Review by Gerhard Clausing •
When I was being trained in the field of psychotherapy, I always marveled at the physical spaces in which my mentors helped clients achieve progress in self-understanding and dealing with the world. I could see connections between the manner in which these facilitators set up their places of work and the approach they swore by in helping their clients. Often I even thought I could see those approaches reflected in each practitioner’s particular body language, their attire, and their manner of speaking. None of it matched the popular stereotypes floating around in the minds of the public.
Mark Gerald is a photographer and a psychoanalyst. Therefore we know he has a long-term approach to therapy, as well as a keen artist’s eye for what each of their environments may show. By profession, he is also interested in other therapists; we are lucky to witness all of that applied to the therapeutic places in which his colleagues do their work.
Thus Dr. Gerald is most capable in combining the best of all of the above in the series of environmental portraits of psychoanalysts in their therapeutic settings. And sure enough, as we are treated to backstories about the practitioners, we see that there are such relationships between the external and the internal worlds.
In a manner similar to various kinds of projection (such as using stand-in figures in intergenerational therapy, or working out conflicts with inaccessible individuals in the empty-chair technique, derived from gestalt work), we are able to project imagined or real feelings and emotions, associations and memories, onto or into these portraits of therapists as photographed by Mark Gerald. There are indeed some correspondences between the ways therapists structure their therapy rooms and how they approach their cases, as well as who they are as human beings. Degrees of formality/informality, furnishings, levels of lighting, windows to the outside – a host of features are observable. This is most prominently accompanied by the facial expressions, posture, and clothing of the therapists themselves.
Dr. Gerald has been photographing his colleagues for more than 15 years, in the US as well as in other countries. Various generations are represented. All in all, a very useful and delightful volume, especially since Dr. Gerald also enhances the portraits with extensive professional and personal observations and notes and stories from his meetings and practice. Not only that, he also is willing to portray himself, through images and words. The old stereotype of psychoanalysts as Freud-lookalikes with long white beards has certainly been thoroughly altered through this project! A very useful bibliography on the topic of images and the therapeutic process further enhances this book.
Our readers may also wish to check a related book of portraits I recently reviewed, the work of Marcel Sternberger, who used psychology in the creation of portraits of luminaries of the 20th century.
Photographer: Mark Gerald (New York City, New York, USA)
Publisher: Routledge, Abingdon, Oxon, UK, and New York, NY, USA; © 2020 by Mark Gerald
Texts and Essays: Mark Gerald
Softcover, illustrated; 191 pages, paginated, with ; 7.5 x 9.8 inches; also available as a hardback or eBook
Articles and photographs published in the PhotoExchange Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoExchange Journal staff and the photographer(s).
All images © by Mark Gerald