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Enhancing Creativity Through the Practice of Abstract Photography in Childhood Education. Developing Design-Thinking Skills in the Visual Literacy Context

Creativity often requires drawing analogies between one body of knowledge and another, recognising patterns and connecting apparently unconnected dots from a variety of sources. It is listed first in the top 3 skills required for 2030 as predicted by the World Economic Forum, followed by critical thinking and decision making. In this context, design thinking is presented as more than just an expertise to be acquired and used in limited situations; it is a tool that helps us look at the challenges around us. By improving children’s design-thinking skills, they will be better prepared to face problems, think outside of the box, and come up with innovative solutions through the development of transversal abilities that may also prove useful in other disciplines.
Based on different case studies with children, this research seeks to point out and outline in which way the practice of abstract photography can trigger creativity and promote a creative mindset in terms of: (a) reframing, redefinition, and isolation of visual information; (b) identification of analogies, associations, and connections; (c) divergent thinking, multiple perspectives, and extrapolation of visual stimuli; and (d) critical observation and situational awareness.
“The camera is an instrument that teaches people to see without a camera.” —Dorothea Lange
As a medium, photography has been considered purely concrete, intimately related to the things that were in front of the camera. Even though this link to reality creates the delusion that the images are always of something, photography does not always have to limit its subject matter to the actual representation of something else. Instead, abstract photography allows prioritizing pattern, shape, and form over the object being photographed, in order to create a new image that would stand independent of the original subject and would not necessarily generate a rational or logical response. Working with abstraction does not only strengthen compositional awareness and expand imagination, it also encourages us to look at things differently and provides us with the pleasure of creating something which is truly unique, while being fun and even liberating.
This specific practice can be inserted into the broader frame of visual literacy. Visual-literacy theories agree on the importance of being exposed to diverse imagery and promoting a critical interpretation of what we see. Even though this has been generally incorporated into children’s education, the use of photography in the curriculum is almost always related to nurturing specific school projects and not for its own sake.
Pre-visualising and thinking in abstract are proven to enhance creativity. Hence, what happens when children are encouraged to experiment with abstract photography? Maybe you should also give it a try!
Basel, 2019