Art as Therapy extends to photography
Alain de Botton thinks painful photographs like Eve Arnold's below can be therapeutic
Alain de Botton and John Armstrong's Art As Therapy is an art book with a difference - featuring a range of works from across the centuries, it seeks to make a connection between art and the fundamental spiritual and emotional issues that face all of us in modern life, showing ways in which they can act as a guide to help us make the best of our existences.
As well as portraits by the old masters, de Botton and Armstrong extend their unique form of analysis to modern media. Take, for example, Eve Arnold's 1966 photograph Divorce In Moscow. The authors see this is as more useful depiction of the hell once so luridly evoked by artists of old, in a didactic effort to keep the God-fearing masses on the straight and narrow, paintings such as Fra Angelico's The Pains Of Hell, in which the damned are depicted undergoing tortures classically associated with the devil's lair.
Arnold's image is far more likely to trouble the contemporary imagination. It is, argue the authors, the very everyday nature of the estranged couple on a bench in a public office that lends the image its potency. The man's face is obscured as he looks away overcome by emotion, the scarved woman, her face lit, stares blankly in the other direction.
Theirs is a modern hell and their plight a cautionary message to couples contemplating the same path. "We might want to hang (Arnold's) work in the bedroom or the kitchen, in just the right place so that it can be seen when one is tempted to say in anger, 'Well, that suits me fine, let's just fucking get divorced. See you in court."
If you're intrigued by this forceful examination of the role of art, you can find many more in Alain's new book. You can learn more about the book here. You can see some more pictures from it here and when you've done that why not buy it from the people who made it, here.