Embodied Approach – Expressive Portraiture – The Final Action

In my photography sessions, I often work with the whole body, the head/face, ribcage, shoulders and arms, down to the feet.  I begin by drawing your attention to your foundation of feet and legs, with a simple wiggling of the toes, all the way up to the top of your head.  It is with the body that we are expressing our professionalism, confidence, and trustworthiness for the camera.  I invite my subjects to be aware of their breath as a natural signal for the body to relax.  I breathe with the client, because I need to stay relaxed as well.  If all goes well, we both enter into what Daria Halprin, author of The Expressive Body in Life, Art and Therapy (2003) calls “liminal space.”  In this altered state of awareness, we stand before the threshold of our old way of posing for a photograph, facing a new way of self-expression.  This can produce a desire to break free from old ways of perceiving ourselves, the world and make room for something fresh to emerge.  As I guide and direct the client, we access the mystery of the creative process and bring embodied awareness of the desired qualities to be illuminated, accessed, and expressed before the camera.

Next in the series of actions is to find the real moment inside.  I do this by assisting my clients in their expression of joy.  Setting aside fear allows the armor that hides out basic goodness to fall away.  This supports our appreciation of the life we have to shine out in the expression of joy.  Using the breath as inspiration, I invite the client to use their imagination in conjuring an authentic experience and expression of the emotion of joy.  Pema Chodron, in her book Start Where You Are; A Guide to Compassionate Living, tells us that the way to find our joy is to lighten up.  “Anything that begins to lighten up that resistance helps us to relax and open and celebrate.” (p. 131).  This celebration can be as simple as being curious, having a sense of humor, taking a few deep breathes, remembering a funny joke, or a situation to recall and express.
The final action or level in the creation of real moments is the use of imagination.  We have already done that in the expression of joy, but joy is not the only quality we want to express in front of the camera.  So, I coach my clients in the use of their imagination to create and express other qualities with their body, and then the series of action steps to creating an amazing photograph are complete.

By working with my clients somatically, they are able to relax and let go.  Being able to enter into creative play and authentic embodied expression in this way, we can now launch any expression or create any impression we choose.  Through this process we are free to express directly to our audience the qualities that we so deeply embody and wish to communicate.


Chodron, P. (2004). Start where you are; a guide to compassionate living. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc.

Halprin, D. (2003). The expressive body in life, art and therapy. London: Jessica Kingsley.

McNiff, S. (1998). Trust the process (First ed.). Boston & London: Shambhala Publications, Inc.

Karr, A., & Wood, M. (2011). The practice of comtemplative photography, Seeing the world with fresh eyes. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc.


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