14 March 2020
I was struck by the image of the man falling from the North Tower (Drew, 2001), directly after the building had been hit by the plane 2001. Viewing this I am sickened and am in psychological pain. I think about that poor man—those poor men and women who felt that jumping was the best way for them to escape. Do I feel numb? Do I want to change something? Other than regret, I felt that the issues which had led to this event were complicated and their roots lie in history.
After 9/11 I wore a small pin of the American flag – like a shield- and in defiance. But to me there was nothing else to do. I have a BSN and MN in nursing science, and along the academic way, learned a lot of psychological and behavioral theory. I am going to apply these theories to see if they can make sense of the ability of a photography to provoke change.
Behavioral change in response to a stimulus, like an image, can occur when the viewer has already been aware of the problem and believes that acting on the problem will result in a benefit to the viewer. Prochaska and DiClemente’s Transtheorectical Model (Links to an external site.) explains behavior change in a biopsychosocial process which consists of five stages (Prochaska,1997). Change (or action) typically only occurs after the third stage—to reach this stage, the individual must 1) know that change is an option, then 2) weigh the risks and benefits of change to finally get to 3) readiness to change. Beyond the knowledge of something (like viewing a photograph of a burnt soldier), individuals need to understand options that they may have which could help the situation. Most importantly, individuals need to have self-efficacy: the confidence that comes from mastery experiences. When people become “numb” from observing or experiencing violence, war or other debilitation experiences, people develop limited self-efficacy. They become paralyzed and can’t act in their own best interests (Weibell, 2011).
Here’s an example of behavior change in a person who is self-efficacious: I think forests are important CO2 scrubbers, and that cutting forests down affects the quality of our air (This is stage 1: awareness of the problem and knowledge of a solution- not cutting trees). I find out that a local forest is scheduled to be cut down by the town. A group of people is getting together to talk about negotiating with the town. I know the people and it wouldn’t take too much of my time, and saving the forest would be awesome, also I am confident that my negotiation skills could help the cause (stage 2 plus high sense of self-efficacy). However, I am busy, so not sure I should join the group. Then a friend shows me an image taken of the forest being cut! I jump into action and attend the meeting (stage 3). In this scenario, I had knowledge of the problem, I felt that acting on my concern would create a real benefit and not harm me; I had self-efficacy and confidence in my abilities: Seeing the image of the tree being cut was the final stimulus to help me go into action.
While it’s tempting to relate the creation and publication of an image to an action (like being numb, or joining a cause), it’s important to recognize that action (or inaction) occurs because of a person’s knowledge, attitudes and capacity at the moment of the observance of the image.
Junod, T., 2009. Falling Man. Esquire.
Prochaska, J.O. and Velicer, W.F., 1997. A primer on stages of change. American journal of health promotion.
Weibell, C. J. (2011). Principles of learning: 7 principles to guide personalized, student-centered learning in the technology-enhanced, blended learning environment. Retrieved July 4, 2011 from [https://principlesoflearning.wordpress.com].
In regard to a classmate’ response:
I was struck by your conclusion that if you can’t relate to or have experience with something than the image, even if gruesome, does not impact. I would wonder if this situation that you describe is emotional numbness. Humans are empathetic and, despite the era, the ethnicity, or the uniform, we can all relate to the human in the image. I was struck by the image of the Latvian Jews lined up on the sand prior to execution– but what choked me up was the woman in the dress, with bare legs and boots, hunched but still standing awaiting execution. I related to her dress, her hunch– and I could feel the sand beneath my feet, the smell of the sea and breeze against my legs. I felt empathy and almost like I could be her. However, seeing such distressing evidence of our past, without being able to act, might cause emotional numbness. Susan Sontag, in Regarding the Pain of Others, states “Compassion is an unstable emotion. It needs to be translated into action, or it withers.”
Sontag, S. (2004). Regarding the pain of others. Penguin.
20 March 2020
Feedback from Webinar with tutor:
I shared the last image I have created in the second set of image from the series Memento Vivere/Still, Life. For reference, the image to which I am referring is of the rooster seeming to fall toward a bed of daisies. I was asked if the chicken really was falling or if I chucked the chicken. As was my intention, it seemed that viewers were a bit worried about the chicken. Although this image is quite different than the others in this series, my tutor stated that it fit in as a set. I had thought about how I could create a more