John Suler's Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche
 

 


Forces that Shape the Psyche

A Photographic Psychology Exhibition


Photographic Psychology is the study of how people create, share, and react to images that portray ideas about human psychology. In an exhibition held in 2012 at the Rider University Art Gallery, I applied this research to one of our most fundamental and complex questions:

What forces, both inside and outside of you, shape your sense of identity and self?

The photographs in this portrayed a variety of these forces. For each one, I created a title along with a short description. I also used a variety of visual styles for the images that, for me, capture the meaning of these forces that shape the psyche. A brochure at the exhibition stated:

"You might see things differently. You might see some of these images as saying something else about the factors that determine your sense of self. There is no right or wrong interpretation. Accepting that we all perceive an image differently is recognizing the fact that we’re all unique people with different personalities, interests, and backgrounds. This is the essence of photographic psychology."

 

To explore your own reactions to these images, ask yourself these questions:

1. What thoughts and feelings immediately come to your mind?

2. Describe to yourself or someone else exactly what you see.

3. Does this image remind you of anything in your life?

4. If you could go into this picture, what would you think, feel, and do?

5. What would you change about the image?

6. What message might this picture be giving you?

7. If you gave a title to this image, to capture what it means to you, what would it be?

8. How did being at this exhibition affect you and your reactions to the images?

 

addiction

ADDICTION

When people become addicted to a substance, behavior, or idea,
it thwarts the development of their identity.

ADVERSITY


We are defined by how we handle the challenges of life.

adversity
altered states of consciousness

ALTERED STATES


Whether induced by substances, meditative practices, or physical activities,
humans have an intrinsic need to alter their consciousness -
to perceive themselves, others, and reality in new ways

(Photo by Asia Suler; post-processing by John Suler)

ANCESTORS


The genetics and experiences of our ancestors
affect who we are in both subtle and obvious ways.

ancestors
art

ART


Whether young or old, talented or not,
we reveal and find ourselves through art.

CHILDHOOD


The basic building blocks of identity form during our early ears.

childhood
childhood trauma

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA


The grave residual effects of childhood trauma can sometimes last a lifetime.

COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS


On some deep level of the mind,
humans from all cultures and eras
think and feel alike.

collective unconscious
communication

COMMUNICATION

How well do we express ourselves and listen to others
in this modern technological age?

(Photo by Kira Suler; post-processing by John Suler)

DEATH

Our attitudes about death reflect how we live and who we are.
death
deindividuation
DEINDIVIDUATION

What happens when you lose yourself in the crowd?
DESTINY

The belief in free will or fate dictates how we shape our lives.

(Photo by Asia Suler; post-processing by John Suler)
destiny
dissociation
DISSOCIATION

During severe stress, drug use, and hypnotic states of consciousness,
we might feel disconnected from ourselves, our bodies,
and from reality itself.
EMOTIONS

Although there are several basic emotions –
such as anger, disgust, fear,
shame, joy, sadness, surprise –
the variations on them are endless.
emotions
empathy
EMPATHY

The ability to sense what other people
are thinking and feeling serves as the root of compassion.
ENVIRONMENTS

Based on what we need,
we try to shape our natural and human-made environments.
The environment in turn shapes us,
sometimes in hidden and unpredictable ways.
environments
evolution
EVOLUTION

Over millions of years the human psyche has changed in many ways,
but in other ways it remains the same.
EXPLORATION

The deeper we go into new realms of ideas and experiences,
the deeper we go into ourselves.
exploration
family
FAMILY

Whether it’s our family of origin or the family we create,
the relationship with our relatives sets the stage
for how we think and feel about all our relatio
GENDER

How much does it determine who we are, and how much is this cult
family
group dynamics
GROUP DYNAMICS

We express different facets of ourselves in the different groups to which we belong.
Those groups in turn shape how we think, feel, and behave.
HOME

There’s no place like it.
It created and grounds our sense of self.
We take it with us wherever we go.
home
hope
HOPE

Our optimistic expectations for the future pull our identities forward.
HUMOR

We humans need it for our mental health,
even and perhaps especially under dire circumstances.
humor
id,ego,superego ID, EGO, AND SUPEREGO

Freud believed that the psyche consists of three parts:
the primitive impulses of the id,
the social moralities embedded in the superego,
and the ego that tries to mediate between the other two.
IMAGES

Photos and movies,
whether our own or by others,
show us who we were, are, and can be.
images
immersion
IMMERSION

When we delve into media of any type,
we temporarily forget our usual reality and sense of self
in order to explore other realities and other selves.
INTIMACY

Sharing your reality with someone else allows two to become one.
intimacy
life stages
LIFE STAGES

We pass through distinct stages in our lives,
each one challenging us with new questions
about who we are and who we are becoming.
MIND/BODY

Are they separate aspects of our psyche, or two sides of the same coin?
mind/body
need for achievement NEED FOR ACHIEVEMENT

What we strive to become, and how hard we do it, forges our psyche.
OCEANIC EXPERIENCES

In what some also call the mystical “Grand Canyon Effect,”
we experience ourselves as a small part
of the vast grandeur of nature and the cosmos.
oceanic experience
paranoia

PARANOIA

Sometimes we feel we have to hide,
set up barriers,
protect ourselves from real and imaginary fear
– a fear of things that threaten to destroy who we are.

PERSONA

We use our social masks to express how we want to be seen,
and also to hide the sensitive parts of ourselves.
persona
play
PLAY

As both children and adults, we experiment with our identities through play.
POLARITIES

Some theories state that polarities
of opposite feelings, needs, and personality traits
operate within our psyche.
In a healthy person,
the polarities are expressed and balanced.
polarities
positive thinking POSITIVE THINKING

Can you remain optimistic even when things in life go wrong?
Research suggests that positive thinking leads to mental health and a long life.
   
rational intelligence
emotional intelligence
RATIONAL AND EMOTIONALINTELLIGENCE
To understand emotions is as important as rationality and logic.
   
RELAXATION

“Never underestimate the power of simply relaxing”
- Edward Katkin
relaxation
remembrance

REMEMBRANCE

What do and don’t you remember about your past?
Is it true that those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it?

RHYTHMS

Across the hours, days, and years, our moods and behaviors follow patterns.
rhythms

romance

ROMANCE

The love relationship is one of the most powerful experiences
that shapes our understanding of intimacy, support, and vulnerability.
SECRETS

What we hide, reveals.

(Photo by Debra Finnegan-Suler; post-processing by John Suler)
secrets
self actualization
SELF ACTUALIZATION

To become everything we are capable of becoming is one of our highest needs.
SELF CONSCIOUSNESS

What do others think of you?
What do you think others think of you?
What do you think of you?
self consciousness
self multiplicity SELF MULTIPLICITY

Is there any one self that is you, or are there multiple “you’s?”
How can you become aware of and capture who you truly are?

SELF-OBJECTS

Whether they are material things, pets, or people,
we need “objects” to express who we are,
help keep our identity intact, and soothe us.

self objects
separation
SEPARATION

We need our attachments to others to support our sense of self,
and yet we also need to be autonomous.
What happens when we are separated from our loved ones,
or from people in general?
SIMPLICITY

Can simplicity bring you closer to an understanding of your true nature?
simplicity
social media
SOCIAL MEDIA

When online we multitask our relationships and activities,
including our identities we convey through them.
SPACES

Both internally and externally, we need spaces to fill and empty.

spaces

the unconscious
THE UNCONSCIOUS

Beneath our conscious mind dwells a world of forgotten memories, thoughts,
and feelings that sometimes expresses itself in unanticipated ways.
THE UNEXPECTED

How do we change from the surprises that life brings us
the unexpected
touch
TOUCH

We are tactile beings who need physical contact with others in order to thrive.
TRANSITIONS

We change, the world changes, whether we like it or not.
transitions
travel
TRAVEL

Exploring different cultures and peoples prevents psychological stagnation by enriching your awareness of the world and your place within it.
UNKNOWING

We all have our cherished beliefs,
but sometimes the highest form of knowing is to un-learn.
unknowing

unconditional love

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

It’s necessary, especially from parents, for our healthy development.
WONDER

“Wisdom begins in wonder.”
- Socrates
wonder



Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche

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