I can hear you now: the opinion of a Neuropsychologist



As indicated during all previous Modules of this MA Photography at Falmouth University, my intention has always been to involve Professionals from different Fields to provide, thanks to their areas of expertise, different opinions, perspectives and a broader sense to the work I am currently doing with my project “I can hear you now”.

I decided to involve them not only to better analyse the work done so far, but also its subject matter, those problems behind the project itself and to better understand if the path I am currently undertaking might take us to a more constructive and open dialogue around psychological and social problems too often ignored.

I will ask them to write a series of brief articles, collected under the category “Professional Perspectives”, to discuss the potential effectiveness of my current practice or their professional experience in relation to the portrayed and discussed topics: this also to provide my potential audience with a stronger scientific, cultural and historical background.

The first article, hereafter in its English translation, has been written by Dr Martina Gerbi.

Martina Gerbi is a Psychologist, Neuropsychologist, and a Specialist in Cognitive Therapy trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

She works as at the Health Centre “Hasta Centro” in Asti, where she is a Therapist for teenagers, adults and couples. She also operates at the Hospital “Cardinal Massaia” in Asti, Italy, compiling neuropsychological evaluation and managing cognitive-rehabilitation therapies for cranial-traumas and post-stroke’s patients. ATCA (Association for the Protection and Cure during Adolescence) Associate, since 2015 she runs different Psychology-related courses at the UTEA (University of Three Ages) in Asti.


“The eye sees what the mind knows.”
Johann Wolfgang Goethe

The use of Photography as a tool for investigation in Psychotherapy is born in 1848 when the British Psychiatrist Hugh Welch Diamond started portraying his patients into the Surrey County Lunatic Asylum, in Hooley, where he used to work.

H. W. Diamond, co-founder of “The Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain” in 1853, one of the most ancient photographic Societies of the world, conceived the Therapy with the approach of a scientific-research methodology: Photography as a way to give human pain a face.

The practical consequences of what previously theorised were interesting: as tool for scientific Research, Photography became an effective facilitator for the Treatment. His patients, photographed in different moments of their Mental Condition, saw their aspect changing and improve thanks to “photographic proof” that increased their self-confidence, becoming the driving force for an evolution.

During the whole ‘900 many psychologists gave their contribution to the methodological use of Phototherapy: Jacob Levi Moreno, father of the Psychodrama, during the ‘40s, at the dawning of their employment, commonly used photographs opening group-sessions while Carl Ramson Rogers, psychologist and founder of the Humanist trend, utilised Photography as visual stimulus during his non-directive therapies.

In 1975, the use of Photography in Psychotherapy obtained a more structured formulation thanks to Judy Weiser, a Canadian Psychologist and Art-Therapist, currently considered as one of the most eminent expert in the world.

Weiser firstly coined the term “Phototherapy” in one of her articles: the photograph, then, from artistic and scientific object became something new: an object for Therapy, helping people exploring and giving a shape to their feelings that might not be revealed by the verbal investigation.

As a matter of fact, it is not infrequent that, during a Psychotherapy session, a therapist might ask the patient to brings some shots related to his/her life in order to make memories re-emerge as well as those emotions that could be blocked, while favouring the reconstruction of the life-story of the patient.

The soul Photography itself is the ability of freezing moments and its direct result is an image that stop time and stimulate emotions in the observer.

In 1893, the same “desperate emotional necessity” of fixing his own feelings pushed Edvard Munch to paint “The Scream”: a mirror on canvas of his material anguish.

Dayana Marconi, with her portraying the scream in various sequences, generates in viewers different emotional reactions.

Must be noticed that in a photograph a scream can be seen but, obviously, cannot be heard. Analysing her photographic work, we can perceive the idea of a “blocked” scream, a sort of “I would like to, but I can’t” behind those social norms that (dis)rule our lives.

Nowadays, there is no space for psychological suffering: the individual is strangled by work, competitiveness and from the constant requirement of high-standard performances. The frenetic rhythm of his existence subtract energies, time and resources and the direct consequence is the appearance of a “emotional sealing”, of a miserable and artificial positive reality. It creates the need of pretending that everything is fine whatever it takes.

And the scream remains inner, blocked. A silent scream.

To admit what is already evident is necessary, but sufferance exists, it is tangible: it is an emotion that, when repressed (“the silent scream”) might become self-destructive, while, when it is expressed (“the expressed scream”) can assume a hetero-destructive connotation.

From this perspective, Dayana Marconi’s project assumes a tangible importance. We can and we must talk about sufferance and psychic malaise: to identify our limits, to share our past, to open ourselves to the Others is the first step for a change.

Psychotherapy teaches us that we must “take sufferance by the hand”, analyse it from different perspectives and angles through a path that should be accompanied by the expressive means that the subject feels as closer to his own needs: it could be writing, Cinema, painting or Photography.

“I was walking along a path with two friends, the sun was setting. Suddenly the sky turned blood red. I paused, feeling exhausted and, leaned on the fence, there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city, my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.”
Edvard Munch on “The Scream”

Original Italian article: written by Dr Martina Gerbi.

English translation: Dayana Sharon Marconi.



Diamond Hugh Welch: http://www.cvltnation.com/portraits-of-insanity-the-photos-of-dr-hugh-welch-diamond/

Ebenstein Alan, Hayek’s Journey: The Mind of Friedrich Hayek, 2003, about Goethe, Chapter 2. German and Viennese Intellectual Thought, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, UK.

Gerbi Martina, official website https://martinagerbipsicologa.com/

Gerbi Martina, Psicologia e Fotografia, original article on Martina Gerbi’s official website, November 2017 issue https://martinagerbipsicologa.com/2017/11/09/psicologia-e-fotografia/

Marques Ayres, Appunti provvisori sulla Fototerapia, History of Phototherapy, on Fototerapia website http://www.photoastherapy.com/home/storia-della-fototerapia/il-900

Moreno Jacob Levi: https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_Levi_Moreno

Ransom Rogers Carl: http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/carl-ransom-rogers/

The Royal Photographic Society: http://www.rps.org

Valmori Ursula, L’angoscia esistenziale di Munch nell’Arte, State of Mind, May 2016 issue http://www.stateofmind.it/2016/05/angoscia-esistenziale-edvard-munch/

Weiser Judy, Phototherapy Centre, official website https://phototherapy-centre.com/italian/

Weiser Judy, Photography as a verb, The BC Photographer, Fall 1975 issue http://www.academia.edu/3173919/PhotoTherapy_Photography_as_a_Verb


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