Using personal photos in coaching
Photographs are the records of our life. Photos are made from light and time, but they are also made from people’s perceptions and memories.
Each photo we take has a beginning. It is an impulse from our mind as we see, feel or do something. Each photo has a unique meaning for us. It presents our achievements, relationships, dreams fulfilled. It shows what we like in the world and what inspires us. Each photo is a way to remember what we are proud of and what we create in life. While looking at our snapshots, we can talk about our motivations, values, needs and most of all, what is important for us.
There is a story behind each picture. Someone once took it. Maybe someone gave it to someone else on an occasion. Someone has kept it for some reason. Someone chose to show it to you. So, what’s so important about it?
This is the question that I ask to start a meaningful conversation when looking at a photograph.
Personal photos connect us to ourselves, our inner wisdom, what we know and learned through our lives. Using powerful coaching questions, these photos can provide unprecedented access to deep thoughts and important insights.
How did I discover the power of personal photographs in coaching?
In 2007, I started a family search project. Old family photos, portraits of people and places helped me collect information and memories about my family from relatives and friends scattered around the world. Photos helped me to connect to them. During my search, and many travels, I realized how photographs trigger long-term memories and bring the past to the present. In my work with photos I see every day how personal pictures help to start meaningful conversations. They provide us with memories and stories to tell. Once an important photo from the past lands on the table, an immediate connection is made between people, engagement is increased and very often, joy or intensity appear on people’s faces.
Through my family project, I discovered photography as a vehicle for thinking and communicating.
I remember one day when I was arranging my photos from when I was younger, a short time after I had married, and my husband entered the room. He saw my work and started telling me about his memories related to the photos lying on the floor. I was very surprised to hear that his memories and feelings about the same images were different from mine. He sat on the floor with me, and we started talking about how we remembered those moments from the past. It became clear to me that talking about old photos is a great exercise for people who need to listen to each other. It is a dialogue exercise that has transformative power. It can help people to hear and understand each other.
Working with my life and family photos was only the beginning of experiencing photography in personal development. In 2011, I started my blog on reflective photography, jerozolimskie.wordpress.com. It is a life photo-journal that I’ve been writing for 10 years which has led me to develop a practice of active photography with my clients. “One photo a day” is an example of a technique I use that supports life coaching and well-being. The idea is to go outside every morning for a walk and take one picture on a topic that is related to the client’s coaching process. It can be about seeing the positive side of life, appreciating beauty, feeling gratitude, connecting to oneself, or developing self-esteem.
All these experiences helped me to become confident about using photography as a means of communication in coaching. In the beginning, I proposed to team members to bring their own photos for ice-breaker activities. I wanted people to open up a little bit more than usual with their personal stories. Also, I wanted to create space for authenticity and appreciation of others.
When we show our personal photos to others, we show ourselves more than we do it in our everyday work. It is engaging because everyone has a story to tell. Everyone is unique. Everyone can be a “hero” for a moment. Personal photos open a gate to people’s hearts, minds and souls.
Over the years, I developed several coaching processes with photography and regularly teach them to other coaches. These include: “The Most Important Photo,” “Life Photo Album,” “Profile Photo,” “Photo Poem,” “Relationship Photo” and “Self-Portrait in the Future.”
I will be presenting one of these processes during the 27 EMCC Global Coaching, Mentoring and Supervision Conference, together with my colleague, Bara Belova, coach, mentor and manager from the Czech Republic. The title of the presentation is “Photography in Coaching. Making the Future Visible.” Here is the link to the conference: LINK
I also invite you to see us and listen to the “fireside chat interview” by the EMCC: Link to the Interview
It will be our honour to host you at our presentation. Please join us on May 12ve, at 12:45 UTC+1.
With very special thanks to my Friend, Shelley Lippman-Lewkowict, a certified professional coach, based in Montreal, Canada for reviewing and editing this article.
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