asked a similar question to the youngest guest in that community, L.C., a selfharming teenager who had left home at a very early age and had experienced all sort of things before ending up in that psychiatric community. She explained to me that she had always lived in a sort of simultaneously "360 degrees" way. She had always wanted to see everything, to experience everything at the same time. Although she felt completely free to

© 2006, Ayres Marques Pinto, Photographer - fototerapia@libero.it

photograph whatever she wanted, and the way she wanted, she had to choose only a small slice of the world at a time. This showed to her that she could be herself and express herself even if she had to deal with the limits imposed on her by a camera, and by extension from society. For the exhibition she preferred to show a lot of small pictures put all together to form big panels, rather than enlarging a few pictures to a bigger size. Coincidently both of these people left the community. She is now taking her Art Degree, “DAMS” at Bologna University. He went to live by himself in his flat. He leads a very normal life, attending language courses to travel all around Europe, even by plane. And now he’s planning to become Mathematics teacher. I certainly don’t assume that photography alone was responsible for the happy end of these two cases, but I’m convinced that it played an important role in the process of their healing. I believe three factors were particularly important for the success of that first experience: 1. to have always refused the role of being a photography instructor. I had no intention of teaching them anything, and actually I learned a lot from them. The few technical things they needed, they learned by themselves, by doing it or by making “mistakes”, and not by asking me. It was important to respect the unique way each one perceived reality and the original way each expressed themselves rather than teaching them to please the others by producing “nice” images. It’s very easy to "kill" the photographer each person has inside themselves by starting to talk about light, composition, contrast and other photographic details. 2. photography is familiar to everyone of us. We all have been taken pictures of since our birth. We see pictures everywhere around us. Most of us have at least once taken a picture. According to Marshall McLuhan, modern man sees photographically. For these reasons photography is less threatening and less demanding than other more traditional means of expression as acting, dancing, painting, writing and singing, but at the same time, photography can lead people naturally to other forms of communication. 3. Photography put people together. By the conclusion of that first experiment , I felt the need to get more information about the use of photography as therapeutic tool. I started by asking the community's psychologist and psychiatrist but they were not able to recommend any book title or any article in a specialized magazine. I then asked a Psychology University teacher and also all the photographers I knew but without any success. I began to think that I had probably invented something myself, which I called "Active Phototherapy". Then one day, L.C. invited me to attend the opening lesson, of the DAMS

© 2006, Ayres Marques Pinto, Photographer - fototerapia@libero.it

Photography course at the Bologna University, given by Professor Claudio Marra. Before travelling to Bologna, I passed by a book shop and bought a Marra’s book intitled “Le Idee della Fotografia” (The Ideas of Photography), published by Mondadori. This book brings together about a hundred theoretical writings on Photography by philosophers, historians, communication and semiotic experts, writers, artists, photographers, sociologists, and also by psychologists and psychiatrists. Barthes, Eco, Calvino, Valery, Sontag, Wenders, McLuhan , Dubois, and Bazin, are just some of the famous names that appear in that anthology. Among these many essays there was an excerpt from the book “Fototerapia e Diario Clinico” ("Phototherapy and Clinical Diary") by Giusti and Proietti, published by Franco Angeli and no longer sold. This was a guide to the use of photography and writing in the context of psychotherapy. As Giusti and Proietti themselves explained, they tried to synthesize the whole argument by following the trails opened by those psychotherapists who had already been using Phototherapy techniques in their practice for many years. They were particularly inspired by the works of Judy Weiser and Linda Berman, to whom they said they were deeply grateful. Linda Berman’s book, “Beyond the Smile: The Therapeutic Use of Photography” was translated into Italian as “La Fototerapia in Psicologia Clinica”, and published by Edizioni Centro Studi Erickson in 1993 (and reprinted in 1997). This is really a great book in which Berman re-visits the itinerary she had created while using photography in her psychotherapy practice all these years. She writes about her experience, her reflections and discoveries, as well as some clinical cases. Judy Weiser is an American psychologist who wrote “PhotoTherapy Techniques – Exploring the Secrets of Personal Snapshots and Family Albums” and created the phototherapy centre’s site. While visiting her site I found interesting the distinction she makes between Phototherapy and Therapeutic Photography. According to Weiser, Phototherapy means the use of photography to assist the psychotherapy process. As she defines it: “using photos in therapy”. Therapy, in this case, means a formal process where a trained mental health professional assists another person to resolve that person's own emotional distress". Any other use of photography-based activities, for personal healing purposes outside the psychotherapy context, is called "Therapeutic Photography". In this case, "therapeutic" has the same meaning as what the Greeks named “terapeia” which meant care, treatment, healing. This terminology is not adopted everywhere. Joe Spence and Rosy Martin, two important english pioneers in this field, have a different opinion about the subject. For Joe Spence, Phototherapy means “quite literally, using photography to heal ourselves” and

© 2006, Ayres Marques Pinto, Photographer - fototerapia@libero.it

remarks that “Phototherapy should be seen within the broader framework of psychoanalysis, but should always take account of the possibility of ACTIVE CHANGE”. So, what we did at the psychiatric community might be called either Phototherapy, according to Joe Spence’s definition, or "Therapeutic Photography", according Judy Weiser’s, as the project we carried out wasn’t based on activities guided by a therapist in a formal psychotherapy setting, nor was it used as a starting point to produce verbalization or as an instrument to investigate someone’s feelings, emotions and memories. On the contrary, we never made very serious conversation about ourselves. We got together for the pleasure of been together, to focus our attention on the outside world, to forget for a while our everyday thoughts and feelings -- and it is these very activities that were therapeutic, although perhaps not "therapy" in the formal sense of the word! Meanwhile, Alessandro Finucci, the librarian risponsable for the Loreto Town Library, continued to contact libraries, all over the world, to borrow books for me about Phototherapy. It was only when I read “Phototherapy in Mental Health”, that I finally felt I had found a guide that was most useful both to those who intended to use photography in therapy as well as to the people searching for a broader outlook to Phototherapy. David A. Krauss and Jerry L. Fryrear, the editors of this book that was published Charles C Thomas Publisher, explain that their purpose was to “give an overview of the field of phototherapy, to introduce the reader to the history of photography and therapeutic uses of photography, as well as to show how photography is being used in therapy and what concepts of psychotherapy ar most applicable”. “Phototherapy in Mental Health” helped me to plan the course of action for the project “The Mind in the Viewfinder – Wandering around the Town”, which was carried out by the Mental Health Centre of Osimo, from 2004 to 2006. The rehabilitation programm was characterized by the attention it was given to team work. The team was formed by two psychiatrists, one psychologist, three operators and I as a “socio-cultural mediator” or “play leader” (animatore, in italian) with some experience on therapeutic photography. The role of this new social operator, “animatore”, (as far as I know, there is no equivalent to “animatore” in the english or american professional system), is little understood even here in Italy. The aim of of this operator is to contribute to the well being of the client, taken either individually or in group, by using specific entertaining and expressive tools. Guido Contessa, Italian psychologist and a pioneer professional “animatore”, demonstrates in his books, how this new operator can take part in educational, artistic and therapeutic programmes although mataining his specific role. The multi-disciplinary way of working allowed the team, that was coodinated by Doctor Vinicio Burattini, to organize better the activities by holding regular valuation meetings. The group was formed by 10 patients of the age that varied from 25 to 40 years old with severe

© 2006, Ayres Marques Pinto, Photographer - fototerapia@libero.it

mental disturbs, who lived in their family home and went to to the Mental Health Centre only for the visits and ambulatory care. The main activities of the programme consited on organizing photographic expeditions in different towns of the Provinces of Ancona and Macerata and then elaborate the assembled material. The programme was concluded in Loreto, with the exhibition-seminar “150 Years of Phototherapy”. Professionals of various fields presented and discussed a number of initiatives connected to phototherapy that had taken place in the Marche Region. The event was supported by Loreto Social Service and Culture Assessors, Francesco Baldoni and Maria Teresa Schiavoni. Mrs Assunta Lombardi, psychologist of CSM – Ancona Nord, coordinated the debates. The president of the social cooperative ASS.COOP and professor of psychology at Urbino University, Professor Franco De Felice, made some considerations about the project Photo-Unconscious and about the thesis that some of his psychology students wrote related to phototherapy. Doctor Vinicio Burattini examined some aspects of the rehabilitation program “The Mind in the Viewfinder” that was carried out at the Mental Health Centre of Osimo. On that occasion, I presented the book I had written the year before, “The Face and the Voice of Time”, published by BrasiLeMarche Edizioni. The book describes many initiatives in which photogrphy was used to build generational bridges in order to bringing together people of different age groups. In one of the projects described, school students were given pictures of elderly people, who were living in nursing homes, and were asked to write the imaginary biography of the person they only the face of. Afterwards they were introduced one to another and soon both of them felt as if they were old friends. The exhibition-seminar “150 Years of Phototherapy” was an important incentive for the strengthening of the Phototherapy Research Group GRIFO, (Gruppo di Ricerca sulla Fototerapia). At the end of the seminar, a young psychologist came to me to express her surprise for learning that phototherapy existed for so many years and she could hardly hide her disappointment for finding out she hadn’t invented phototherapy herself. I knew exactly how she felt as I myself had felt the same way some years before. I believe that even today, many people don’t know that on 22nd March 1856, Doctor Hugh Welch Diamond, an amateur photographer and psychiatrist of Surrey Asylum, presented his paper to the Royal Society of Medicine, in London, in which he considers the possibility of using photography as a tool for treating patients with mental disturbs. Doctor Hugh Diamond had the idea to use the new technological invention, photography, to document the mental pathologies of his patients. The english psychiatrist noticed that some of his patients responded in a surprising way to the pictures of themselves. They became more conscious of their physical identity and

© 2006, Ayres Marques Pinto, Photographer - fototerapia@libero.it

began to pay more attention to teir appearance. He also noticed that their self esteem was strengthen each time they saw they looked better. The photographes taken by Hugh Diamond, his speech and the drawings inspired by his pictures are in the book “The Face of Madness” edited by Sander L. Gilman, published by Citadel Press, 1976. I hope that many people, all around the Earth, continue to re-invent the phototherapy for many, many years. For this reason I call for a toast:

PHOTOTHERAPY INVENTORS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!
Loreto, 22nd May 2006 Ayres Marques Pinto - Photographer – fototerapia@libero.it

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