Bridging the self-acceptance gap with “psyphotology”

I have just finished watching an amazing Tedx Talk featuring Peter Hurley (my all time favourite headshot photographer) and psychologist , Anna Rowley. If anyone has watched any of Hurley’s tutorials, they will know that he has these wonderful techniques that he uses to get the best responses and expressions from his clients. He has ways of tightening jawlines so that there is shadow definition around the jaw, methods of having his clients “squinch” (his word) their eyes for a more intense look. But mainly he gets his clients to relax in front of the camera. He and Anna Rowley met when they were working on a project for Microsoft and Anna had to come in to have her headshot taken. Well, she went through all the avoidance scenarios to avoid having her photograph taken, but eventually went through with the process and actually enjoyed the sitting. She and Peter then got together and analysed what it was that made people not want to have their photographs taken and they came up with the term “Psyphotology”. Some people embrace having their photos taken,  others avoid it and some change in front of the lens. It is as Barthes (1980, p10) said: ‘Now, once I feel myself observed by the lens, everything changes: I constitute myself in the process of “posing,” I instantaneously make another body for myself, I transform myself in advance into an image.”

Basically, we all focus on our outer shell, our physical features. Rather than judging the outer self we should rather use the face as the gateway to the soul. Rowley explains that we should use a bit of introspection and think about the turning points in our lives, thinking back to a major decision that we made that we could not turn back from and the life trajectory that resulted from that decision. She and Hurley are of the opinion that this turns our focus inwards and reveals our true inner beauty. She explained that she has never had a person state that they were a failure or were ugly when performing this exercise.This is one of the techniques that Hurley uses when he is shooting headshots of his clients. This video is definitely something I will come back to in a later module as there is so much wisdom packed into these short thirteen minutes.

Reference List

Barthes, R. (1980). Camera Lucida Reflections on Photography. Paperback edition. New York: Hill and Wang.

Lecture, Anna Rowley & Peter Hurley. Bridging the self-acceptance gap with “psyphotology” [webcast, online] TEDxCambridge. 29/10/2014. 13 mins 41 secs.  (Accessed 30 October, 2014)


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