Spencer Rowell

Teaches on BA (Hons) Fine Art, BA (Hons) Graphic Design & BA (Hons) Illustration (Photography), PhD Candidate.

Spencer Rowell  

Spencer Rowell (b.1958) is a practicing psychoanalytic psychotherapist with a private practice in Soho, London. He is the founder member of 'The Therapy Trust', along with six colleagues offering low cost psychotherapy in the central London area. After 35 years as a commercial photographer he applied to study Fine Art at the 'The Cass' 2009-11 (Distinction) achieving the photography purchase prize (photography) and was also awarded a bursary to continue his research - 'Photography, a practice as therapeutic tool'. He engages with his two passions, that of photography and psychoanalysis.

Occasionally lecturing in photography practice at The Cass, he is best known as a founding member of the lens-based artists collective 'Uncertain States'. Publishing a quarterly broadsheet newspaper, holding monthly informal discussions and quarterly symposia at the V&A London, UCS offers a home for critical dialogue within the culture of photography, embracing many past and future graduates from 'The Cass'.

Spencer submits his thesis for examination Jan 2014 and continues his training in analysis at 'The Site for Contemporary Analysis', London.


  • Fine Art BA (Hons)
  • Photography BA (Hons)
  • Graphic Design BA (Hons)
  • Illustration BA (Hons)


An Exploration of Pathography within Photo-therapy, an Analysis of the Photographic Self-Portrait


Can a regular exchange and analysis of self-portrait photographs, offer any insight into the artist? That these artefacts become an interface between artist and reader whereby the photograph - in its production, presentation and interpretation - can be used as a form of photo-therapy?

Pathography is defined as the psychoanalytic approach to the realm of art that depends on detailed knowledge of an artist’s personal life history. An artist might implicitly have a sense of what is communicated through practice, but can this tacit knowledge, deduced through analysis, reveal this as pathography? A method of visual research is developed, whereby the use of both researcher and respondent created data are brought together as an intersubjective source of data and in doing so define a process by which the photographs produced can be seen as a therapeutic tool.

Two strands of interest, that of photography and psychoanalysis come together and just as in photo-therapy where the artefact helps the patient bring to mind thoughts that are otherwise repressed, a therapeutic relationship develops and it is within this collaborative relationship and shared lexicon, data is collated and analysed. The analysis of this language generated from the viewing of purely visual data, examines and records patterns or themes that are relevant to the research question; a combination of photo-biography and narrative, an intersubjective life history within a specific culture (that of art and psychoanalysis).

It is this making, interpretation and re-making of the work, where multiple meanings are sought to be revealed by a process of searching and then re-searching the readers account within this realm of collaboration. The phenomena under investigation is systematically documented through practice and interpretation, bringing an understanding, to an external public world (in the form of an exhibition), underpinned by the thesis. The final presentation, as collaborative intersubjective exercise attempts to reveal this tacit knowledge that comes about by this method of research, specifically what happens ‘in’ practice, as the artist refines the work alongside interpretation, concluding that using photographic self-portraits is a restorative and valid therapeutic process.


Susan Andrews, Dr. Nick Haeffner & Professor Del Lowenthal (Roehampton University).

Research portfolio

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Spencer Rowell

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Spencer Rowell