Mixing Photojournalism and Psychology?

Question: Hi Dr. Rudolph, I’m a junior at the University of Miami studying photojournalism and psychology.  I was searching for internships in photography and psychology and your web site came up. Reading your essays and viewing your photographs is very inspiring for me.  I’ve been trying to decide which path I want to follow after graduation. Photography? Or psychology? Seeing that you are active in both of these fields encourages me not to allow myself to go strickly in one direction or the other. Thank you for sharing your work via your web site. If you have any advice for me, I’d love to hear from you. Thank you so much for your inspiration. ~ Kristine

Thanks for stumbling upon on my web site and for being inspired by it!

Psychology and photojournalism is a wonderful mix and I think you can easily do both as I have done, it just takes a little extra effort. I entered the mental health field in the mid-seventies and got my doctorate by ’77; but it wasn’t until the late eighties that I started exploring photography in earnest as an avocation.

As a mental health professional I felt that I needed to have an enduring and compelling interest other than psychology to help keep my head clear. Too many health professionals, including physicians, live their professions 24-hours a day, which I do not think is very healthy for them. Working with people is difficult and we have to have ‘a life’ for ourselves elsewhere lest we get too over-focused on those we serve.

This happens a lot and it is never good. The patient suffers by becoming too dependent upon the excessively focused professional; and the professional themselves suffer from escalating stress with no adequate release for it elsewhere.

It used to be that people entered a profession and stayed active in it for life. It was thought that a profession that required so much education and training demanded such, and perhaps deserved such. And that’s what people did for generations.

Today, however, job security is not what it used to be. Society is changing, the workplace is changing, and the astute person will strive to be educated as broadly as possible in order to cope with changing demands.

Dr. Ellen in outback Australia

Dr. Ellen in outback Australia

Dr. Ellen in Australia – Photo by Dr. Nicole Duplaix

I am self-employed and have been for a good many years, but I caution you – it is not an easy thing to do. It is far easier to have a job with a regular paycheck, which is something that most people aspire to. I just never liked working for someone else although I don’t regret my years in the mental health system where I learned a great deal about people.

It is a bit like private practice: you can’t start out in private practice as a psychologist, you have to take small steps towards that goal in order to be as experienced as possible when you get there. So don’t rush things!

Photojournalism is a wonderfully creative domain and it will serve you well. That, combined with a psychological understanding of humans and how they work, will only enhance your options; and it will give you an edge over other photojournalists who are more singularly trained. Your writings will definitely reflect your broadened world view.

Finally, I would say that being creative is something that I treasure most in life. Creativity stirs and energizes me, and it washes away any fears and anxieties that might otherwise consume me.

Those who lack creative opportunities and outlets in life suffer dearly for it.

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