The Therapist

One of my first mentors and teachers, Minor White, spoke of the act of turning the camera on oneself. Consequently, in 1972, when I was working with him, I began to do self-portraits as an exercise in intuitive self-exploration. Since then, at infrequent intervals I have revisited this pursuit.

The Therapist series, which I started on July 17, 1997, some time after I first started therapy with Dr. Donald Fineberg, is both an intimate portrait of ‘Dr. Don’ and a self-portrait of the patient ‘Donald’. The relationship between therapist and patient served as a vehicle for exploring interpersonal relationships and personal identity. The images reflect both the tenor of the session and the emotions of the moment ranging from humor to pathos. The camera became a tool for the patient/artist as I explored various states with my therapist, including resistance; the interpretation of statements, perceptions and dreams; the act of transference; along with flights of fantasy. These images act as a window into myself and metaphorically as a way to access the complexity of humanity. Thus, The Therapist series might be said to be an extension of my personal self examination/exploration through portraiture.

To create this series, I photographed Dr. Donald Fineberg, each time that we had a therapy session. I set up the following parameter: I allowed myself only one exposure at each session. I started the series using my 100 year old, 4″x5″, Brownie Style box camera (a camera I frequently use), shooting with Polaroid type 55 positive/negative film to record the images. As the series progressed, I chose other equipment to suit the technical requirements necessary to execute each image, working with either a 4″x5″, Graflex, single lens reflex camera or my 4″x5″ Sinar view camera, but, always using Polaroid type 55 p/n film and making one exposure at each session.

To create the final prints, I first printed the Polaroid negative in the darkroom creating a traditional silver gelatin print. Then I scanned these prints and manipulated them in Photoshop. It should be noted that the multi-exposures were created in the camera and not in Photoshop, thereby adhering to the original concept of allowing myself only one exposure at each session. The final prints were produced on Epson Ultra Smooth Fine Art paper using an Epson 9800 ink jet printer.

Although I originally conceived for the series to last one year (an arbitrary time frame), I found the challenge of the photographic problem, making only one exposure at each session and the idea of a portrait as a series of images creating an extended portrait, very interesting. Thus, I continued making images over a four year period. I made the last exposure on September 24, 2001, two weeks after the infamous events of 9/11/2001, at a time when I was teaching at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, KY and commuting back to New Mexico. It seemed to both me and my therapist that the series was at an end. The process was occupying to much of our sessions time and we had new work to take on, which required more focused and traditional therapeutic methods.