The educational power of photography

A man tries to clear the debris of what was once his house, before it got destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan (locally called Yolanda) in Tacloban, Philippines.

A man tries to clear the debris of what was once his house, before it got destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan (locally called Yolanda) in Tacloban, Philippines.

“It's an illusion that photos are made with the camera…they are made with the eye, heart and head” - Henri Cartier-Bresson

Photography, undoubtedly, is one of the best and perhaps most accurate ways to record the world's beauty. While it is not a completely objective art manifestation, more of an interpretation each of us make of the world around us - based on our own values, life experiences and so on -, it does reflect with some undeniable accuracy what's objectively surrounding us in our environment.

Wearing traditional clothes, women walk through the streets of Pushkar, India.

Wearing traditional clothes, women walk through the streets of Pushkar, India.

Angkor Wat at dawn, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Angkor Wat at dawn, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Photography, however, goes beyond than just showing beauty.

It is maybe the most universal language, reaching a far wider audience than any spoken language. It humanizes otherwise vague issues, it creates personal/emotional connection, and it promotes empathy and compassion.

Photography can also help raising awareness about issues that are being overlooked or ignored. It can give a platform to those whose voices are going unheard.

Huot Sarom , 69 years old, has been forced off all but one of her 5.67 hectares of land. "I have farmed my land since 1979, but they came to build a fence around it without informing me. I have filed complaints but no one came to resolve this issue".

Huot Sarom, 69 years old, has been forced off all but one of her 5.67 hectares of land. "I have farmed my land since 1979, but they came to build a fence around it without informing me. I have filed complaints but no one came to resolve this issue".

Cultural Travel Photography” (the attempt to document a certain culture through daily life scenes) highlights the interactions between men and their environment, and it shows cultural knowledge and traditions through daily life moments. It is both a social-environmental documentation and a celebration of cultural diversity.

It shows different ways of perceiving and therefore interacting with the natural environment. It sparks curiosity about the world and it celebrates the beauty of diversity.

A young mom form the Hmong tribe who works as a tour guide in Sa Pa, Vietnam, cooks dinner at her home after a full day of trekking through the mountains.

A young mom form the Hmong tribe who works as a tour guide in Sa Pa, Vietnam, cooks dinner at her home after a full day of trekking through the mountains.

“Photography can also be seen and used as an Educational Tool, both in formal and non-formal leves, opening creative and participatory paths to the promotion of social-environmental values.”

Photography opens our eyes, and heart, to the world around us; it sparks curiosity and it can also help fighting preconceptions and stereotypes. Everyday Africa, by showing Africa beyond wildlife, violence and humanitarian crisis, has been fundamental in helping people to better understand the many faces of the African continent - which is filled not just with disasters and wild animals, but also with happiness, joy, generosity, compassion and dreams.

Used as an educational tool, Photography opens exciting, diverse, fertile and participatory opportunities for Environmental Education, cultivating imagination, engagement, connection and reflection. It also helps to promote critical and creative thinking.

It can help revealing social nuances and different interpretations of the environment; it can help exposing local social-environmental issues; and it offers the individuals the opportunity to be the ones representing their own communities.

A girl poses for a portrait during a monsoon shower in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

A girl poses for a portrait during a monsoon shower in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Photography catalyzes environmental learning through observation, discovery, creativity and participation, and it promotes a sense of connection and care that words are simply not able to.

Approached in consonance with the principles and goals of Human Ecology, Photography has the potential of becoming a central piece in the methodological puzzle of Environmental Education, using observation, creativity, sensibility and participation to collectively create knowledge, raise awareness, inspire change, build social bonds, and, ultimately, help forming active citizens who can lead the construction of societies based on values such as cultural diversity, inclusiveness, equity, sustainability and social-environmental justice.

Photos and words by:

Bernardo Salce

Human Ecologist, Climate Reality Leader®, Photographer and ETIV's Operation Manager

www.bernardosalce.com