Depth of Field, volume 5, no 1 (December 2014)Hilde Braet: Instrumental Photography. The Use of the Medium Photography to Stimulate Empowerment

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There is no such thing as true photography. This paper aims at defining that kind of photography that is capable of stimulating emancipatory processes, empowerment and well-being. This sort of photography focuses not only on the actual act of photographing, but mainly on the process itself. Due to its specific characteristics, its reference to reality and its paradox, it is a powerful medium that allows alternative communication and storytelling. It is used as an instrument for education and socialization, i.e. for purposes other than its intrinsic one. I have therefore coined the term ‘instrumental photography’.

As a photographer, I apply instrumental photography to different target groups. All over the world, other photographers are doing the same. They all share the experience that images can indeed be used as tools for alternative communication. Words are regarded with greater distrust, while images are perceived as less threatening.

It was only in the last decennia of the previous century that sociologists, psychologists and philosophers provided instrumental photography with a theoretical basis that legitimizes the use of photography in an instrumental way. This new manner of thinking resulted in analysis models in which instrumental photography can be classified. As a conclusion, I designed a new model in which instrumental photography has been made the central theme in order to stimulate another way of thinking about photography.