The Photo-Instrument as a Health Care Intervention

Health Care Analysis 20 (2):177-195 (2012)
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The aim of this study is to describe how hermeneutic photography and one application of hermeneutic photography in particular, namely the photo-instrument, can be used as a health care intervention that fosters meaning (re-)construction of mental illness experiences. Studies into the ways how patients construct meaning in illness narratives indicate that aesthetic expressions of experiences may play an important role in meaning making and sharing. The study is part of a larger research project devoted to understanding the photostories that result from groups of psychiatric patients using the photo-instrument. Within a focused ethnography approach we employed a qualitative design of a single case study. Text analysis of photostories was combined with observational data. Data were analyzed using hermeneutic theory. Participant observations were used for triangulation and complementarity. The interaction and collaboration between health care professionals and patients in the context of a photo group emerged as core concept that underlies the photo-instrument. The interaction triggered a reframing of meaning in the patient’s illness narrative that offered new perspectives on positive identity growth. The role of visualizing meaning in images was found to lend a dynamic power to the process and triggered a dialectic between real life circumstances and imagination played out in the context of situated action. The findings suggest that a positive reframing of meaning in illness narratives is facilitated by the photo-instrument



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Jan Sitvast
Hogeschool van Utrecht