Pain is difficult to communicate and constrict into the verbal or numerical scales commonly used. This thesis explores how photographic images can expand pain dialogue in the consulting room to include aspects of experience frequently omitted using traditional measures.
It draws on material generated by the face2face project, a collaboration with facial pain specialist Professor Joanna Zakrzewska and clinicians and patients from University College London Hospitals. The project has many strands: art workshops for clinicians and patients to attend together; the co-creation of photographs with facial pain patients reflecting their experience at different points in their treatment journey; the creation of an image resource developed as an innovative communication tool for clinical use; and an artist’s film focusing on doctor-patient dialogue and the role of narrative.
The thesis argues that photographs of pain placed between patient and clinician can trigger more negotiated dialogue in the consulting room. It presents the co-creation of ‘pain portraits’ with pain sufferers as part of a Fine Art practice, extending the boundaries of what is considered Fine Art by shifting the power-dynamics inherent within the act of portraiture. Through shared control of the lens and a negotiated aesthetic, pain sufferers retain control of how their pain is visualised, instead of being on the passive receiving end of a medical/photographic gaze.
The thesis explores and questions the specificities of photography as a particularly apposite medium for this work. It validates and makes visible the invisible subjective experience of pain, addressing its incommunicable nature. Semiotic and metaphoric analyses of the material reveal the possibility of a developing inter-subjective and trans-cultural iconography for pain. The thesis aims to demonstrate that not only is medicine capable of providing new material for the gallery space, but art is capable of bringing new knowledge into the consulting space.
Recent awards include: British Pain Society, Artist of the Year 2012, and Public Engager of the Year: Student 2013, UCL Provost's Award for Public Engagement. Deborah was nominated for her work with patients who experience facial pain, using visual images to influence the dialogue between patients, clinicians and researchers. See www.ucl.ac.uk/public-engagement.
Recent invited presentations include: for the I00th Indian Science Association Congress, Calcutta, India, 2013, film screenings of duet for pain at the Pain and its Meanings Conference, Wellcome Trust London, a collaboration between Birkbeck College and the Wellcome Trust, at King’s College London for the Narrative Medicine Conference, a collaboration between King’s College London and Columbia University, NY and participation in AHRC's Culture Science in Culture Theme Ignite 2014 event at the Natural History Museum in March 2014. Her film Fragmented Lines, a collaboration with artist Helen Omand and the adult participatory group is currently showing at the Science Museum London as part of their exhibition PainLess. She participated in the LSE Literary Festival Discussion, Communicating Chronic Pain, on 28 February 2015. The podcast of this event is available on: www.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/videoAndAudio/channels/publicLecturesAndEvents/player.aspx?id=2941.
Broadcasts since being on the PhD programme: PAIN, BBC World Service Documentary, February 13th 2008 (repeated April 2009), Expressing Pain, BBC Radio 4, Nov 2012, Weekend, Radio 5 Live, 8th December, 2012 and The Language of Pain, BBC Radio 4, 2 May 2015.
Face2face received ethical approval from The Royal Marsden Research Ethics Committee (09/H0801/51)
The study is registered with the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network
(NIHR CRN Study ID: 7451)
and registered with and covered by the UCL Data Protection Registration:
Ref no Z6364106/2009/5/15, Section 19: Social Research.