Camera Therapy: How Photography Gave Me Hope Again


October 30, 2015 – by Jackie Augustine

At JHP we know that first hand that the “power photography” can change lives. We believe that by providing a creative platform to the physically and emotionally challenged, the elderly, at-risk youth, homeless and the visually impaired populations, it  inspires and enable individuals to channel their energy in an open and expressive way. No longer are they labeled by their disability but they are enabled by their ability to connect to and capture the world around them through photography.  It’s what we’ve been doing for 74 years!

But I was so moved by Shaun’s  story from dPS, Digital Photography School ( that I wanted to share this story with our readers.  Shaun was in a serious traffic accident that left him in a coma for several weeks and unable to walk or use his left arm and  the last 2 years of his life have largely been spent for me in hospital or rehabilitation centres. Here’s his story:

“Photography has given me dreams for the future”

The following is by a dPS reader – Shaun. It started as an email to me from him – however it was so powerful that I convinced him to allow us to publish it as a post. I hope that he might also one day let me convince him to share some of his photos too! Please Share this! – Darren

Shaun’s Story

In June of 2009 I was involved in a serious traffic accident that left me in a coma for several weeks and unable to walk or use my left arm. The list of injuries I have are longer than I can include here and so the last 2 years of my life have largely been spent for me in hospital or rehabilitation centres.

Much of my past life is a distant memory – things I used to take for granted and do without thinking take hours of effort to achieve, friendships have changed as I’ve become reliant upon others to survive and for a long time I lived without much hope. Depression became a state I lived in 24/7.

Camera Therapy

Around 6 months ago, and as part of my rehabilitation, my therapist suggested that I try to introduce something creative into my life. I think he was just trying to get me to think of something outside of my situation. He suggested painting but also mentioned in passing another patient who had taken up photography.

Being a techy guy (in my past life) I liked the idea of getting a camera and after a lot of research purchased a small four thirds format camera (a Panasonic GF1). I wanted a DSLR but due to their size and my limited movement (I do everything with one hand) I went for a lighter and smaller camera.

I also spent a heap of time on your website since buying the camera. I’ve not taken photos before but dPS has taught me a lot!

Over the last 6 months my life has changed a lot. Physically I’m improving a little – although still live life in a wheelchair and am very restricted in my movement – but emotionally I’m a different guy and much of it is a result of photography.

My Photographic Challenges


There are a lot of challenges to take a simple photo for me. For example:

    • Getting to a location to photograph can be tough – I like street photography and landscapes and much of my life is confined to my small apartment or rehab centres.
    • Keeping my camera still – I ended up getting a small Tripod attachment welded by a friend to my wheelchair which has helped me a lot. Now my camera is in front of me any time I’m in my chair. I’ve since found purpose made mounts for wheelchairs and have just ordered one (the Mount Mover) – this will also enable me to consider a DSLR.
    • Just taking a shot – when I’m out with other photographers I notice that they are able to take a lot of shots from different angles and compositions that I’m not able to get.

How Photography Gives Me Hope

However despite the challenges photography has made me feel alive again. It has become a very therapeutic thing.

    • It gives me something to think about that is not related to my pain or injuries.
    • It gives me motivation to get well again.
    • It takes me out of sitting alone in my apartment.
    • It has given me dreams for the future.
    • It has given me a social interaction with other photographers (online and in real life).

My photos are not as technically brilliant as many of your authors – but that’s not what photography is about for me. For me it is a part of getting well and celebrating life, something I never thought I’d do again

Read more: http:///camera-therapy-how-photography-gave-me-hope-again/


Learning Digital Photography to Keep Your Brain Sharp

©Photo UT Dallas

By Jackie Augustine – July 29, 2014

Learning digtial photography is an excellent way to keep your brain sharp. The process of learning how a new digital camera works involves time, patience and enthusiasm. We are very excited to be beginning a new program next week with The Education Alliance Sirovich Center for older adults.  Our volunteer photographers will start by introducing the basic steps of using a digital camera.  In subsequent weeks, the “senior students” will be given a variety of projects to perfect their skills and enjoy the amazing results!  Yesterday I read an article by Lauren Silverman of NPR about the amazing power of photography to prevent brain loss in seniors.  I wanted to share with you some of the findings from that article.

by Lauren Silverman –

Brain training is big business, with computerized brain games touted as a way to help prevent memory loss. But new research shows you might be better off picking up a challenging new hobby.

To test this theory, Dr. Denise Park, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas, randomly assigned 200 older people to different activities. Some learned digital photography. Another group took up quilting.

The greatest improvement was for the people who learned digital photography and Photoshop — perhaps, Park says, because it was the most difficult.

Jimmy Wilson, 82, agreed to learn to use a computer, a camera and Photoshop for the trial. “That was really quite a challenge for me when I got into the photo class,” Wilson says, “because it involved a computer and I had never even touched a computer.”

Wilson is motivated to fight dementia, in part because he saw what the disease did to his wife toward the end of her life.

“When my wife died,” he says, “it would have been real easy to just become a total recluse.” Instead, Wilson embraced being socially and mentally active. He’s a member of the choir at his church, and when he’s not reading current events and books on his Kindle, he gets together with family for Mexican food.

Since Wilson participated in the trial, he says, he has noticed improvement in his memory, although he says it still isn’t perfect. He admits it can be frustrating learning to use new technology, but he knows it’s good for his brain.

So how does learning a new skill help ward off dementia? By strengthening the connections between parts of your brain, says cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman. While brain games improve a limited aspect of short-term memory, Kaufman says, challenging activities strengthen entire networks in the brain.

“It really is strengthening the connectivity between these team players of these large-scale brain networks,” he says.

Read more:

About The Educational Alliance

The Educational Alliance is a community-based non-profit organization that provides services to 50,000 New Yorkers annually through dozens of programs at 16 locations in lower Manhattan. We are a Jewish-founded organization, serving people of diverse ethnic, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds.  Since its founding in 1889, the Educational Alliance has helped more than 4,000,000 New Yorkers build better lives through education, arts, recreation, and social services.Our Program

About the Sirovich Center

Older adults from the five boroughs travel to Sirovich for the its warm atmosphere and vibrant community.  In addition to the variety of programs and events, Sirovich also provides a hot lunch five days per week. At Sirovich, everyone is part of a big family. There’s always someone to turn to for a shoulder to lean on or a smile to brighten the day!



Today is #GivingTuesday a National Day of Giving

By Jackie Augustine

To all our friends of the Josephine Herrick Project, I want to thank you for all your support that has allowed us to live up to our mission to educate students who have not had the opportunity to learn the communicative power of photography. Through partnerships with local organizations, JHProject’s completely free programs inspire children, teens, adults and seniors with the visual language of photography, enhancing their abilities to transform communities through artistic vision.

Today, we invite you to support the Josephine Herrick Project as part of #GivingTuesday,. a national movement to give back to nonprofits that make a difference.

After “giving thanks” on Thanksgiving Day and scoring great deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday was created by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations to lend support to those charitable causes that would appreciate some extra support at this time of the year.  More than 2,000 organizations participated in #GivingTuesday last year and raised over $10 million in donations.

This has been a fantastic year of growth for Josephine Herrick Project, which for seven decades has enchanced the lives of more than 100,000 Americans by teaching them the basics of photography – for free!  Today through our free program, military veterans, autistic children, at-risk youth, formerly homeless New Yorkers and other people in need connect with the world and share their experiences in their own photos and writing. 

So please consider a gift to the Josephine Herrick project on #GivingTuesday  to help make it possible for us to create new programs for 2014 for students on the waiting list and help more children, adults and veterans realize the “the power of Photography” as a means of communication.

With my hearfelt thanks for your support and best wishes for you and your loved ones during this holiday season.

Yours turly,

Jackie Augustine


Josephine Herrick Project