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What is Compassion Photography?

Compassion photography is the practice of placing intention around the humanity and emotional needs of people in complex and nuanced situations within the offering and art of photography. It is seeing and honoring rather than observing and capturing, it is entering and turning towards suffering or the intricacies of life, it is companioning and walking together. The practice seeks to empower and process through reflection. 

Principles of Compassion Photography 

 

  • Compassion Photography is rooted in the idea that who and how we are in a situation is as important as what we do and offer in our work as photographers. 

 

  • Compassion Photographers are active participants in the connection and care of others. They often work with a team of people (medical staff, social workers, counselors, chaplain, community members) to determine with someone what type of presence is meaningful.

 

  • Compassion Photographers are a calm and safe presence that hold space in hard and complicated situations, both by the witness of our cameras and ourselves. Our connections are grounded in trust and compassion with our clients first and foremost, which then creates space for us to thoughtfully offer our work as we learn and follow their lead and evolving story.  

 

  • Compassion Photographers follow the work of Compassion. It is one that moves beyond sympathy and empathy. Compassion is the work of honoring someone’s own experience and pain, not simply feeling or internalizing it. (This concept applied in photography is based on the work of Francesca Lynn Arnoldy, from Cultivating The Doula Heart. We highly recommend this book and study of her important work.)

 

  • Compassion Photography embraces the act of turning towards suffering for the sake of companionship, reflection and empowerment of the people we serve. (Turning Towards Suffering is from the mind and heart of Dr. Bob Gramling, M.D., D.Sc., a hospice physician.) 

 

  • Compassion photographers meet and walk with people where they are and in our shared humanity. We do not seek to rescue, fix or save but rather offer a consistent presence of non-judgemental support. 

 

  • Compassion Photographers intuitively read a room and the presence required, learning when or where to step in or back in each situation or moment unfolding. Not every moment is meant to be photographed and some memories are born and held in our hearts, never called to be in print. 

 

  • Compassion photographers continue to educate themselves in trauma informed care, best inclusion and diversity practices, anti-racist learning and living, evidence based art therapy and self care rhythms in everyday life. 

If you are a photographer interested in learning more about Compassion Photography and future training in this work, please reach out to us!

Compassion Photography was created and developed by Patience Salgado and Kristin Seward in 2021. After a decade of serving people in various parts of difficult journeys, we realized the need for a specialized approach within the art and practice of photography. This is a working, evolving document as we are forever beginners, and continue to learn more from the people we serve and ourselves.