Externalise Me, Internalise You.

'The interplay of introjective and projective mechanisms weaves a pattern of relatedness's to the world of objects and provides the fabric out of which the individual fashions his own self image'... 'Out of this interplay also develops his capacity to relate to and identify with the objects in his environment."
Sandler, J. 1988

As much as psychoanalysis is concerned with the interaction between the outer world and its relationship with an inner world (how we take in and make sense of external events and how we put our inner thoughts and understandings back out into this outer world), my research documents a process by which, through the production of self-portraits and their assessment by psychotherapists, photographs may form a representation of an inner world of the artist and its relationship to external objects. Through practice, moving from a position of being psychically hidden, to a place of being observed; and through the production of these photographs and their exhibition, a way of gaining awareness of inner states. The process may be viewed as an artist's emergence from this place of psychic retreat to a position of awareness and through this use of the camera combined with the mediation of the viewer, to be seen as a form of therapeutic process.

Each individual image offers a snapshot into these inner worlds and when these lost object representations are viewed as a whole, in sequence, over time, the narrative of an internal world may become more real to the artist and the viewer. The external world now becomes portrayed as a narrative of internal objects, vividly brought into reality through interpretation and exhibition. It is in the bringing together of these part objects, that a more complete image can emerge; to be seen in one light so-to-speak. Is this therapeutic work simply a form of self-imposed fragmentation followed by reparation, or is it, through the inevitable temporary loss of inner self, a form of diffusion and re-identity, or do I display my images, because of my incapacity to differentiate subject (the photograph) and object (internally me), from reality (externally me as the print) and phantasy of the image, (what it is/I am about?).

Self-portrait photography can of course simply be the act of making more concrete that experience of an internal world, a way of putting undigested bit-parts of experience and other inner experiences into an object, the print. In its creation, it has the power to display that interchange of self and non-self; in picking up bits that are in existence and re-forming them into something original, this form of photographic communication can be used as a way of getting these experiences understood and along with the interpretations by third parties, to have them returned in a more manageable and different form, that of language.

Through what process then do I as the artist, discard unwanted parts of myself in the form of photographs and value taking in, in the form of language, interpretations. As with therapy, does this project give me the opportunity to discard affect into an 'other', externalise it perhaps temporarily and once outside of self, give me the capacity to think and reflect.

And what of the interpreter in this mêlée? Do I transmit my thoughts into their minds; do they contain those thoughts and return them to me? What part of them do I incorporate into the process? As I ponder these reflections of theirs and I offer more images - that in turn have potential of more discoveries and awareness to my inner world - does an alternative picture emerge, a narrative of sorts, of myself of course, but also a narrative of the interpreter, a combined narrative.

In psychoanalytical terms, Projection and Introjection are seen as representing opposite sides of this same coin; an unconscious form of communication and the basis of art appreciation and interpretation. In this context I will suggest that Projection and Introjection, used in this mature way, is more than simply an opportunity to appreciate and gain another level of understanding between the artist and the photograph but the photograph and the assessor/viewer, an opportunity to understand something of the inner and outer worlds of both artist and viewer; It is a place where ideas can merge and interrelate.

This process has its roots in early infant - mother relations; the infant cannot say how he feels, he simply makes his mother experience the same feeling. This communication is seen as them connecting in a deep and unconscious way, the mother will react, this will facilitate the infant's psychic growth; the same happens in the therapeutic setting between analyst and analysand. Projection takes aspects of one's internal world and puts them onto external subjects; an unconscious process of excretion and expulsion. I am also interested in how this relates to the reverse enactment; where the internal world of the viewer is incorporated into the image being viewed, It is this 'output' from the viewers' internal world (the viewers' own projections) presented as the written report, which can be seen as 'input' into the final assessment. Projection and Introjection is an intercommunicative process of shared understanding, it becomes a creative interplay of shared experience. This process as it occurs in child development can be dissected into three phases (Ogden, 1982), where the child as projector, ridding himself of unwanted bits, deposits into (not just onto) the receiver and recovers a modified version of these projections; without this third phase, the process is not of therapeutic help to the projector. This concept also parallels that which is undertaken by this project, where the photographer deposits into an image un-resolved, un-differentiated parts of his pre-verbal past, these messages are presented via a print for assessment and finally the artist recovers a modified version in the form of language. From this third phase the photographer seeks more awareness which is subsequently incorporated into art practice.

To look at Projection in theoretical terms, we see it along with Introjection as an organising structure; a process by which there is a constant interplay across shared boundaries. A bringing together of un-differentiated differences, it is the way the artist sees his world and how the viewer, in phantasy perceives that same world - that together they have the capacity to bring this shared experience together. Through this process we describe the world in subjective terms, by playing, inherently organising and continually unconsciously reflecting on the individuals internal world. Without Projection and Introjection there would be no comparison, no feedback, even in phantasy. Creativity is the inhabiting of these cross-borders, it is the art of playing within a shared experience. Any creative development comes from the constant interplay of Projective and Introjective structures; in this shared environment, communication of internal objects and their relationship with the outside world is experienced. The viewers' interpretation of my work is a process of formulating these internal boundaries. When confronted by an image, an unconscious personal representation is called for, a boundary is set; 'this is I' and 'that is he'. A disidentification process, where the ego says, 'I distinguish between self and object, I will create a boundary'. (Sandler, J. 1988). By instigating the notion of play the viewers' boundaries become merged and temporally suspended with the image. Here the viewer brings life experience to the engagement and there is a sense of the artist analysing the viewer. This process is what Sandler calls 'sorting out', where 'aspects of the object-representation are incorporated into the self-representation and vice-versa.' (1988) p26. This process is the basis for empathy in the consulting room.

But in context of the analysts' interpretation of these photographic images, it is the reaching beneath the surface into what is the subterranean world of the artist in combination with the viewer, that is this shared experience. The 'sorting out' from which we want to gain knowledge, the shared world of artist and viewer, it is this externalisation of the work and expectations of a response that is described as creative interaction.

The viewers experiences coupled with the ideas of the artist (often misunderstood, confused expressions) are locked, in phantasy, in an unconscious conversation, enabling union and a level of understanding, this is a re-enactment of a pre-verbal, or early infant experience. The artwork also acts as a temporary container, where this lack of initial understanding is held, my need to return to the artwork for further understanding, or to relate to it as being part of a sequence and through the reverie of the engagement with the assessments, gain access to a direct descendant of inner worlds, a state that I am attempting to disentangle. One role of the analyst is to simply hold on to the therapeutic content while the patient process it, a temporary container, enabling the client to maintain an ability to think. The viewer therefore creates and crosses these boundaries set up by the artist and through internalisation and externalisation responds to the work. Projection and Introjection must be seen as a developmental tool offering a differentiating perspective on image engagement; it is this concept that is behind creative engagement.

The viewing of the work is a difficult process for the analysts, it involves them getting caught up in the affectual nature of my object relations. Many of the images will not 'pierce', to use Barthes term, they will dissolve, counter, overlap and often create ambivalence of the viewers' experience of communication, although through this play and interaction, I am asking them to see something; a representation of my internal world and in it, how their's intertwines with it. Through their interpretations and over time, as in therapy, a combined narrative is formed, awareness emerges. It is essential to acknowledge the importance of the observers' projections in the formulation of conclusions for this project as a collaborative shared experience. Art development and appreciation requires projection.


Ogden, T. 1982 Projective Identification and Psycho-Therapeutic Technique

Sandler, J. 1988 Projection, Identification, Projective Identification