photography in therapeutic setting -
more than 5 years of photo-documenting "Riding-Therapy for Young Refugees"
The riding-therapy, led by psychologist, psychotherapist and riding instructor Mag.a Claudia Baldeo, has been offered during summer to selected child-refugees on a yearly basis since 2009 by Ankyra - Zentrum für interkulturelle Psychotherapie in Tirol.
From the beginning the project included extensive photo-documentation.
Part of my work as project-photographer was/is to document the therapeutic process and in so far helping to evaluate the individual progress of the participants, as well as provide pictures for the children as keepsakes of their experience (from portraits of them with their favourite horse, to individual photo collages and a final slide show) and last but not least to take photos that could be used in public relations for press coverage aswell as preparing exclusive printed material and special slide shows for the main sponsor.
Since 2013 art therapy became part of the projects, so that I had to take pictures of both riding and art therapy.
In order to succesfully fulfill the various tasks as project-photographer you have to be able to somehow melt into the background so you won't disturb the therapeutic process: You have to become an unobtrusive observer.
You also have to deal with various technical obstacles:
- no flashlight
- clouds of dust
- strong sunlight
- various weather conditions
- many, often uncoordinated and sometimes fast moving objects
It helps if you are relaxed around children, horses and other animals. Because you have to work closely with 8 to 12 children of different ages (most of them between six and ten), gender and culture and their 4 "horse-therapists", but there are always a couple of dogs and a bunch of barncats involved, too.
A special hurdle to overcome is to take pictures for public relations. It's not only that you might not be allowed to publish pictures of some children, even the pictures of those children whose parents felt comfortable to allow publishing, are especially protected because of the therapeutic setting.
link to some press coverage
I was able to show photos in a special brochure on the riding-therapy, released by Ankyra in 2009 and a desk-calendar, released by Ankyra in 2013 and I was invited to exhibit selected photos at the 5 and 10 year jubilees of Ankyra in 2009 and 2014 in Innsbruck.
Though due to the necessary special protection of the children in riding-therapy I am not allowed to show you any photos on the web. The exception are photos already released to and published by various magazines and newspapers.
In case you read German you can find an article including some photos about the riding-therapy here:
in Mensch & Pferd international 2010
and here: article in Mensch & Pferd international 2015
And here are some links to press coverage of the project, also including photos:
article in Tiroler Tageszeitung 2009
newsletter of Tyrolean Equestrian Sports Organisation 2009
article in Pferd+ 2010
article Standard 2011
article Standard 2013
article on FRANCE24
In spring 2015 I was asked to document an additional, a new project for child-refugees: Riding lessons for child-refugees directly at their temporary home, the refugee's hostel in Kleinvolderberg.
The horses and riding instructors were visiting at Kleinvolderberg, meeting their little students there and holding the courses on an especially prepared area in front of the hostel.
The visits became a highlight not only for the children, but also for their parents and other residents.
The project was led by Claudia Baldeo and sponsored by Pferdesportverband Tirol and Zentrum für interkulturelle Psychotherapie Ankyra Diakonie Flüchtlingsdienst.
In summer 2015 I did a photographic documentation of AK-Ferientage at Hoettingerhof, Afling: twice 75 -100 children visited and spent a day off at the horse stables, grooming and playing with horses, building a traditional dirt hut and exploring flora and fauna in the forest nearby.
In charge of the children's visits was Michael Schwarzenberger, who also organised accomplished instructors for the various activities. The children were accompanied by AK-caretakers.
Summer 2016 I got the opportunity to make some photos and photo-presents for another project, led by Claudia Baldeo and sponsored by Pferdesportverband Tirol, a project for hearing impaired kids.