Alongside the planning for the table shots I also searched for photographers who had conducted similar, intensely personal projects, though not necessarily regarding coming out. It was important to me to see their perspectives, their experiences and what they had accomplished. It helped knowing that others had gone before me, and that many of them had been hugely successful and had produced amazing works of art by turning the camera onto themselves.
It was during that research that I stumbled upon the term ‘phototherapy’, which was used by several photographers from the 1970s and 80s. It simply means an exploration of oneself through the medium of photography. It’s about allowing the camera to be the explorer, to let the lens be the observer, and in the process uncover clear truths about yourself that might otherwise be muddied by denial and rationalisation.
Photographers have been using their photography as a form of therapy for a long time, and I’ve always wanted to do this myself since I first began. So as a form of preparation, a few months before I came out to my parents, I decided to venture into some phototherapy of my own. I printed large amounts of pictures of my parents and filled my room with them. The purpose was to have their constant gaze over me to gauge how this affected my behavior and help me prepare.
At first, the presence of their faces made me incredibly uncomfortable, but after a while it was surprising how easily I became accustomed to them. It even started to give me strength and a sense of purpose. I kept their pictures in my room for around two months and they became part of my everyday life. The exercise proved very useful.
Phototherapy in the studio
Before taking pictures of my family, I wanted to become accustomed to being photographed myself. I was used to being behind the camera all the time, but I thought if I was going to subject my family to constant photographing, it was a process I should endure myself too.
I worked on several different series of portraits for a number of months, with pictures taken in a variety of circumstances.