Power through Photography

Increase students self-esteem and self-confidence.

Self-esteem reflects an individual‘s overall subjective emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. It is the decision made by an individual as an attitude towards the self and encompasses beliefs about oneself, (for example, “I am competent“), as well as emotional states, such as triumph, despair, pride, and shame.


The concept of self-confidence is commonly used as self-assurance in one’s personal judgment, ability, power, etc. One increases self-confidence from experiences of having mastered particular activities. It is a positive belief that in the future one can generally accomplish what one wishes to do.


Project work Power through Photography is based on the Miina Savolainen’s pedagogical method called Empowering Photography. Taking photos and looking at them are used as a means to mend emotional issues and to reinforce one´s resources. In this process of growth nobody can empower another person, for the inner power arouses from the person himself.  Photography serves one´s identity work.

Portrait is a deliberate device in analyzing and building one´s various roles, feelings and features as well as accepting oneself. Significant but unnoticed aspects that construct an individual can be made visible. Photography concentrates on supporting needs of the protagonist´s life situation and self-image.

Project Power through Photography often produces the feeling of intimacy in the protagonist: he has become seen and understood. This nourishes self-esteem and promotes self-acceptance. Empowering photo project also fosters photographer´s ability to listen to another person – words and non-verbal communication – with deeper concentration and respect.

There are always two persons that appear in social interaction in this project. Still the method does not necessarily require verbal communication to function.


You will work in pairs: one is a protagonist, another photographer. After the first photographing session the roles will change.

As a photographer you should think about…

  1. What kind of person he/she is?
  2. What is unique and special in her/him?
  3. Am I able to concentrate on listening to her/him?
  4. How can I support her/him in this process?

As a protagonist you should think about…

  1. What kind of things do I want to make visible to myself?
  2. Do I dare to ask for things from the photographer?
  3. Can I accept that building a self-image is not too narcissistic?
  4. Where do I want to be photographed?
  5. What do I want to wear?
  6. Do I want to take some things with me (teddy bear, guitar)?


This time the photographer is the servant. His/her task is to listen carefully to another person and respect his/her wishes and choices. Another person needs the photographer as the mirror that reflects the wishes of the protagonist while photographing.


  • Make an agreement with your partner when you will shoot the photos. There has to be enough time. You must not be in a hurry.
  • Take a lot of photos. A lot.
  • Listen to each other, also your non-verbal communication. Respect each other.


  • Take a good look at the photos.
  • Choose the ones that make you feel good, empowered.
  • Choose one of the photo that reflects your inner world somehow.
  • Print 2 pieces of the same image (another one is in case one is damaged) in size A4.
  • Attach your photo to black paper or cardboard which is size A3.

Results Finland

Results Germany

Results Italy

The following speech was given at the opening of the exhibition in Pietarsaari. 

There is so much to say about photography and this project, so I will try the impossible and say a lot in a few words. 

If we take a philosophical approach, we could say that photography means seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. That is a little complicated, so I’ll try to be a little bit more practical: Photography is painting with light. If you paint with light that means there is always a bright side to your pictures, because without light there is no photography. Everything would be dark. Even if you have very dark motives in your pictures, since you paint with light, there is still hope in every picture. That beauty is what photography is all about. 

There are two ways of taking pictures: On the one hand, you can take a snapshot. Some of you probably did that. You simply see a scene, take out your camera and shoot and you get a nice picture that catches one moment in time. 

The other way to approach photography is to arrange your picture. The photographer says “ok, move to left” or “come closer”, he changes the angle of the camera, he waits for the sun to set a little and then he takes the picture so he can capture just the perfect moment. 

Both techniques, snapshots and arranged pictures, need more to create beauty: they need a beautiful model. As you can see in these pictures: You guys are all beautiful. Some of us have the beauty of youth and others the beauty of . . . experience. But we are not models. And we are not skilled photographers, even though we all take pictures. However, for this project you all had to think about what you wanted to have in your pictures, and thinking about it made you a photographer. 

You had to think about: How do I want to represent myself? How do I want to show my beauty? And precisely that made you a model. 

You practiced being a model. You practiced being a photographer. You showed dedication. You showed perseverance. And thanks to this practice and dedication you made progress and I think that is what those pictures actually show: They show progress, they show dedication and, most importantly, they show beauty. 

And if this project is in the least successful, it has made you a better photographer. And hopefully it has also made you see your own beauty. 

Let me go back to the beginning: We usually see the world through our own eyes, not through someone else’s. But this project allowed us to see ourselves through someone else’s eyes. It let us see our own beauty. 

People are very critical of themselves. But seeing my own picture taken by someone else and seeing that it can be beautiful, that helped me boost my self-esteem. 

There are two words that are the most important ones in any language:

Thank you. 

So thank you for being part of this project, thank you for completing the assignment and -most importantly – thank you for being the great people that you are. 


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