This is written to discuss the role of photography in the practice of Rolfing. As an extension of a class assignment, I was asked to submit these ideas for the general membership. It was stated that “We may have forgotten the purpose of photography in our practices,” hence, the need for this review.
In the basic Rolf Practitioner classes the technique taught is to photograph the four sides of the client’s body before the series begins and immediately after completing every session. I, for one, have been tempted by all manner of seemingly compelling reasons to deviate widely from this basic scheme, sometimes not taking any photos at all.
Justifications to the contrary, I believe that until the value of using photography in the Rolfing practice is fully realized, it is in taking the simple classroom example and remaining commited to manipulate that medium that the wisdom of taking and analyzing a full series of photos will be justified by experience and appreciated.
The Rolfing pre/post session photo series is a teaching/learning tool for both Rolfer and Client. Since the human body is in dynamic living process, the static photo image is a visual record which marks a moment in time/moment in structure.
The Certified Rolfer can use client Rolfing photographs for several purposes:
a) Recognize client changes and evaluate results relative to session/ series goals and hallmarks.
b) Track and evaluate progress through the series with respect to keeping intention focused and achieving satisfactory completion.
c) Discriminate pattern of progress within a given series and across a group of clients.
d) Identify themes in practitioner’s work and client response patterns over the long term.
e) Observe client types and corresponding responses.
f) Learn where one may be imposing one’s own structural pattern upon the client.
g) Compile a reference file for feedback from Teachers and colleagues.
h) Create a source of publishable documentation and demonstration material (with necessary, proper legal releases).
(Much of the foregoing information can be shared, where appropriate, with the client. Since clients are generally eager to see their photos, there are several more uses the Rolfer has for photographs in working directly with clients):
i) Facilitate the client’s assimulating the changes physiological, structural, kinesthetic, emotional, body image, consciousness.
j) Demonstrate results to emphasize/reinforce the tangibility of the service.
k) Strengthen the communication bridge being developed between Rolfer and Client and deepen the learning through the series.
l) Edducate and foster the practice of seeing structurally.
m) Facilitate the transfer of responsibility to the client.
n) Cultivate word of mouth awareness of Rolfing by giving copies of photos to the client to share with others.
o) Allow the client to contribute his/her own seeing approach in analyzing photographs with the Rolfer.
By taking and working with client photographs in these and the other ways which you may have discovered, your abilities of seeing, contacting and communicating will be supported in their evolution. It is hoped that this review will deepen the habit of taking and using photography in your practice. Perhaps some may discover new uses and others prompted to reconsider their position on not taking advantage of this tool.
This writing is intended to cover only one aspect of the subject of photography. Rather than close the book, let this be an invitation for others to share their thoughts and experiences on this and other aspects of photography in our Rolfing practices. Other areas where I sense we could all benefit from more sharing are:
1) Ways of Seeing Bodies – Segmented structure, energy flow, weight transmission, lines of support, spacial relationships, bones, meridians, verticals and horizontals, geometrics and volumetrics, metaphors, anatomical landmarks….
2) Picture Quality – Reproducibility, focus and detail, recommended equipment, image size consistency picture-to-picture. …
3) Other Photographic/Recording Techniques – Electronic imaging, video, computer applications, Moire, physiological measurements. ..
4) Legal Requirements for Reproducing Client Photos – Releases, financial consideration, agreements, caveats…
I am personally interested in the medium of photography as a technical skill and art form and intend to put together a state of the art visual feedback system for myself and my clients. If you have ideas and practical experience on these and any other aspects of the subject of photography, your sharing will be appreciated.
David D. Wronski