Psychosomatic Imagery: Photographic Reflections on Mental Disorders

A. Shobeiri & H. Westgeest
2023, Palgrave Macmillan, London

This book explores the potential of specific photographic images for reflecting on experiences of mental disorders. Instead of looking at photographs of (people suffering from) mental disorders, this volume aspires to comprehend the complexities of such conditions through photographic lexicons, metaphors, and practices. For this book, a mental disorder is not to be seen as a dysfunction or impairment, but a state in which the sustaining balance of stable and unstable mind is unsettled, which may induce mental/bodily disturbances. The term “psychosomatic” refers to the interaction of the mind (psyche) with the body (soma); it refers to their co-dependence.

By the term “Psychosomatic Imagery” this volume refers to a distinctive trope of photographic images that deal with the body-mind interaction during the states of mental disorders. This novel theoretical framework in photography theory instigates critical discussions about the experiences of mental disorders visualized as disturbed corporeal and mental perceptions of the world. While the introduction of the volume unpacks and assesses the applications of photography in mental disorder studies from theoretical and historical perspectives, the chapters focus on specific cases of Psychosomatic Imagery in contemporary photography. Those cases include, but are not limited to: PTSD, hysteria, paranoia, psychosis, bipolar disorder, and Hikikomori.

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