Visual imagery for environmental concept formation

Year: 1997

Author: Bergmann, Iris

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper discusses how the exploration of environmental issues with creative photographic work develops the conceptual understanding of these issues. The link between the aesthetic and cognitive domains which incites cognitive growth will be presented. The findings of this study indicate that the aesthetic involvement addresses the emotional factor as a dimension that impacts on psychological well-being. Furthermore, learning with visual media requires a deepened understanding of the medium itself, not only on the technical, but also on the conceptual level, in order to be able to deploy it most effectively for cognitive development.

For this study, nineteen participants worked individually on an environmental topic of their choice with photographic images over a period of ten weeks. They used their own photographs as a resource base for further image-manipulating procedures in a variety of experimental ways. The participants were interviewed at the beginning and on completion of their aesthetic work.

The aesthetic involvement led to the development of multiple perspectives, to a relationship with the topic, to a realisation of and coming to grips with the complexities and ambiguities of environmental issues, to a questioning, strengthening and/or clarifying of the initial position. A positive, constructive dimension in the aesthetic domain evolved which spread over to the cognitive domain. This was remarkable since the participants initially conceptualised environmental issues as issues of pollution, destruction, degradation and death. It was found that the construction of photographic narratives can be deployed as an agent for change towards ecological sustainability, at least in the cognitive domain.