Who are you?
Isn’t it always the simplest seeming questions that are the most difficult to answer? Answering ‘who are you?’ can take a great deal of exploration and self-searching but is essential to an understanding of your personal identity and can benefit your sense of worth, self-esteem and mental health. Many seek therapy or counselling to help them on what can be quite an emotional journey. But what if the idea of sharing your innermost thoughts makes you feel deeply uncomfortable? Or you simply do not communicate in this way?
Dr Neil Gibson understands this very well. Now a senior lecturer at Robert Gordon University School of Applied Social Studies, as a social work practitioner he has worked with many vulnerable children and adults to help them through the challenges of their everyday lives. Establishing their identity can be a crucial first step in coping with turbulent lives and circumstances beyond their control. However, sometimes this is far from easy, as everything from language barriers to neurodivergence and trauma can affect how much – or little – a person is willing or able to share.
Dr Gibson discovered the power of photography first-hand when, on a placement working with asylum seekers in Belgium, he gave them his camera to document life in their reception centre. He expected the resulting pictures to paint a bleak picture of their circumstances. “But all the photographs came back, and they were really positive aspects of life in the centre. And that was my first taste of using photography to explore your situation.”