‘Words can provoke affects’ (Sigmund Freud)

The purpose of my photographic project is to address the issue of pleasurable and painful experiences. This is a very universal issue as every human being has experienced these motions, no matter what age, race or gender. Pain in particular has been a difficult subject to address. A lot of people want to forget about the pain they have experienced, as though it somehow demeans us or makes us appear weak. Pleasure in contrast is more easily talked about as it reminds us of the positive emotions and thoughts we felt during a time in our lives. Nature is the reason for our experiences of both, and shows how it is necessary in our lives. As explored through the television programme ‘Human Senses’, we feel pain physically and emotionally to influence life preserving behaviours and tell us when we are unhappy with a situation. Similarly, pleasurable feelings inform us when our bodies are working well and when we are coping with a situation happily. However, the threshold of positive and negative experiences can be questionable and sometimes these opposites can intervene and both become a part of an experience.

The way we deal, show and talk about pleasurable experiences can differ and it is this area which I have been interested in exploring. I decided to work with people of all different ages, races and genders to represent more universal experiences of pleasurable and painful experiences. I photographed in a studio which allowed me to work with individuals privately as they talked about a chosen experience. This allowed me to ‘provoke’ and look for subtle moments, reactions and gestures that were expressed through their body language. These can give a small insight into the story told, as well as how the subject is responding to the re-telling. This is a characteristic that was explored by Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis. He mentions how ‘words can provoke affects’ that allows us to study the unconscious, symbolic reactions which are caused by experience. This symbolic moment and second was looked for with the use of simple lighting which included two soft boxes and two lights. I found these allowed me to capture even down to the smallest detail the expressions and body language that were expressed as a result of our conversations.

I feel my images express an insight, into each individual but can also be ambiguous and interpretational. It is sometimes difficult to tell which individual is expressing a positive or negative experience and I think my images raise questions. It was important to me to represent these issues as we should acknowledge the experiences we all go through, particularly pain to portray the seriousness of these issues. We can learn a lot about ourselves and others through the sharing of events in our lives. My project has allowed me to explore these issues through photography. Not only has this allowed me a subtle insight into the unconscious reactions and stories of individuals but it could also be a visual representation into a wider audience.

I’ve chosen one image per person to emphasis the importance of the ‘moment’ the image has captured. In my book, I have also included the transcribed text which the individual said. This allows the viewer to connect the experience with the body language expressed. Furthermore I can see my work in a gallery space, in large scale prints to place overpowering emphasis on the gestures expressed, as well as in a place of psychological study of the body.