Mark Gerald is something of a rare creature in that he’s both a psychoanalyst and a photographer, and has succeeded in stitching these two very different passions together. He first started the project In the Shadow of Freud’s Couch back in 2003, when he started to photograph his fellow psychoanalysts in their offices, in reaction to the archetype of Sigmund Freud’s Victorian consulting room, with its “oriental rug-draped couch.”
Mark explains: “The subject of the psychoanalyst is fascinating because of its traditional posture of neutrality. The analyst and the analytic space, as represented physically by the office, occupy a very private domain. The person and the room have been thought to exist as a blank screen for patients to project their transferences and fantasies upon.”
Mark very kindly chatted to us about the fascinating intersection of psychoanalysis and photography, and the diversity of the offices he has photographed. Read on to find out about his experiences, and what his own office looks like, below!
How did you first start taking photographs?
I was given a used twin-lens reflex camera by my girlfriend’s father when I first became interested in photography as a college student. I took classes in college and after and did a lot of street photography. I added a single lens reflex camera to my repertoire and was influenced to approach my subjects up close by using a wide angle lens.
Has your photography always been a natural fit with your work as a psychoanalyst?
I majored in Psychology, and minored in Art. The two areas were twin lenses for me to see people; from the outside and from the inside.
The series features a very diverse range of subjects. Do you know each of these people personally, or did you contact them for the project?
I started with self-portraits and then moved on to colleagues, who were friends. I was told about some interesting offices and I began to reach out to analysts in New York and, when I travelled, to other parts of the United States, Europe, Mexico and South America. Sometimes people contacted me to photograph them in their offices. Some of these people I knew, others I met for the first time in the photo session. But after spending time with them in the intimacy of their offices, affording me the privilege to see them closely with my camera, I feel a closeness to each of them.
What do you believe are the keys factors that inform the way a psychoanalyst decorates the space they work in?
Analysts, like all of us, operate both from intention and from the unconscious. The spaces that the analysts work in are homes for them and their patients. We all work in Freud’s shadow and our offices are tributes to the iconic first psychoanalytic office in Vienna. That being said, there are enormous variations based on theoretical considerations, aesthetics, and cultural and geographic norms. Warmer climates and those in less populated areas tend to be more open and larger. Many urban offices are interior spaces, enclosures for the unconscious.
What does your office look like?
You can see my current office here (at 1.17). I was interviewed as part of a news show on design.