Dr. Ellen K. Rudolph Blog Photojournalism and Psychology are a Great Mix – Dr. Ellen's Blog

Photojournalism and Psychology are a Great Mix

Posted on February 5, 2012 By


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


Dr. Ellen Responds

Thanks for stumbling upon on my web site and for being inspired by it, Kristine.

The combination of psychology and photojournalism is a great mix and one can easily do both as I have done. It just takes a little extra effort and planning.

I entered the mental health field in the seventies and earned a doctorate by ’77,  but it wasn’t until the mid-to-late eighties that I started exploring photography in earnest as an avocation. At the time I was Board President of the local SPCA , and it so happened that I needed some documentary shots about our program and what it entailed. When I couldn’t find anyone to do that for me I did it myself. And as they say, the rest is history.

As a practicing mental health professional I felt strongly that I needed to have a compelling interest other than anxious clients to help keep my head clear.

I saw too many health professionals, including physicians, who were consumed by their professions 24-hours a day, which I do not think is a healthy way to live. Working with people is difficult at best and we have to forge a private life for ourselves elsewhere lest we get overly-focused on those we serve.

The patient always suffers by becoming too dependent on an overly-focused professional, and professionals themselves suffer from stress without adequate release for it elsewhere.

By ‘elsewhere’ I mean an all-consuming hobby or other compelling activity that comes to occupy a major portion of one’s waking hours, so much so that it eventually becomes a dominant interest in life. That might be something related to sports, the arts, music, or even volunteerism.

I do happen to think the more creative one’s ventures in life are, the more satisfying life is in the long-haul. But that’s just me.

It used to be that people entered a profession and stayed active and deeply involved in that profession for life. The thinking was that any profession that required so much education and training demanded a long-term commitment. Even President Teddy Roosevelt spoke in such terms although if there ever was one, he was a spirited aficionado of many things, including big game hunting.

But nothing is like it used to be. Nothing ever stays the same. Society, jobs, the workplace, even one’s marriage is constantly changing and we must learn how to cope with change at every turn.

I was fortunate to have a physician father who had many diverse interests in life. As a young man he was an expert ski jumper and all-American athlete of his day, as well as a fabulous dancer; he served in world war II as a field physician in the European theater; he practiced country medicine; he helped design the original mouth guard that is still required wear for athletes to this day; he was a mayor of two cities; and he was a long time fishing and hunting enthusiast. Not only that, but he was fluent in five languages.

BTW, my mouthful of teeth served as the prototype for that contraption that I was glad I never had to wear!

Having good models are crucial in life. My father’s father was a old-timey doctor who traveled the ‘circuit’ by horse and buggy delivering babies or attending to the sick and dying as was needed. He His buggy whip, made from a deer’s foot with leather trappings, is among my most treasured possessions to this day.

My father (1889 – 1965) traveled with him for awhile but he wanted to become a physician himself, and eventually went to Northwestern University Medical School where his grown son also later followed him.

Other Things to Think About

I have been self-employed for a great 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 anyway. 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.

When I left that system I never went back, except to occasionally stop by the center to see staff there who always shocked me by their sticktuitiviness.

Whenever I was in town between international projects I would drive by the center only to find their very same cars parked in the very same parking places that they occupied lo those many years ago. Not that that is bad, mind you, but it clearly is not the stuff that I am made from.

I like change, I like meeting new people, I like traveling to new places, and I especially like learning new things. In contrast, many friends told me when I left the states for a year of photography in the Australian Outback that they were glad I was the one going and not them; that they liked having their things in an orderly place where they could find them.

They would have hated some of my rain forest projects where I had nothing more than a covered hammock to sleep in and to store all my ‘stuff’ in.

Not many wondered out loud about all the new adventures that awaited me.

subjects_c*Dr. Ellen with wild Australian King Parrots Alisterus scapularis