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PTSD

I am sorry if this topic was here before, as I couldnt find any post regarding. Hope this is not silly.

I have a question. Does anybody here in the community also suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a photographer? If so how do you copy when seeing some really heartbreaking stuff through the viewfinder? My PTSD is not work related, but I would like to know if the are other people with the same illness and how they copy. Are there any coping mechanisms? I have recently shot a state funeral we had here in Malta and it really hit me hard. I would want to hear from others if they are in a similar situation.

thanks in advance.

//malicia

by Malicia Dabrowicz at 2012-09-02 12:16:10 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Hi Malicia,
Can’t help much but check out Dart Centre for Photojournalism and Trauma http://www.dartcenter.org/

by Gary Austin | 02 Sep 2012 15:09 | Derby, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
This one is old and a while since I read it, but Janine di Giovanni wrote a book of which an extract appears here..

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jun/26/janine-di-giovanni-war-memoir-family

by Amin Musa | 02 Sep 2012 18:09 | England, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
You may also find
“Trauma journalism” Mark Masse
and
“Journalists under fire” Anthony Feinstein
to be of some value as they give examples of of people who have seen much trauma, and suggestions of how they deal with this. I wish you well.

by Rhys Williams | 03 Sep 2012 09:09 | Cardiff, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Dear Malicia,

in my opinion the most important thing is to remember that we’re all individuals. Meaning that we find different experiences traumatic, we react in different ways, and we have different ways of recovering and getting better.

Partly in reference to what Ranbild wrote to you: yes the PTSD is often related to a violent experience, either witnessing one or being a violence victim, but PTSD can also be a result of “merely” a divorce (or any end of a significant relationship), in which there might not be any physical violence involved at all. As said, we’re all individuals – an experience that isn’t too traumatic to someone else might be that to you, and vice versa.

I sort of understood that something had happened to you prior to the state funeral you were at, did I get you wrong?

However, if you really suspect you’re suffering from PTSD, I, too, would advise you to go and see a doctor. On the side you can always read and listen to others’ experiences, it can help you feeling less lonely and helpless with your feelings; it should do you no harm, but remember that those experiences might not match completely with your experience, life, background and head.

Best,
Laura

by Laura Larmo | 03 Sep 2012 11:09 (ed. Sep 3 2012) | Milan, Italy | | Report spam→
Thank you everybody for your answers. It means a lot to me.

I think I formed my original question in a wrong manner. Let me rephrase it now. I suffer from PTSD (I have been diagnosed after 6 years, I am getting help). I am switching my focus towards photojournalism /documentary photography now – I should have done that years ago but it was my partner (and family) telling me it was just a phase, that it was too late, that it was not a job to consider. I gave up for many years. But you can’t take this out of me, it’s a vocation, for a lack of a better word.

I know there are many photographers who developed PTSD due to their working conditions → witnessing war, trauma, human tragedies etc. etc. I am going to do this other way around. I already have PTSD, now I`m going into photojournalism.

My original question should have been then: how one can actually do this job when already suffering from trauma related illness. How to look into the viewfinder and not freak out? How do you copy, what are practical things that photographer can do, to continue with their job?

Laura to answer your question: My trauma goes years back. On the state funeral I was very calm – I disassociate myself sometimes to the point of not feeling at all. My colleague was weeping – after taking photos of a mourning woman – she said it was hard to stay focused. I had nothing of that sort, then 5 days after I got to the point when I nearly did something utterly stupid after a whole night of nightmares.

I know a funeral /mourning people is not the only thing I may witness on the job, there may be far worse and I want to be prepared to face them.

by Malicia Dabrowicz | 04 Sep 2012 14:09 | St Julians, Malta | | Report spam→
Randbild, I was merly asking form practical things in case somebody in the community comes from a similar background as me.
If anybody also finds this topic to be too revealing, speak up, I will delete it. It wasnt created to get attention, but to get answers. Cheers.

by Malicia Dabrowicz | 04 Sep 2012 16:09 | St Julians, Malta | | Report spam→
I think maybe this is also a question for whatever therapist/practitioner you are getting help from, who knows your unique circumstances and can counsel you on coping mechanisms. Or advise you not to go there, given the severity of the response you mentioned.

Tobie

by BignoseTW | 05 Sep 2012 11:09 | Taipei, Taiwan | | Report spam→
Malicia, some of the best photojournalists in the profession today suffer from significant PTSD. Many are getting regular therapy and functioning quite adequately. Many have altered the way they work to help deal with their disorder.

A well-publicized example of that is Ashley Gilbertson who did extraordinary work in Iraq, before encountering a particularly difficult event in Fallugah, which compelled him and a noted writer with whom he was working to leave Iraq permanently. Ash now is doing award-winning photojournalism, but mostly in the US while he gets treatment for his acknowledged PTSD. H ehas been very open about his personal struggle, including speaking about it to a theater full of fellow photojournalists at LOOK3 in 2011.

Nobody should ignore the symptoms of PTSD. It is very real, and even lower levels of the disorder can be troublesome. So just “toughing it out” is not a wise path.

There definitely are treatments that work. Cognitive behavior therapy is a common one. I can say from personal experience with a family member that CBT can be very effective, though it requires commitment to following the treatment.

IMHO you will best be able to fight your PTSD if you are doing work that makes you happy. If being a photojournalist is what touches your happy spot, just do it, but do keep pursuing your therapist’s treatment and guidance.

by Neal Jackson | 06 Sep 2012 13:09 | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→

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Participants

Malicia Dabrowicz, art promoter/photographer Malicia Dabrowicz
art promoter/photographer
St Julians , Malta ( MLA )
Gary Austin, Photojournalist Gary Austin
Photojournalist
(British Photojournalist)
Derby , United Kingdom ( EMA )
Amin Musa, Amin Musa
(Visual Communication)
London , United Kingdom
Rhys Williams, Television News Cameraman Rhys Williams
Television News Cameraman
(video news documentary hostile)
Cardiff , United Kingdom
Laura Larmo, Photographer Laura Larmo
Photographer
Milano , Italy
BignoseTW, Videographer/Photographer BignoseTW
Videographer/Photographer
(Tobie Openshaw)
Taipei , Taiwan
Neal Jackson, Neal Jackson
(Flaneur, Savant and Scapegrace)
Washington, Dc , United States ( IAD )


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