Folk Photography As Digital Therapy

Sister Swans by Phil Baumann
Sister Swans by Phil Baumann

Facebook paid $1,000,000,000 for the photo app Instagram. I won’t get into what’s behind that valuation. For that I refer you to this.

I would like to suggest, however, that the kind of digital picture-taking technology which Instagram represents offers a chance to partially offset the attention-fraying effects of our increasingly digital lives.

I don’t go as far as to say that using Instagram is “photography” – to me, photography is an art, one honed by years of experience and maybe training. So I’ll use the phrase “Folk photography” to refer to these application-based picture-taking tools.

From my vantage, I see the world becoming more immersed and enmeshed in digital connectivity. There are gains to this – and there are losses.

It’s getting harder and harder to slow the pace of digital life if you don’t invest effort in being purposeful and selective in the resources technology consumes.

Digital folk photography can be a way to convert the power of tech from time-consumption to therapeutic creation.

Life goes by us so faster. Faster when we don’t take notice.

There’s something therapeutic (in the general sense of the word, not necessarily its clinical use) about slowing the world around you down by opening up your eyes and ears. Services like Instagram and Snapseed provide ways of taking advantage of this slowing-down.

I’m not just talking about whisking out your iPhone and taking a more of pictures of your kid’s birthday party than just being pressent for the moment in that moment.

I’m referring to using these devices as a way to be more aware than the tech itself permits you to be aware. We need ways of wresting back control which these tools take from us (with our permission).

What’s more, Instagram’s filtering process gives you an opportunity to spend time focusing on a folk creation. No, it’s not epic photography – and it’s not so much the actual product that’s important.

It’s the process.

Even taking the time to play around with filtering a picture with Snapseed, or with Instagram’s native filtering, offers an opportunity to be more focused and appreciative of what you’re doing. This kind of play gives those photos more value – they don’t just get jammed into a server to be forgotten.

For people dealing with clinical depression, or loss, or post-traumatic stress – anything painful or numbing – I think that using these technologies these ways could be immensely therapeutic – I won’t advise this as clinically therapeutic. For that, we need research.

But in a general sense, perhaps the Healthcare industry – from mental health to rehabilitation – aught to take notice of the potential therapeutic benefits of folk photography in our digital time.



0 Replies to “Folk Photography As Digital Therapy”

  1. Wow. So glad you wrote this. It’s pretty much the reason I’ve scaled back all my SM interactions except for IG.

    You can “like” someone’s mundane status on facebook and it usually doesn’t mean much. But liking someone’s image that they chose to share with the world is an entirely different thing. I’ve always found it kind of profound.

    And I agree (as someone who’s studied art therapy and engaged in art therapy) I think the clinical therapeutic possibilities could be remarkable.

    And of course it’s always nice to hear someone defend the use of filters! They get such a bad rap these days…

    1. He Beth

      I agree with you about IG – it keeps things simple. There’s just one object to enjoy and quickly comment on, while keeping an ambient intimacy open. (Also, there’s no Share or RT – which keeps the noise down: you follow only who you follow.)

      At first I thought filters were trivial – and they can be – but it’s the process of using them that helps.


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