Max Lichtenstein A visual language to talk about pain

As part of the Medicine and Photography Student Selected Component at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry (2011), Max Lichtenstein experimented with a visual language to talk about pain.

‘This project is based on my own personal experience of pain. I am exploring the medical concept by using people, objects and metaphors to communicate this experience. I fractured my collarbone playing football and over the following weeks and months developed an intimate relationship with this sensation. Modern medicine had a profound influence on this relationship — I’ve been under the surgeon’s knife and woken up, after a dose of general anaesthesia, a bionic man.

Pain is hard to vocalise, as it is an invisible experience. However, it is both an emotional and physiological expression of human distress. Repeatedly talking about the pain I was in became tiresome and didn’t help to portray the way that I was feeling. Therefore, using a visual language to talk about my experience of pain has enabled me to address the way I was feeling retrospectively and this helps to bring closure to that period of my life.

Photography offers a physical manifestation of an invisible sensation. I feel that this is a valuable tool and that I have developed a greater understanding of my experience by developing this portfolio and using a visual language to talk about it.’

Max Lichtenstein