An assessment piece for students of Occupational Therapy sees them apply their knowledge in online photography exhibit.

First-year Griffith University student occupational therapists have been using photography exhibitions as part of their assessment since 2014 but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is providing a new opportunity for their work to be seen across the country and the globe.  

The photography exhibit, Living in South East Queensland: an Occupational Perspective, launched online on 7 May, and has received praise from occupational therapists as far afield as the United States, Scotland and France. It is typically delivered as a physical exhibit and rather than cancelling, it has instead been curated as an online collection.  

Student Kristi Brinkman returned to Griffith to study the Bachelor of Occupation Therapy in 2020, after working in aged care previously. She says the unusual assessment technique has opened her eyes to how important occupation can be for every person, regardless of age, gender, or job.  

Kristi Brinkman

“This photography exhibit allowed me to work in a group of dynamic people all with varying ideas of what occupation was and what was important to them, and together we found that balance is so important in work, study and play,” she says. 

“Our photo entry is called Balance. Our photo showcases how people often focus on occupations as primarily physical things such as riding a bike or going to work.  

“What myself and my assessment group discovered through the photography process is that occupation can just as often be a mental thing, and that balance between the physical and the mental is important to overall health and wellbeing.” 

Which was exactly the hope for Professor Matthew Molineux when he began this assessment style in 2014, having gotten the idea from a colleague more than 20 years ago.  

“Occupation – the activities that humans engage in every day throughout our lives, which give life meaning and purpose – is the central concept in occupational therapy and so students need to develop a very deep and sophisticated understanding of it,” he says. 

“This assessment moves students away from such a heavy reliance on written or spoken language and requires them to engage at a more aesthetic and artistic, even an emotional, level.  

“It is hoped that doing so deepens students’ knowledge of the course content and helps them connect with the human side of occupation and health.  

“This assessment is an example of medical humanities – using the arts to support students learning about human experiences of health and life.” 

It’s these human experiences that student Amelia Leavey explored through her assessment group image, Just a Shower. Amelia became interested in occupational therapy when she felt it’s benefits firsthand after her cousin was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in 2019.  

“Ewing’s Sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that occurs in bones; the image we submitted is of my cousin who is receiving treatment currently,” she says. 

Just a Shower

“Many patients undergoing chemotherapy have a central line placed in their chest that cannot get wet. Due to an infection, my cousin’s central line was removed which meant he could enjoy his first shower in eight months. 

“The overwhelming joy that is clear on his face highlighted for me the complex nature of occupations. Where you or I may see having a shower as just a way to get clean, for my cousin, it was about experiencing the feeling of running water over his bald head for the first time ever. He had about five showers in a 24-hour period before the line was replaced, just to make the most of it! 

“The photography exhibit has given me a greater appreciation for the complexities and hidden messages that can be found in a photograph. Where a description is from the writer’s perspective, a picture allows the viewer to interpret their own meaning and draw their own conclusions.” 

The online exhibition can be viewed here.  

If like Kristi and Amelia you have a passion to enabling people to live a meaningful life, you can turn it into a career with our Bachelor of Occupational Therapy.