The Art of Pathography

The artists’ creation of a ‘true self-portrait’ is bound up in meanings of self-hood and individuation; by means of his/her practice becoming a method of developing the artists’ need for self-discovery. Through this self-exploration, the artefact becomes an attempt to reveal something of the artist, a therapeutic tool perhaps, by which the photograph is used as a form of depth psychology. A mixed methodology of autoethnography and thematic analysis is undertaken of the language of response – language generated from the viewing of purely visual data – to examine and record patterns or themes within this information that is relevant to the research question. Through this form of removed analysis - the interpretation of the photograph and not the artist - can a new internal world of the artist be revealed? Is there a particular reading that could be universalised or is this unique to me? Or is the analysis a series of projections, a more of an understanding of the readers? The concerns of this thesis are with the ways in which the production of these photographs and their reception can be incorporated into an art practice and a new self-portrait is revealed.

Image Reports

Image 12

Db - 

Repetition memory. I remember this image now back three ways. Is the page and book real, stuck on there? I cant quite make this out. The repetition of this project hits me now and my delay in responding is a bit of a readjustment I think. I'm starting to think about all these pieces as a whole. Your image is close to saturation and each picture straining to find a new view of you. A body of work definitely, but it's running out of healthy veins to inject. What is this blitz of self> Hiding blurring, waxing, drowning, representing the represented. A surreal distance takes me further and further away from where I thought we started.

Image 11
Db - 

There is something funny about this, something desperate perhaps. The eye peeking out the back of the head. the colours seem unreal like a painted black and white photo. It's wax. The eye sates through hair and wax. Vision blurred like I have a cataract.

Db - 10

Water seeing through the skin onto skin. The ripples, circles create a newhead distorting  in yet another way the sharpclear image of your own. For this I needed to find light in a dingy kitchen in the basement of the Guild clinic. The basement is mainly underground with some light in the corner, relying on this to see you underwater. In the dark most of the time, useless without light - or maybe something else without light? There is a worried look as you stare backlit by the window into the basement kitchen. The waxy back like some sort of icy landscape.

Spencer’s Photograph Number 10.  September 2012 - Eb

Presenting Problems. What do you see?
The piece reminded me of a lake frozen over, with a face under the ice – but you do not see the face except in very particular circumstances.  The message is shocking – someone trapped in an element where he cannot breathe; frozen, unable to move, but we know he is still conscious because the eyes make contact.  This is the first time in the series of pictures that the eyes have connected with the viewer, which makes the impact very dramatic.  So what is the message? Something about a sense of suspension, being in a world which does not give you the air you need, where are not seen unless there is a special situation (the backlight), and cannot be heard?  It is very disturbing that you cannot see the face without the backlighting.  It could so easily be missed.  And when you do, there is a blankness – but it is not lifeless, because the face is conscious and seems to see the viewer.
The other thing that was different with this piece was (I think) that there is colour (in the lips).  I don’t remember any colour in the previous pieces.  Interesting that it is red and not blue that is included – we could have expected the lips to be blue with cold.  The shock and contrast is heightened by the use of red.  I would read this as suggesting a state of being alive and sentient, but in an awful, paralysing suspension.
The picture also seems to me to tell me about silence: in ice and snow, sound is often muted.

Unconscious communication. The internal world of the client.
The choice of materials was a strong (unconscious?) communication for me.  The piece is made of wax, which is used in candles, which give light, and you need light in order to see the piece.  Perhaps I was getting carried away here, but it seemed to me that if the wax was used to make the piece, that might mean there was no candle left to view it with.  So in fantasy there was a terrible choice perhaps, between speaking (making the piece) and being heard (the back-light).
Backing up this either/or idea, wax is associated with flame is associated with fire is associated with heat.  But this (to me, anyway) is a picture of ice, which melts in heat! So again we have two elements which cannot easily co-exist.  Is this what the picture is telling me? Is the subject “speaking” of an experience where (like the three portraits where you could only see one at a time) there is a close relationship yet the individuals in the dynamic cannot live and speak at the same time, and what one needs is damaging for the other?
Transference and Counter Transference. What do you feel?
Shocked.  It felt like a very brave piece, seemed to be saying something more raw than previously. I didn’t want to stop looking at it.
It had the most impact on me of all the pictures, but it is not comfortable viewing.
Any Psychoanalytical theory, clinical concepts or psychopathology of the artist you may like to suggest is being conveyed.
I think there is a communication about object relations, because of the relationship between the elements (see above).  Concepts of the self again – Winnicott, in particular.   He says something about communication through non-communication – which ties in maybe with the thing about silence which I said above but also with the fact that this piece does communicate extremely powerfully.  Also, the bit about difficulty co-existing – Oedipal theories, maybe.  Jung because there is so much ice and cold in mythology (Snow Queen for example), and also so many fairy tales include this suspended animation state. Not just fairy tales – the tales of King Arthur.  Which, come to think of it, also link with lakes. 

'Session Nine'

Image 9

IMage 9 (last one should have been image 7)

This is exactly what I scribbled on my note. Usually would rewrite this and I think I expected I would do.

It, you, remind me of something exciting, childish excitement of something vague: another take on reality, opening another world, something more to explore than the usual. Lots of layers. Layers towards something of what you want to suggest about you. Again like a previous image the lens of an old camera from within curving into your head, curving to the left. I wonder why the left?

An other, A nother, Another, the faceless other your features removed, your hair rally the only identifiable feature - that and that the whole project is a view of you or your head! This head wants to be the head of an other, someone not known, a stranger walking by giving nothing away. Mysterious . A mystery. As a self portrait this is a mystery. It reminds me of childhood citement, it also reminds me of nausia. Faceless, psychotic dreaming where familiar faces although familar become alien and hostile. What is most sickening somehow is the chain used to hang the picture. It strikes me as sinister somehow as I was putting it back behind the clothes rack.
Spencer’s Photograph Number 9.  September 2012 

Presenting Problems. What do you see?

The first impression is that the piece represents the pages of a book. It is striking that there are mirrors within the pages – taking this literally, perhaps the subject has sought terms of reference, ways to live, even mirroring, within books?

Page 1: the silhouette is defined but the features are blurred.  Distortion around the nose suggests movement - turning away from something that cannot be faced?  and this is repeated on the other pages.  Like the previous pieces, there is no face-on contact – what is this about?  Is something too dreadful to look at, or does it reflect feelings of isolation, or is it about feelings of shame, or is it saying something quite different? 
Page 2: there could be a suggestion of a child refusing to eat; or to read it quite differently, there could be a religious suggestion of looking up.
Page 3: there is something, two lines, across the forehead – what is this?  There could be religious connotations, or pagan, or it could suggest a branding mark, like an animal.  Are there feelings of being owned by someone or something?  You can see less of the face on this page, which makes it more disturbing – the sense of someone who may be missing the thing that makes them most human.  There is also a particular effect of light around the body, like an aura – but not on the other portraits, why does this one have this and not the others?  
Page 4: the picture centres on the closed eye.  The dappled lighting in this picture reminded me of light through water.  There have been other under-water references in previous pictures: what is this about? Under water is another world: very beautiful, but we cannot breathe there. 
On all the pages, there is a contrast between defined silhouettes and blurred features: perhaps things hold together on the outside more easily than on the inside.  Which could tie in with the robust frame and the fragmented bits of mirror in the last picture.
The reflections of reflections in the mirrors would in principle go on infinitely.  So something keeps happening? A cycle being repeated, and no way of changing?

Unconscious communication. The internal world of the client.
I don’t think much of the communication within this picture is unconscious, I think it is intentional.  The only thing that I think might be unconscious is that you have to be quite close up and look in detail to interact properly with it.  Something gets lost, at a distance.  Perhaps this ties in with the thing about there being a difference between outside and inside.

Transference and Counter Transference. What do you feel?
Perplexed and uncertain.   It is sort of a series, sort of not.  A little exasperated.  I don’t think I have understood what the picture is trying to say.

Any Psychoanalytical theory, clinical concepts or psychopathology of the artist you may like to suggest is being conveyed.
Mirroring might be important again.  The difference between internal and external (the blurred features and defined silhouette) – might tie in with Winnicott and his papers about self. A bit of Jung – the possible underwater reference, and also, the book suggests, once upon a time.

'Session Eight'
Db -  

Patchwork weaving of squares and binaries black and white . There are not there. What more to say? trying to say more has become the delay I think. Am I busy or can I not say anything back to this?

Spencer’s Photograph Number 8.  July 2012 

Presenting Problems. What do you see?
There is a sense of something not quite as it should be, perhaps because the shadow seems to be in the foreground instead of the background.  There is a suggestion of silhouettes, and one hides the other – but shouldn’t they be the other way round?
The suggestion of a featureless face is disconcerting – this is a person, but we don’t know how to relate to them, and don’t know how to expect them to relate to us.
There is something of interdependence between the two – perhaps neither would exist without the other.
Unconscious communication. The internal world of the client.
The body shape is the same as in the previous picture – I wondered if it was the same shot, used differently – so there is recognition and a sense that I am getting familiar with the subject.  At the same time, contrasting this piece with, say, the first few, it is getting more complex.  It feels as if the work has moved along.
Transference and Counter Transference. What do you feel?
The picture suggests a great deal but it is hard to know how much of it is me reading stuff into it and how much of it is really there.  So there is a feeling of uncertainty – is this real or is it just how I see it? For example, it seemed to me that there was a very small face at the base of the neck on the left hand side – was this wisps of hair, or does it suggest a little voice whispering in the ear?  See below for comment on this!  There is also - to me - a suggestion of a mouth in the middle of the head – but again, only a suggestion.  So there is perhaps something about mouths and voices – but all only suggestions, nothing concrete.  And there could be an eye on the right, in the hair – this makes you reassess which part of the head you are looking at, the front or the back.  Nothing is certain or clear or straightforward.

Any Psychoanalytical theory, clinical concepts or psychopathology of the artist you may like to suggest is being conveyed.

Searles writes of the client who drives the analyst mad – so am I now seeing things that are not there? Or is this a reflection of the subject’s experience – uncertainty about what is or is not real?

NB – this time and last time I did not have a picture of the piece on my phone to refer to when writing up, so there is also a real and concrete reason why it is harder for me to be sure about elements of the picture. 

'Session Seven'

Image 7

Image 9

shattered bits of glass, old, the bits of glass in a brass frame. Are they ­­­real­­­­­ pieces of something stuck onto a canvass or are they mafe to seem so? I’m unsure. Looking at it it reminds me of old pottery dug up buried for millennia and through time bits have got lost or eroded away. Where are those missing bits? Are they needed to see you, or do theur absence say much more then their presence? No answer? There’s also a gap between writing 9and sending and receiving) and reading this and then a response. A gap in-between. Since I wrote this on a scrap of paper over 7 weeks ago there’s also a gap inbetweem me looking writing then writing again and getting it to you, in a rush.

In any case this is something dark and ancient maybe existing in the present. You really want to exist in this present, giving so very little away yet being the focus of a portrait.

[left in the mistakes and the strange problem with the font. Partially because it is interesting and partly because I’m in a hurry to go across the road to the Ritzy!]

Spencer’s Photograph Number 7.  July 2012 (Liz)

Presenting Problems. What do you see?

Fragmentation.  This communication is so strong that it overshadows any others and makes it hard to see anything else.  But the frame counters this, in the sense that the frame is a mirror which is unbroken.  So we have a perfect, whole, flowing, complete reflecting frame for these sharp, jagged, dangerous pieces. 

The eyes are closed, same as they have been in many other pieces.  To me this suggests an almost religious submission.  Again, in common with the other pictures, the figure is naked, suggesting vulnerability.

Shadows and reflections are important in this piece – so it is not what you see at first, more what you discern after a little while, and depending on how the light falls.

Unconscious communication. The internal world of the client.
Something about ambivalence/ambiguity or a lack of clearness, because it is unclear in some cases which bits of the body are suggested in the different shards of mirror.  Some irony in the fact that a mirror, which is meant to show you things clearly, is so ambiguous in this instance. To me, on the left hand side, it looks as if a hand is gripping another hand – but someone else might see this quite differently.  There is something intangible and ghostlike about these reflections.

Transference and Counter Transference. What do you feel?
Initially, disturbing, and invoking anxiety because of the sharpness of the shards of mirror, but there is also a sadness about the piece, to do perhaps with the submissiveness and vulnerability. 
With this piece, a very small part of me was starting to think, why keep submitting? What happens if you look back at the camera and confront the viewer?  Of course there will be reasons why, but I can’t get those from this picture this time.  But perhaps there is some neurotic counter-transference here – I am trying to do this in a hurry, before I go away.  So it may not be anything to do with the picture!

Any Psychoanalytical theory, clinical concepts or psychopathology of the artist you may like to suggest is being conveyed.
Again, theories about mirroring seem important, and fragmentation, and the self psychologists (see previous pieces). 

'Session Six'

Images 6 and 5 June 2012 (DB)

Backwards and late. I have obviously resisted your order (6 before 5) and it seems the timing you expect. Am I letting you down here? It occurred to me when writing this up that your ordering of the photographs as well as the actual photographs themselves are a little controlling in the terms of calling this ‘analysis’ – which is where we started. The order of the material is pre-set, the material itself is perhaps already decided long before any reaction comes from the supposed ‘analysts’. Although this is not analysis or therapy, is it? This is a project. It’s true. But if it were analysis it might be that the client would seem a little too concerned about making sure the material – the words or images – are figured out beforehand, controllable, not straying from plan. This might be the perfect analysis (and the failed analysis) where there is no free movement or free speech, where what is unconscious is avoided through meticulous planning! This ensures other stuff, less controllable stuff, doesn’t enter the relationship. The images themselves are bold already, but they are set and contained in advance. They are the acting of pain – they represent real pain – but staged pain, puke and distortion, as this kind of portraiture must be to a certain extent.

There is also exchange to think about. The structure of this has fallen apart a little because of me being late in looking at these and writing them up, but also the payment not being there, which is practically irrelevant but very relevant as part of the contract this is based on. Is this a two-way test? Can seeing the images themselves be payment enough? And then will you carry on even if I am late in writing this up?

'Session 6'  June 2012 (DB)

This is between you and your camera. You and photography. No one else should be there. It looks as though you spit the light again like the vomit ejecting something away, out, of you. The light I suppose is what a photographer cannot do without. You are dependent on it, like food. But then doesn’t the light itself spoil the possibility of expressing what is really there and what is most important?

In this image there is so little light it distorts the face into what seems like a lump. The darkness (not true darkness, but something at the edge of light) illuminates something more relevant: that you can’t get out of the conventions or of what has gone before, because you need it. Without light there is no representation. Without light there is no audience. Maybe that’s what’s important. But then it is impossible to get away from both entirely.

'Session 6'  April 2012 (Liz)

Presenting Problems. What do you see?
I can see two mouths: one closed, something coming out of the other.  Is this the client’s experience – one speaks, the other doesn’t? The two faces seem superimposed, rather like the three faces in the picture before last.  Something about merging?
I am looking at what is coming out of the mouth and it looks like chains – chains of words?  But “chains” can mean precious jewellery – or it can be associated with captivity and slavery.  So which sort of chains are these? Are they both - or neither?
The chains could also be threads of bullets especially since there seems to be a jewellery fashion of wearing chains of bullets at the moment.  
Are words experienced as bullets? 

Unconscious communication. The internal world of the client.
The communication around the presentation of this piece may or may not be conscious, but it seems that something is definitely being communicated by the lack of payment and the production of two pieces at once.  I think this has highlighted the difference between what we are doing here, and more dynamic therapy - in the sense that in conventional therapy there would be an opportunity to discuss and explore together what is being conveyed by these choices.  In my opinion, I don’t think it is possible to explore this in a written piece – it needs two people in a closer dynamic than this medium allows.  So it feels that there is a very important piece of communication being made by these two things, but not one that we can work with together therapeutically.  Perhaps this has allowed us to identify one of the elements of therapy that cannot be easily replicated here. 

Transference and Counter Transference. What do you feel?
There is a feeling of uncertainty.  The lighting is dim and a number of elements of the picture are atmospheric but it is hard to be sure what they are showing – for example, the shape on the left hand side – what is its significance?
There is also uncertainty because it is hard to be sure what the picture denotes.  Are there two different faces here?  One is distorted, so it is hard to tell.  Or is one also a hand?  It reminds me slightly of the optical illusion picture which can be seen as an old woman or a young girl – so what is the illusion?  Does that mean that there are conflicting truths, or is it about trying to work out what the truth is?

Any Psychoanalytical theory, clinical concepts or psychopathology of the artist you may like to suggest is being conveyed.
Again, the distortions reflect Francis Bacon and again there is nakedness (see previous reponses for thoughts on this).  Theories about self (Kohut and Mollon) seem relevant in connection with the superimposing or merging mentioned above.  And Jung, in thinking about the image of the chains.

'Session Five'

'Session 5'.  June 2012 (DB)

I was initially a little non-plused by thisphotograph after praise from Susan in the office. As I opened it, it seemed to break, until I relaised it was already broken and taped together – and shouldn’t be opened at more than ninety degrees. It’s been forced open further than it would like…

The main reason I felt non-plused was because I didn’t see it. I didn’t see what was obviously lacking – a face. Since Susan had praised it I also expected something more spectacular, rather than the bare back, bare white walls. It struck me asso ordinary, everyday picture in an ordinary, broken sorry-looking double frame.

Looking closer I fell disgust. Blurred wobbly vision and the uneven ceiling. Distortion comes out through the distorted mirror and spreads to the whole photograph and its frame. My reaction is seasickness.

How can someone not manage –seemingly struggle but not manage – to see their face in the mirror? It’s a hopelessly raw situation. Not being able to see the truth of your face. And it seems to be spreading throughout the picture and the frame. It’s blurring, it’s falling apart.

'Session 5'.  April 2012 (LB)

Presenting Problems. What do you see?

Taking this literally, I wonder if it is saying something about mirroring – but the mirroring has gone wrong somehow.  Everything in the picture except the people (ie the mirror itself, the shadows and the hook on the wall) seem to be mirror images – but in psychoanalytic mirroring, it is the mirroring between people that is important; and the people in this picture are not true reflections.  All the backs are turned!  There is a hand reaching out – left hand on one side but right on the other I think?  But it is not met in the way that your hand would be met in a true mirror reflection.  In a reflection the person meeting your reached-out hand would be yourself, but even that is not happening in the picture.

Unconscious communication. The internal world of the client.

I’m not sure if this is unconscious or not but there is something about scale.  The mirror looked to me like an old fashioned hand held mirror and it seemed as if there was the edge of a hand holding it – but it is also shown hung on a wall.  So what is the true scale, a small hand-held mirror or a large wall mirror?  And what does this communicate about how it might have been hard to know whether experiences were large or small?

I imagine a child fascinated by his mother’s hand mirror.

Transference and Counter Transference. What do you feel?
What is happening at the top of the mirror? It looks like waves.  Are we underwater?  Does this suggest a subterranean world, where reality/dry land is out of reach?  Is there a suggestion of drowning?
I am afraid that the frame will snap and that the two halves will peel away from each other: a fragile partnership? Or is there something about fragile containment here?
The fact that (I think) it is a different hand reaching out on each side, and the fact that the reflections are not quite true is disturbing, troubling, hard to make sense of.  The feeling of looking at something that should make sense but doesn’t, quite.  Is that the subject’s experience?
In the right hand picture, the reflection is distorted and misshapen: the shadow side perhaps?  We expect a reflection to be like the original and it is disturbing to see this. 

 Any Psychoanalytical theory, clinical concepts or psychopathology of the artist you may like to suggest is being conveyed.
There is the same cascade effect (in this piece, of reflections) as in the nursery piece, Picture 3 – which was also perhaps suggested in Picture 1 by the many figures.  Does this suggest something running through generations? Or is it about object relations, many different part objects? 
The distortions of the second reflection suggest the work of Francis Bacon to me.  There is something disturbing and also mystical about false reflections.  The mirror in Snow White told the truth, and the result of this was dangerous - but it did not show a true reflection.  So, perhaps there is something Jungian in the link with fairy tales and folk lore.
Like the other pictures – the figure is naked.  Perhaps this project itself is very exposing.  Not only do two people analyse the pictures, but tutors presumably read parts of what we say and the subject’s whole experience of self and family is exposed.  Perhaps it is no wonder the figures are so often naked.

'Session Four'

'Session 4'.  February 2012 (DB)

Caught in between what seems like a father and mother, you in the middle, suddenly together, the same age. Its intimate, being so tightly squashed into one frame; a nice feeling maybe. This intimacy surely depends on exclusion as well though. What about the others? What about mother and father of the mother and father. Were there any brothers and sisters banished from this perfect image? What about afairs, friends, work mates, enemies. What about your children and wife (I know this). What starts as a picture of love as another angle, another dimension of what cant be seen.

It’s tight in that frame and I’m thinking about competition between the three. A fight to be seen by the viewer. The competition between mother and father, the mother facing the other way, the father and son together.

Is this how you feel perhaps. Stuck in between. Closed eyes unable to acknowledging of the inevitable infinite dependence of them. Your image is lost amongst the parents.

Death mask?

'Session 4'.  January 2012 (LB)

1.     Presenting Problems. What do you see?
It is a big, robust piece, with three strong portraits, but all the individuals are fragile/vulnerable in the sense that they disappear if you stand in a different place, eclipsed by each other.  They do not co-exist.  Does this reflect experience?  Is this part of the presenting problem?
The pictures are formal, posed, preconceived; the images fit into a certain world.  Clearly that is normal for conventional photographic portraits, but does it also suggest an expectation to “fit in”, or am I trying too hard here?  Or does that in itself say something?  Does everyone have to try very hard in this family to be what they are expected to be?
Perhaps a common theme between the pictures feels to be isolation.  That was implied on the beach, in the nakedness of the second figure, in the cot and again here because as soon as one person appears, the other two start to disappear and there is no way of developing a dynamic between the three within this picture.  Like the last picture, there is a softness to the photography, but at the same time the profiles and the framing are very strong.  And like the other pictures – where did time go?  These could have been taken any time in the last 50 years.
2.     Unconscious communication. The internal world of the client.
The construction of the piece is simple but compelling and fascinating – it moves, and you want to move around it, to get the different pictures.  It is much more dynamic than the last three pieces, in this sense.  Does this suggest that now the work has been going for a little while, the interaction between the client and therapist(s) is becoming more dynamic? Also, when I took a picture of the piece on my phone, I was in it as well – my reflection.  What does this suggest?  Are outsiders and professionals a significant part of this family’s dynamic in some way? 

3      Transference and Counter Transference. What do you feel?
A rather disturbing feeling that comes up for me relates to my reflection in the shot.  In a concrete sense, I have an impact (although very briefly) on the piece in the sense that my reflection appears in it when I am looking at it.  I don’t know why this was the case with this piece but not the earlier ones.  What is the impact of this work that we are doing together on the family portrait, in a less concrete sense?  Is there also a shadow cast?  Perhaps this is an important question in any therapy, but it is harder to assess and work with the impact in this “arms-length” situation.   
4       Any Psychoanalytical theory, clinical concepts or psychopathology of the artist you may like to suggest is being conveyed.
Object relations.  What is the relationship between the three figures?  Is it intentional that they do not co-exist in the portrait?
Yet there is a strong underlying connection, because they all are on the same medium and without all three being there, the picture loses its impact.  And is the bottom picture a combination of the three figures?  So the family needs the individuals, and the individuals need the family.  A sort of detached inter-connectedness. 
Three’s and multiples of three keep coming up – the three pictures in Session 2, and the 9 layers in the last picture.  This time there are three people in the portrait.  (Is there a fourth implied presence – the family?) 
I am wondering about the Oedipal experience.  The recurring three’s suggest that there is something around this.  Perhaps a future piece might expand this?

'Session Three'

'Session 3'.  October 2011 (DB)
It immediately makes me think of the similarity of the image itself and me writing this now: trying to translate these words scribbled on a paper so many months ago into sentences, and also of me trying to remember the image itself. The original piece (your piece) and the original photograph presumably of you as a baby are distant, deep and buried. The happiness of that child, which I suppose might as well be any child, is hidden. It is a picture hidden in a picture hidden in a picture hidden in a picture. I guess it might get smaller and smaller over time, the older you get. But perhaps it could also be the other way around, bigger and bigger the more you feel age. It could be a corridor leading to an endpoint?

The staggered pictures remind me of the inside of an old studio camera, as though we are seeing through the bellow-like part. Involving the camera actually as a part of the image shows a will to grasp the instant, more than a photograph separated from its camera might do. But what it also does is makes the subject lost in the technology. Never quite becoming a real subject in its own right, presumably because you as a baby is a long lost idea.

'Session 3'.  October 2011 (LB)
1.      Presenting Problems. What do you see?
A small child in a small world within a world within a world, remote from reality outside the frame.  There are nine layers or levels: and a space, and then the glass; so the child is really being kept very far away from reality. The softness of the bedclothes is like clouds, and this reminds me of a fantasy world, like a picture of a child in an old fashioned picture book, where the clouds can be walked across.  It is interesting that the last picture (to me) had religious overtones, and the image of a cherubic child in the clouds would also not be out of place in a religious book for very small children. 
The child looks well cared for, happy and charmed, if a little isolated in his soft world.

2.      Unconscious communication. The internal world of the client.
I saw the back of the picture first and noticed how elastic it was – almost bouncy.  The whole piece reflects the soft, giving texture of the bed clothes in the picture.
I don’t think this was deliberate, but the foot sticking out made me think of Christie Brown, “My Left Foot”.  His left foot was his passport to self-expression.  The way the picture has been constructed, this child’s left foot is his link with the outside world.  He is stepping out through a gate in time – but only his foot gets through.  The foot is repeated again, and again – what is the repetition about?

3.     Transference and Counter Transference. What do you feel?
Like the last picture – disturbance: the child is so isolated and remote, “in his own little world.” This doesn’t make sense because children play in their cots all the time, and there must have been an adult there to take the picture, but that’s the feeling.  Was the adult in the child’s world? He isn’t making eye contact with the camera, but there’s nothing unusual about that.  What is he thinking about?  Is there a third person, who is drawing his attention and making him smile?

I found it harder to connect with this picture.  I think it’s because in the case of the other pictures, there was no little or time lapse, they depicted the subject in the present or relatively near present.  This time I am trying to pick up the feelings, not just through across the media of the photograph, but also across time.
Perhaps that is why I feel as if I am way off mark with this picture as if I can’t hear the message.  Is that in itself an unconscious communication? There is something sad about it but it’s hard to put a finger on.  Is it about something missing or lost rather than something that is there? Or is it simply that it is a memory from a bygone era that can’t be reclaimed?

4.      Any Psychoanalytical theory, clinical concepts or psychopathology of the artist you may like to suggest is being conveyed.
There is something that reminds me of Alice falling down the rabbit hole in the construction of the whole piece.  She falls into an unreality where everything is different to how it was on the outside and there is the same feeling with this picture.  Linking with Freud – the same but opposite – the white could be associated with falling down a black hole.  And, on the basis that the child is maybe smiling at someone, but clearly not the person taking the picture, we have a three: Oedipal?
It isn’t a link with theory exactly, but the child reminded me of the children in Bowlby’s films, just because of the way he was dressed, and the surroundings.
Like the other two, it is timeless: this picture could have been taken in the ‘50’s, ‘60’s or ‘70’s.

'Session Two'

DB Session 2 - shame

This seems to be a display of self-hatred but there also seems to be a kind of pleasure in looking at oneself at a bodily extreme, in a distressed state. And subsequently having someone else looking in at this anti-holy figure. I guess you might want to see me as an observer react perhaps joining you, as a disciple, opening up too, getting me to spill my guts. But perhaps you don’t want me to join you at all. Maybe you want to be left alone.

It also struck me that this religious image is a bombardment. A triptych, religious-looking but based on a very non-sacred, commonplace piece of furniture.  The mirror seems pretty unique. I don’t think this is just a mirror but maybe a 1930-1950s dressing table, where a woman made themselves up, brushing hair, perfuming, covering up their blemishes, smells of sweat and whatever else. But instead of privately getting ready, this is a very public undressing with us as an audience.  This is quite the opposite of making up: making yourself throw up. Puking, stinking. Giving up civilised pictures of a pretty albeit bleak beach, giving up the holding in, the hiding, the covering up.

Perhaps this is a hatred of a big bit of yourself: a feminine vain, conservative, civilised part of you who doesn’t want to exhibit. This is perhaps a reaction against the part of you who can’t exhibit these personal images, who can’t stand it, who wants to cover up, make the images look nice. A part of you who feels so much shame in all of this exhibiting in such a way.

Maybe this is also struggle between two (or three?) extreme sides of yourself, but which has turned into a war in a wartime/post wartime dressing table. Vomiting versus the other extreme of covering your disgusting bits up. In some way I guess, and this whole thing is a guess, you are revolting against the vain, shamed side of yourself. But this reaction reflects your uncertainty about doing this (and I think this might be made even worse by me knowing you).

Crucially I think that this picture (and presumably what is to come) threatens your project - by getting rid of us as observers. A strong part of you wants us all to look away and stop looking. I suppose you want to be rid of all the onlookers, who are clearly, as a photographer, your life, your bread and butter. Your observers, us, are what you are really throwing up.

And I think you are especially unsure about this project. It is dangerous. There is an interesting uncertainty of boundaries here. You are revealing too much of yourself, without any makeup or perfume to hide behind. You don’t want to be ‘analysed’ like this (by finding particularly psychoanalytical observers), or if you do, only as in an enjoyment at your own discomfort.

Do you trust that we will stay with you? I don’t think you do trust we will stay, and I think a very ancient part of you doesn’t want us to stay with you. DB 24/09/11

LB Session 2 

1.      Presenting Problems. What do you see?

The picture suggests ambivalent feelings. The vomiting could be about self hate – wanting to get rid of part of the self.  But what comes out of the mouth is full of light.

There are many religious connotations to this picture: the presentation using three angled sub-pictures could suggest a church window, (also suggests C13 style?)  The soft browns and gold are traditional, and the light from above suggests some kind of blessing, and replicates the light you might get through a church window.  The lighting accentuates the ribs, which links the picture with religious representations.  The light could represent love from a parent, or from God in the sense that it is from all around – another possible biblical reference.  There is a sense of tenderness; the naked figure appears very vulnerable with his eyes closed, which could be in prayer.  Is the subject vomiting up the Eucharist/rejecting his faith?  However, what is actually coming out of his mouth catches the light and appears to be either light or water, or even fire – so perhaps it cannot be absorbed into this body, but it has spiritual or elemental value. 

The subtext seems to be, “Something is coming out of my mouth and the process is horrible and painful, yet I am spewing light and beauty.”  Is this about the subject’s experience of therapy? Is he spewing words and feelings?  Or is it about creativity?  There is perhaps something within which he cannot accept and must vomit out, but when it comes out, it is beautiful.

2.      Unconscious communication. The internal world of the client.

I don’t think that much of this communication is unconscious.  Perhaps the fact that the three pictures are incorporated into one presentation may suggest something more integrated and less fragmented; it is a more decisive statement than the last picture.  The nakedness suggests vulnerability and something childlike – but there is something deifying in the staging of this picture.  There are birth/death associations around– something about being stripped right back. 

Perhaps the picture tells us that the subject longs to be blessed by the light and nourished by it, even though he appears to be involuntarily rejecting it.  

3.      Transference and Counter Transference. What do you feel?

This picture is less comfortable viewing than the last image.   There is beauty, but also a sense of disturbance and anxiety.  It suggests raw, strong feelings.  Something about a struggle– powers beyond control – which links with the spiritual aspect.  It is hard to reconcile some aspects of the picture, so perhaps it is hard for the subject to reconcile aspects of himself.  However, see also comment above on integration.

The figure’s eyes are closed: what is this about? We close our eyes to vomit, but also in prayer, and perhaps in therapy on a couch, and also to avoid seeing what we do not want to see.  We avoid eye contact if we are avoiding a relationship.  

It is harder to feel connected with the figure in this picture that it was in the last picture. 

There is something disturbing in the combination of vulnerability (the nakedness), resignation (the facial expression) and pain (the vomiting) – and also perhaps isolation (the closed eyes).

This is a shocking image – is there a desire to shock, then?  The picture demands attention.

4.      Any Psychoanalytical theory, clinical concepts or psychopathology of the artist you may like to suggest is being conveyed.

The lighting is interesting – it seems to come from all directions.  The lighting is creating shadows, but also the shadows are emphasising the light.  Some sort of interplay here – Jung and the shadow side.  The subtext may be, I am expressing myself by rejecting something, but in so doing I am creating something.  Also, staying with Jung – perhaps there is something about the saviour archetype.

The use of three images could suggest the Holy Trinity, or the Oedipus Complex: two parents and the child.

The shape of the work suggests not only a church window, but also an old fashioned mirror which allows you to see different views or aspects of the self, and this could link with object relations – in this respect, there is something in common with the first picture.  The suggestion of a mirror could be about a lack of mirroring. 

Spewing suggests Klein – rejecting the mother’s milk, also the use of body fluids and nakedness are Kleinian images.  Perhaps the “feed” is poisonous or unpalatable – yet what is rejected is full of light.

There is something about potency – the vulnerability of nakedness and vomiting is counterbalanced by the strength of the image.  So does this suggest power through creativity?

'Session One'

Very bleak dream-like. There was a glimmer of some sort of hope but an agonising hope. Memories of looking again and again at the same thing. The Hope that this time something will be resolved, some answer would be found. It will appear ‘just this time’ that thing of value.

I felt a strong sense of stuckness, repetition. Something unremembered, something lost that can only lead to endless compulsive searching and never be put into words. There was a boredom too. A grey hatred of being in this place, a place where there should be sun, warmth and the sound of children playing but there’s no-one, with nothing to do but the endless searching in the cold, without colour or hope. Is there also a time pressure here? The sea and the cardboard, the idea of tides coming in and taking the boxes away. These boxes need to be checked thoroughly before the sea comes and takes them away.

I think somehow, something needs to be remembered but there’s a block that means it never seems to be allowed to come out. Maybe something too terrible to be uttered. What is this searching? Why the sea? Why the boxes? Why does this search need to be seen by the observer? Perhaps we need to look more closely at this picture, before and find the answer before the ‘tide’ takes it away from the guild office. Have I really looked at what you want me to look at? Perhaps, regardless of how hard I look at this photograph, it will never quite be enough for you. You are resigned to the fact that the observer will always leave without the answer. Without the true insight into what this and what you truly mean.

LB Session 1

Presenting Problems. What do you see?

Boxes: what is or was in the box?  Is the photographer trying to get an understanding of past issues and bring them into the light?  But perhaps they are hard to bring out.  I feel as if the contents of this box, although it is real, are intangible in some way. Perhaps it’s about finding out what was once there.

Light – and dark.  Shadows.  Shades of grey?

Movement – one of the closest images is blurred, suggesting some sort of process or travelling or transience.  And this is the only one without a box.  Is the photographer trying to leave them behind, or moving between boxes?

The choice of a cardboard box is interesting – this is something we would normally discard after it has served its purpose.  Could this suggest feelings of worthlessness?  However, it is also a childhood treasure – it can be used for so many things: dens, for example.  There is also the concept of “cardboard city” – people sleep in cardboard boxes.   It is hard to believe the box would survive long on a beach: doesn’t cardboard disintegrate in salt water?  So the beach, which looks so peaceful, is in fact not a safe place for this container. 

It is interesting that I have barely commented on the figure, compared to the beach and the box. 

Unconscious communication. The internal world of the client.

With a photo and especially working with just one image it is hard to discriminate between what is conscious communication and what is unconscious.  Perhaps this might change as the project goes forwards.

The head in the box is in the foreground.  It suggests the figure is looking into his own psyche quite intently.

The figure standing in a box contrasts quite markedly with this and the two images balance each other.  Perhaps “I need to look at this” but also “I can overcome this and not be swallowed up.”

The figure behind the box has separated and is possibly objectifying the contents of the box – so it feels like a process.

Transference and Counter Transference. What do you feel?

Peace or dereliction?  A little of both.

It brings to mind “The Wasteland” in some ways – but also something peaceful about it; for me it is not an uncomfortable experience to view this picture. 

There is a feeling of the vastness of nature.  And linking with this, perhaps the violence of nature.

Is it about the viewer or the artist?  Or in some ways is it about both? The fact that the artist is viewed by the viewer makes it an interesting circular relationship, like transference/counter-transference.

Any Psychoanalytical theory, clinical concepts or psychopathology of the artist you may like to suggest is being conveyed.

Object relations (Klein, Winnicott, Fairbairn, Balint).  The many different figures may represent different internal objects, different perspectives and ways of experiencing the same “box”.  Is the box an object, a container?  Is it about different ways of experiencing a caregiver?  Could it depict different aspects of a relationship, either with the self or other/others?

Jung: there is something archetypal about the beach: timeless with connotations and associations around the sea.  The beach feels huge – an endless expanse.  Although there are edges, (the sea and the beginning of the grass) it feels as if it goes on indefinitely.  And there is something timeless about it – although the cardboard box and clothes, and the medium of photography, place it in the present, it is somehow a timeless present.

Phil Mollon and Kohut and the search for self come up for me also.

Not much Freud for me, although there is something about instincts and drives but it has to be looked for, it doesn’t jump out at me.  Something about childlike curiosity too and innocence – there is no suggestion that the contents of the box might be forbidden or dangerous or unconquerable.  I suppose the figure almost disappearing into the box could suggest annihilation, but this is countered by the many figures who are surviving.

There is a connection for me with Anthony Gormley’s figures on Southport Beach –except that his figures are all the same, and all looking out into the distance; so there is less dynamic. 


I asked the psychotherapist Dorron Levene to comment on the picture, asking him to be aware of any transferential feelings in the process. Including his experience of the artist, although I intentionally was not present, we in fact never met. A telephone call was the only contact.
Image Report by Dorron Levene:
Some context:
In the conversation you spoke of terms such as ‘transference’ and ‘unconscious communication’, perhaps to depict the processes that may be in operation through this exploration.
As I may have mentioned I work as a Relational Body psychotherapist[1] and have a strong interest in photography having studied and worked in the field in the past.
Both of these interests influence my feedback.
As you probably are aware the field of psychotherapy is vast and diverse, from the theoretical to the clinical and from the analytical to the experiential. Schools of thought such as humanistic, behavioural, psychodynamic, transpersonal, psychoanalysis and integrative approaches differ both in philosophies and application. In recent years there has been a move towards the two person psychologies in which the emphasis is moving from one mind looking at and/or analysing another mind towards recognition of mutual participatory field in which both client/patient and therapist influence and impact each other continuously in an interdependent manner.
It is within the two person psychology or relational psychoanalysis and relational body psychotherapy that I would frame my response. Within this context I found the most interesting element to be that you and I have never met in the flesh and it is within this void that I was left pondering both our telephone conversation and later the image that appeared magically outside my neighbour’s door with out a body to deliver it.
I wondered about the task ahead to pass comment / analysis / feedback and found myself left slightly cold and perplexed as I rely on gathering information via many channels such as being with someone in the physical sense in the same space, so I could see them hear them smell them perhaps touch (handshake) notice their breathing or lack of, notice their posture and presence and the impact on me which would usually form a felt sense that would emerge in me and between us. This may be my cultural conditioning in my way of working however I noticed the void of not having those channels available apart from the phone call.
In addition I do rely also on language and words spoken and the gaps or absences that I would experience in the narrative presented, and in this case an object, in the form of an image that you took time to construct. Last but not the least I am informed by an intuitive channel as defined in the work of the Jungian, Arnold Mindell[2] called the Dream Body.
My first impression was based on our phone conversation when I noticed some anxiety in me in trying to make sense of what it was I was being asked to engage in. I had a slight feeling of confusion as to what was your intention and what it was I was expected to respond to. This was reflected at one point in the conversation when you said: “I don’t think I am making much sense”, at this point I noticed I felt an urge to support you in clarifying the purpose and as part of my ongoing reflection of the conversation wondered to my self how supported you felt generally in your life/studies. I noticed both a pull towards wanting to engage with you as well as a simultaneous resistance to be pulled in to something that felt unclear in some way. I felt thrust between a yes and a no – this made me both uncomfortable yet curious.
As part of our discussion I was aware that I would receive an image consisting of a self portrait – I assumed to be delivered by you.
When I received your text to say the print is outside I noticed the anxiety mount in me when I couldn’t find it as you left it outside my neighbours door.
I was reflecting on this theme of the anxiety in me having to receive the print and not finding it, worrying it was lost and pondering on the relevance of ‘lostness’ to the image.
I am interested in these background details as parts of the narrative, as I see them as vital parts of the transmission and communication not distinct from the way an image is constructed, printed and presented.
On opening the tube in which the print was delivered I unfolded the large and impressive black and white print. The paper felt smooth and silky to touch yet the image at first glance conveyed a dark, bleak, grey, broody atmosphere. On closer inspection I found my self witnessing an endless repetitious preoccupation with a box poised on the border between land and sea, I felt I was witnessing someone trapped in a bad dream looking for the way out I was struck by the literal communication and an incessant drive to figure something out somehow as if there is a promise of an answer in the …next box – never to arrive. I felt lost in some eternal search with a Sisyphean[3] narrative.
Not much feeling was evoked in me or rather the absence of feeling was over present with a strong urge to figure things out. The slightly ghostly feel of the central figure left me with that half dead half alive feeling trapped in some Bardo[4] hell realm.
These of course are my own subjective ruminations; in practice if I was to work with someone presenting this image I would explore it with the individual as part of an unfolding dialogue.
Doron Levene 22 03 2011

[1] Relational psychoanalysis combines interpersonal psychoanalysis with object-relations theory and with Inter-subjective theory as critical for mental health, was introduced by Stephen Mitchell.[42] Relational psychoanalysis emphasizes how the individual's personality is shaped by both real and imagined relationships with others, and how these relationship patterns are re-enacted in the interactions between analyst and patient. In New York, key proponents of relational psychoanalysis include Lew Aron, Jessica Benjamin, and Adrienne Harris. Fonagyand Target, in London, have propounded their view of the necessity of helping certain detached, isolated patients, develop the capacity for "mentalization" associated with thinking about relationships and themselves. Arietta Slade, Susan Coates, and Daniel Schechter in New York have additionally contributed to the application of relational psychoanalysis to treatment of the adult patient-as-parent, the clinical study of mentalization in parent-infant relationships, and the intergenerational transmission of attachment and trauma.
[2] In 1977, he became a Jungian training analyst, and published his first book,Dreambody: The Body’s Role in Revealing the Self in 1982. His findings led Mindell to investigate how the dreaming mind produces unconscious or "double signals" in us while we are in relationship to others. He found that bringing those signals from the background to the foreground made interpersonal communication easier.[4]
[3] In Greek mythology Sisyphus (pronounced /ˈsɪsəfəs/Greek: ΣίσυφοςSísyphos) was a king punished by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this throughout eternity. He is also found in Roman mythology.
[4] The Tibetan word Bardo means literally "intermediate state" - also translated as "transitional state" or "in-between state" or "liminal state". According to Tibetantradition, after death and before one's next birth, when one's consciousness is not connected with a physical body, one experiences a variety of phenomena. These usually follow a particular sequence of degeneration from, just after death, the clearest experiences of reality of which one is spiritually capable to, and up to terrifying hallucinations arising from the impulses of one's previous unskillful actions. For the prepared and appropriately trained individuals the bardo offers a state of great opportunity for liberation, since transcendental insight may arise with the direct experience of reality, while for others it can become a place of danger as the karmically created hallucinations can impel one into a less than desirablerebirth. In the West, the term bardo may also refer to times when our usual way of life becomes suspended, as, for example, when we are on retreat. Such times can prove fruitful for spiritual progress, as external constraints diminish, although they offer challenges because our unskillful impulses can come to the fore, just as in the sidpa bardo.