I’ve been receiving questions about next edition of the Course on Photography in Coaching. So let’s make it! This is going to the 3rd online edition of the Course and I’m really very happy about it and proud.
The online version of the Course takes 8 weeks. This length improved significantly the depth of the connection between the participants and the quality of the learning experience. Connection and experience that don’t stop at the end of the course. We are still meeting, exchanging and learning from each other in a group coaching program.
„A photograph gives us a place to start, a stepping stone to continue the story.”
– a quotation from the book „ONE IMAGE – MANY WORDS”
This quote is the starting point for talking about “AHA™ – photos that inspire”. After all, words and images go hand in hand. The language of imagery is ever-present in the realm of painterly metaphors, helping us to express in words that which is difficult to name outright. For example, we have the phrase “soft as velvet.” Thanks to the visualization of something abstract, it becomes almost tangible, and thus, easier to understand, to name and to describe.
AHA™ comprises an independent collection of 48 photographs and 12 accompanying questions that I have compiled over many years of coaching and workshop sessions. I have used these images and questions to spark sincere and worthwhile exchanges, to forge creative tracks for personal development, and to inspire hope, motivation, and engagement. From the moment I published my book on photography in personal development, people began asking: “Dorota, when will you publish your own photos? They’re so remarkable, so positive.” Indeed, I collected the images for AHA™ with the goal of setting the scene for positive work that would help individuals look towards the sun, in spite of all the challenges at hand, and to discover a brighter side of life. After all, you can take nearly everything away from a person – but you can’t take away their dreams. As long as we can dream, we are free. As long as we have dreams, we can evolve. What’s more, dreams give us the power to live better, more healthfully and happily.
Still, the collection had to wait until I had a sense of clarity about my purpose and concept. I wanted to find out exactly how to compile it in a way that would achieve its goal. This goal was to set up a solid foundation for personal development built from a sense of humanism, righteousness, ecology, and a positive lifestyle. When the concept had finally crystallized, we were suddenly hit by the pandemic, which effectively made AHA™ all the more relevant. Each photograph was taken in an actual, unstaged situation. Each image is an authentic framing of a spontaneous moment captured over the course of many walks, meetings, encounters, and expeditions. A record of these experiences and the emotions brought forth in the moment. A testament to empathy, gratitude, wonder, love, friendship, courage, initiative, passion, freedom, devotion and creativity. An imprint of dreams that have come true. An image of joy.
The Dalai Lama once said: “I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering.” (1)
It is through AHA™ that I would like to inspire others to appreciate the world around us, to care for it and develop our relationship to it. To develop our own humanity, our understanding of justice, spirituality, courage, equilibrium, and wisdom. To consider notions of independence, dependency, and leadership. To encourage positive thinking, self-esteem, hope, happiness, empathy, and gratitude — all the strengths that we are not always mindful of on a daily basis because we are busy chasing a notion of happiness under the shadow that we could get left behind. When, in fact, this power and this joy already reside within us. Joy, balance, a sense of capability, and freedom are all there. Sometimes it’s enough to pause for a moment in the tumult of the everyday, to take a leisurely stroll through the woods to help us see it with our very eyes and feel it with our hearts. I want to inspire others through the sorts of pictures we all have access to on a daily basis and everything that we can all discover within ourselves in order to live well and continue to grow.
AHA™ photography isn’t set up in any particular way and isn’t meant to be suggestive. These are images seen in the real world, at different moments of the day and in different places. They spring from what is vital and desirable – a sense of humanity, nature, the here and now, peace, ecology, and attentiveness.
While I do indeed use these images in coaching sessions, they are just as useful in therapy and pedagogy. I often get emails from various people telling me that AHA™ has supported them in their work with trauma, depression, helping subjects to go deeper into an idea, to alleviate scepticism, criticism and deeper levels of despair. These images inspire people to act and engage.
AHA™ photography is muted in its colors and tones. In this way, it is capable of showing us the world as we see it. These pictures are not “edited” in any way or adjusted with colored filters. Today, we see quite a lot of photographs that are tuned up in some way, just like there are foods with a great deal of additives to intensify their smell and their taste. Meanwhile, the world around us can sometimes be colorful, but it can often be pale as well, it can be bright some days or gray on other days. It can either invite us to activate ourselves or to let ourselves sit back and relax. The fog can be captivating, even though it is certainly quite pale. At dusk, the sun can be fiery and give way to dynamic impressions.
These photographs also have a broad layer of situational significance, creating a number of possibilities for references and associations. These images aren’t weighted down with a narrow framework of symbolism, so they don’t lead the subject towards any specific association, such as a pair of red high heels might, or a gold watch. For the sorts of symbols that are central to the concept of AHA™ photography, it is important to keep in mind that:
“An image doesn’t ascribe boundaries to thought. An image doesn’t describe its context as precisely as text. For example, words describing things such as death, joy, courage, or judgment carry a specific meaning. Images don’t bring in such narrowly defined ideas. On a semantic level, all images are boundless.”
– quotation from the book „ONE IMAGE – MANY WORDS”.
AHA™ is more than just pictures. Posing questions about the pictures is just as important. The questions that accompany the pictures are just as important. These are questions that relate to who we are, for example, in the context of the roles we play, our values, character strengths, needs, and emotions, including the emotions we want to experience in our everyday lives. These questions mirror the structure of R. Dilts’ neurological levels. There are a few additional areas as well, such as the experience of gratitude or expressing our hopes and wants. The questions are not meant to be suggestive. Rather, they are quite simple and open-ended. These sorts of questions ought to be formulated in such a way that the individual is encouraged to choose a photograph and to explain how the image reflects a possible answer to that question.
We can find some sample questions in the illustration below:
The questions that are part of AHA™ make up the foundation for personal development work. They can be used in a broad range of settings by parents, career advisors, work teams, and coaches working in any area of life, work or relationships. Teachers can also find this framework useful in the classroom, particularly when dealing with social issues. Participants are also encouraged to contribute their own questions to the conversation. One side of each of these question cards has a 10×10 “post-it” sized blank space. It is designed in such a way that there is space for either a new question, a word or a full sentence.
Sample “post-it” questions are illustrated in the below:
How useful are photographs in this process? These images in particular? And do they look familiar? Here are a few clues taken from neuroscience (according to David Rock’s Your Brain at Work, Harper Collins, 2013):
The novelty effect: when our prefrontal cortex discerns something new, our sight becomes sharper, our ears perk up and we focus our attention. At that moment, dopamine is released in the brain, which allows us to improve our concentration and engagement.
Tangibility: We often find it easier to talk about something when it is right there in front of us, something we can see and even touch. When it is tangible to the senses and not simply seen or visualized. Thanks to the mechanism of projection, an image suggests its own meanings and responses to a given question.
The image as a complex source of information: A picture is composed of various elements at once. What’s more, these elements are interrelated. For example, we may see an image of a tree in the middle of a field, with a bird flying above against the background of the sun setting in the sky. This image instantly sparks a process of meaning-making and leads to a plethora of associations. Reading a description of a linear description of such an image would be a much longer process.
Economics of the brain: The neurons in the brain that deal with the visual aspects of perception are much more developed than the ones related to speech. The brain consumes less energy to think when we are looking at an image and, as a result, the thought process is carried out more swiftly.
A more pleasant response to what is familiar: When we get a glimpse of something familiar, such as a friendly face, a well-known pattern or design, the brain releases serotonin – the hormone that is responsible for feelings of well-being and security. The visual neurons in the brain take part in this process. When we see something that we know quite well, we feel secure. And this feeling of security allows us to feel more comfortable expressing ourselves, fostering a sense of spontaneity and openness.
AHA™ – Photos that inspire: Here you will find 48 inspiring photographs that will aid in eliciting emotions, deep reflections, and thoughtful responses. There are also 12 cards, each of them posing a powerful question that is meant to initiate a valuable exchange. A booklet is also included to serve as an introduction to the practical application of this tool.
Dorota Raniszewska, Accredited Coach and Mentor, EMCC, IC, teacher in the use of photography in coaching.
I’ve been reflecting a lot about the importance of Beauty in life in recent days. I found out that Beauty offers calm, serenity. Beauty is like a healer for a mind lost in a daily hustle. When I go out to the park every day, and I’m out in nature, meeting trees and birds, being immersed in the fresh air and experiencing a perfect harmony of the surroundings, I feel almost divine. As I was touching to perfection without an effort.
Also, some of my clients brought the topic of Beauty to our sessions in the last weeks. They spoke about Beauty being important for them to feel happy in life. During a deeper reflection on personal values, Beauty appeared as supporting a sense of meaning in life.
Beauty is connected to our spirituality, transcendence, ability to feel connected to the universe and bigger meaning. It is also connected to the need for Excellence.
Many of my clients take photos. Taking photos of Beauty provides them with moments of joy and hope. They say that they feel connected to their soul thanks to photography.
So maybe the importance of Beauty explains why so many people take photos of nature, nice arrangements at home, or selfies when they feel awesome.
Finally, appreciation of Beauty is about recognizing it in yourself and others.
A photo taken at sunset a few days ago while walking along a river. The beauty around helped me to be present in a moment, head empty without any thoughts or concerns.
I would like to express my gratitude and respect to all of you who devoted your time for this meeting and co-created it by sharing the space, bringing positive energy, showing curiosity in the topic of photography in coaching, asking excellent questions, and also – sharing insights and own answers.
Here below I’m showing couple of slides from the orientation:
Coaching is about going in the direction you wish to go. It is about taking actions and following a way that includes your vision, values and strengths. Your personal photos are landmarks and good stars on this way home.
Yesterday we celebrated the end of the October-November edition of the ONE IMAGE MANY WORDS Photography in Coaching course.
Just to wrap up, these are the ingredient of the course:
This course is about coaching, not therapy. It is also about photography in coaching, not photo-therapy techniques.
All you learn in it, like silence and listening, not interpreting nor advising to the client, formulating and asking powerful coaching questions, or clean coaching questions for session summary, using STOP-START review as well as the specific use of clients’ photos is used in COACHING.
Coaching is focused on assisting and helping clients make changes in life they wish for themselves faster and easier. It is about people future and future starts now, the moment they stop and reflect on what they need and want.
To live as they want, people don’t need to understand the „why” about their past-present. They need to understand the „why and how” about their future-present. And this is when coaching helps perfectly.
In this course you will learn coaching skills, coaching tools, coaching processes with clients’ photos, coaching attitude and the power of coaching.
And of course, the power of photography in coaching.
Last week we spoke about photos in relationship coaching. There is so much to “read” about a relationship from a photo. Just observe carefully with your eyes and sense through your body what happens in the photo. Observe how people are placed in the photo and against each other, what they bodies show, what is the situation. You can notice and feel characteristics of a relationship quite quickly. As Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, the initiator of the Body Mind Centering said:
The mind is like the wind and the body like the sand: if you want to see how the wind is blowing, you can look at the sand.
The observation and sensing skills are very useful in order to formulate right coaching questions about this relationship.
A very good starting points to develop these skills is to understand and practice 5 level of image analysis. These 5 levels are: factual, narrative, stylistic, emotional and comparative.
When you are aware of them and able to spot them, it is easier to:
Be able to differentiate What is in the photofrom what you see in the photo as well as the meaning you give to what you see, in other words, the content of the photo versus your projection.
To knowhow to say what you see, feel, and hear without making a suggestion to the client but keeping it clear that these are your observations or associations.
I hope you found this insight useful. If yes, you can leave your comment under this post. Thank you for reading this article and stay in touch! There will be more.
Hi, this is Dorota :). Last week we started the ONE IMAGE – MANY WORDS course on photography in coaching. I think that it is a great occasion to collect and share valuable insights from our group sessions with you. Today, it is about listening to the client, not watching their photos 😉
When we use client’s personal photos during a coaching session we do not comment or evaluate them based on artistic criteria. There is a better way to engage with the client. As coaches, we focus on personal meanings and insights from the photos. Not on the aesthetic qualities of the photos. For instance, we do not say that “it is a beautiful photo”. This would focus the client’s attention on what is not related to the coaching topic. Instead, ask about what is important in the photo or what was important in choosing and bringing this photo to the session, or how is it related to the goal of the coaching session.
The role of a coach is to create a safe and inspiring space for self-exploration for the client. Every second when a coach listens creates a second of self-reflection for the client.
That’s why we ask short, good questions and then, become listeners during a coaching session. And there are powerful coaching questions about photos that take people deep and far in their self-reflection. These powerful questions bring real value to the client who can find important answers. This is why people work with good coaches.
I hope you found this insight useful. If yes, you can leave your comment under this post, please. Thank you for reading this article and stay in touch! There will be more 🙂
Let me invite to a recent talk with Bara Belova from the Czech Republic. Bara is a coach and mentor, and a yoga teacher. She took part in the ONE IMAGE – MANY WORDS – Photography in Coaching course in August, 2020. I asked Bara about what fascinates her in photography and how it helps her to work with people in coaching. She shared many inspiring ideas! She also shared with generosity her insights about the course.
I’m grateful for this talk. I’m happy that I can share it with you.
Some inspiring ideas from Bara:
What fascinates me in photography is an immediate connection. Connection to the subconscious. Photography works like GPS for the mind. It allows you to go where it is safe to be. The picture that has so many things, so many stories behind. When I was preparing for the course, I looked at photo albums at home and it was funny to see how quickly I can remember things when I look at old photos. “O! gosh! I have this one. I remember it!” …
I’m a very visual person. I need to see things!
Photos also give you the time to reflect, to think. When a picture is stored in the mind, sometimes, people connect dots after a couple of weeks.
Whenever it is the right time, you connect to the right people and you take the journey. My personal situation brought me to your course right at this moment of time.
Bara joined the Polish taught edition as she can understand Polish very well. We spoke Polish and English during the course. And “we had photography – a connecting language”.
What was also great is the preparation for the course was important: I could answer many of my questions while I was preparing for the course.
A lot of beautiful processes. Great talks.
The answers are just around us. We don’t know. But our subconscious knows that already.
Dears, that you for reading this post and watching the video. Stay inspired. Listen to your inner voice, intuition, wisdom, and soul. Namaste! Dorota
🙋♀️Important and interesting information about the “Photography in Coaching” course in October: If you are interested in participating, you are invited to a half-hour meeting devoted to how online learning will be organized over time – modules, frequency, intensity, group sessions synchronous versus individual work.
This short meeting is scheduled on Zoom on August 6th, next Thursday at 4:30 pm Central European Time – Warsaw time.
I will record it.
If you want to take part in this short information meeting – please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you the invitation to Zoom. See you there 🙂 Dorota
WHY this meeting?
After the webinar on July 9th, several people wrote to me about their will to participate in the training and I had a couple of individual conversations with those who are truly interested in it. Some expressed concern that the online course for 3 full days non-stop was too intensive. I think that it can be right. Since March 2020, I have already conducted many individual training sessions as well as one large developmental project with photography for a group of 12 people and this experience has shown me that working in 2-3 hour sessions every week is probably greatest. Then learning is effective, efficient and can be well integrated into everyday work and duties.
So alternatively to the 3-days online course, we can have a process of 8 weeks when one session of 2 hours every week:
meeting #1 Group integration meeting,
meetings #2-7 Six modules on Photography in Coaching
meeting #8 Integration and wrap up, celebrating
That would be a change in the way the course can be implemented in response to the submitted ideas and current experience.
If you are interested in participating in the course, I cordially invite you to this short information meeting next Thursday on August 6th. During the meeting, I will tell you exactly how the course can be organised. Moreover, You will be able to know each other with people who are interested in taking part – and I think that it is always a nice thing.
For more information about the Photography in Coaching course, come here: HERE
It is so cool to have a dream and vision in life. And to go step by step the direction you want to go. No rush. You will get there if you follow the direction. I feel like I can say these words. Some years ago I started using photography that is my passion in my professional coaching practice. And I had the vision to share and teach about it to other professionals from all over the world. To connect and belong professionally regardless of nationality, country or culture. And I’m doing it. Last Thursday, on July 9th I made something really big. I hosted a large group of wonderful people from 23 countries at the “Photography in Coaching” webinar.
It was very moving to see all of us from so different places and cultures connecting, sharing and exchanging.
“When I read the list with so different countries, I start to cry…” – wrote one woman.
Yes. It was really special, inspiring, energizing. And I felt that my dream is coming true. People connected from Brasil, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Macedonia, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, UK, Ukraine, Uruguay, USA.
I’m grateful to all the people who joined the event and co-created it with me.
Moreover, it made me think that one of the strongest needs that we have as humans and which drives us through our lives, is to belong, connect, be together. In the times of isolation, this need prompted us to connect regardless of obstacles like closed borders, no flights or public places open, mental barriers to show up online. We are so creative, adaptive, and open.
May those strengths help us to build an accepting and protecting place for all the creatures on our planet. That’s my dream.