Using Photography for Healing

We live in a very visual world. Every electronic gadget is now capable of recording images and millions of photographs are taken every minute. We are overwhelmed with the noise of new gear announcements every other week — full of marketing specifically designed to lead us into believing buying XYZ will make us better. The volume of this noise can often cloud our better judgement and quickly distract us from the real values and rewards of creating photographs.

I am very much guilty and I routinely ask myself… Why do I do this? Why do I care so much? Why do I spend so much time in this world of photography?

By it’s simplist definition, photography is an art that freezes time. We are recording history. We are documenting. And we are preserving memories. Photography is huge within my family and there is no denying that we all love to share, remember and tell stories. Photography is social. Photography is archival. And photography is priceless because when something is destroyed from flooding, fires, natural disasters — after life itself, it’s always the lose of photographs that stand out as significant.

So why am I writing about this now?

Every once in a while I talk with another photography who is capable of summarizing what photography is all about in a beautiful way. I first met Maurice Henri in his hometown of Moncton a few years ago and have since been pushing to have a venue for him to come to Prince Edward Island and speak. Last night was that night and he delivered a powerful presentation with more impact than I could have ever hoped for that kept me awake most of the night thinking.

Since 2005, Maurice has been building a personal project called Cameras for Healing. Starting with the west African country of Sierra Leone, Maurice set out on the incredible journey to emotionally heal through photographic arts those living with pain, grief, fear, poverty or stress. All in a country that has nothing we can so easily take for granted.

As I feel the need to write this, I also realize my words can’t do his presentation any good. Maurice’s stories were incredibly powerful. Everything from his 28 adopted children through sponsorship, buying equipment for the women to start a sewing business, or his role in building a school for a village. All of his actions, support and most importantly results were started by providing cameras, teaching photography, and giving victims a voice to speak out, express themselves by telling their own stories and finding hope.

I wish everyone interested in photography could have attended last night. From the violent stories of the sexual abuse of minors, aggressive killings, and the recruitment of child soldiers — the horrific stores in these dangerous locations were countered with positive ones. For a better understanding of Cameras for Healing, consider watching the following video:

Now that Sierra Leone is well established and on it’s way with a self-running Cameras for Healing program, Maurice has started introducing Cameras for Healing into Hati and Columbia with additional countries also asking for his help. I am already looking forward to hearing a future presentation.

Cameras for Healing Founder, Maurice Henri believes that the power of the photographic image can open the heart and change people’s view of the world. It also tells a story of the relationship between subject and photographer. It conveys what the image maker sees, feels and believes. Using his methods of art for healing, Maurice has helped many children and adults process stress, illness, and grief. He initially developed the Cameras for Healing method of Art & Creativity for Healing in his home province of New Brunswick, Canada in 2002 as an art workshop to help cancer patients and survivors deal with stress. Giving people validation and hope through my photography is what my life’s work is all about.

Either it be Cameras for Healing, Help-Portrait, or major film projects, the art of photography and story telling is incredibly powerful and rewarding.

Which brings me full circle to ask again, what does photography mean to you and why do we do it? If you have spent any amount of time reading anything on the web or in magazines — you might be tempted into believing that it’s about who owns the most or newest equipment.

About the Author

Stephen DesRoches is a designer, artist and photographer living in PEI and the co-creator of the Photographer's Guide to Prince Edward Island. Stop by and say hi on Facebook.

3 Comments

  1. David Poole
    January 23, 2013

    Wonderful concept and totally inspiring. I wish all the best for ‘Cameras for Healing’…

  2. Allan Gosling
    January 23, 2013

    I travelled East, Central and South Africa 2002, I have seen a lot everyday lifes situations that most Western and European countries have not seen and some in some cases will not believe what goes on in developing and poor countries. MY heart goes out to you and your people. There is saying “once you have been to Africa it stays in your blood” and this is very true for me. I have a huge yearning to go back and do something to give back to the African community. I have stories and memories in Kenya, Tanzania, Zibawawe and South Africa I will never forget and are still visual in mnd today and for them this is everyday normal life. Basic need to “survive what ever it takes.”
    I have been doing hobby photography for over 30 years this would be great way to create community, harmony and hopefully peace. I would be interested in some discussions with you

  3. Dave Land
    January 23, 2013

    Thought provoking stuff Stephen, thanx for posting. I wish some of the camera manufacturers would take notice too.

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