Critical Thinking

This is our last regular webinar session, and now we look forward into getting deeper into your projects and our participation at AshokaU Exchange and at TEDxAshokaU. At the beginning of our webinar, we said we couldn’t teach you anything you couldn’t learn on your own, but what we could do is to save you time. In these sessions we’ve hopefully given you much food for thought and tools for your toolkit regarding the immense power and potential of photography, both in its creation and its utilization on multiple levels. We’ve shared successful routes into critical thinking to use, along with a deeper sensitivity into visual literacy, to look deeper and think about perception and the context of a photo. We’ve also shared deeply felt stories to help with finding inspiration and understanding the big picture of legacy and the conservation of photographs.

In this Critical Thinking section, we want to give you thought-provoking and pragmatic tools to utilize for your projects, as well as in your work and life. We’ve included words of wisdom from some of the most interesting people whom we know in this section. They are among our best thought leaders, and they know of what they speak  from deep experience.

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Section Contents

 

Critical Thinking: Ways of Thinking

• Brain Expert Stephen Kosslyn: Visual imagery and the brain

• Photographer Camille Seaman: Deep Thinking and Looking and Finding Your Voice

• Photographer Maggie Steber: Life as a Photographer & Earning Trust

 

Critical Thinking: Advice from Photographers

• Foundry Photojournalism Workshops

• Michael Robinson Chavez on Research and Critical Thinking

• Kael Alford on Critical Thinking Skills and the Public

•  Andrea Bruce on Critical Thinking, Photography and Selective Editing

• Steve McCurry on Getting Past Disappointment

 

Critical Thinking: Practical Applications

• Stephen Kosslyn on the Brain and Perception

• Amber Lucero-Criswell, Director of Education and Public Programs at the Museum of Photographic Arts: Medical Usage

 

Optional

• Stanford Psychologist Phillip Zimbardo - Explaining his Stanford Prison Experiment & Abu Ghraib

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Critical Thinking: Ways of Thinking

Stephen Kosslyn

Founding Dean, Minerva Project

Former director, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University at Stanford University. Former Chair, Dept. Psychology; Dean of Social Science at Harvard University at Harvard University

Cognitive Scientist Stephen Kosslyn

"Mental Imagery and Perception"

How you can use this information:

In this important video, Stephen discusses how mental imagery of your life experiences inform and influence what we believe and our biases in ways we may not even be fully aware. They may also provide a seed to germinate new ideas in productive ways.  This is one of the reasons we suggested looking at old photos may trigger mental imagery that can impact you today and into the future.

Description:
Respected scientist Stephen Kosslyn goes in depth about his findings about how the brain simulates
visual imagery and how visual constructions in one's head is guided by what that person believes.
This points to the importance of critical thinking going hand-in-hand with a developed sense of visual
literacy; on a first glance of an image, you may not be aware of your bias until you examine it.

Click here for Biographical information on Stephen Kosslyn

 

Why this is important:
Stephen Kosslyn is one of our leading cognitive scientists and brain expert at Stanford University. He explains his field of work in a clear and understandable way, showing how it can be thought provoking and actionable.

Click Here: Photographers Camille Seaman and Maggie Steber

Camille Seaman

"Deep Thinking and Looking and Finding Your Voice"

Description:

Camille talks about the ability of photographs to convey meanings in unique way. She advises to look a picture for at least three minutes in order to best understand it. Says Seaman, “[Whether] it’s photographic, painting, whatever, visual art, [whether] you hate it or love it or feel ambiguous about it, the fact that it’s making you feel anything at all is impressive— that this thing has a power to influence your emotions.”

Why this is important:

Camille Seaman is an excellent photographer and has a wonderful philosophical sense about how to talk about the power of photography.

How you can use this information:

This is a powerful video in which Camille discusses the importance of looking at a photograph for three minutes. She shows you how to dig deep to help you understand how  you really feel about it and why, particularly in a world where we’re often told what we should think. Understanding this helps you better understand your own mindset and visual identity, as well as your own voice. In doing your project, this can be particularly helpful in understanding why a picture speaks to you and what you can do with that information.

 

Maggie Steber

"Life as a Photographer"

Description:

When asked about the reality of her job, Steber speaks to what makes photojournalism not-so-glamorous in the life sacrifices and compromises that she's had to make. However, she makes it clear that her line of work is very remarkable.

Why this is important:

Maggie Steber is one of our most respected, generous, and thoughtful photographers. In this video she discusses the reality of life as a photographer, both the rewards and the sacrifices. As changemakers you may find yourself in similar circumstances.

How you can use this information:

As people who are set on a course to make a difference, it’s important to think critically about what your life may be like.  There are wonderful rewards in terms of giving back to the world, such as getting to know different cultures intimately and becoming an important part of their lives and future.  It’s also important to be aware of what that life might be like. Steber generously shares her intimate thoughts on her remarkable life.

Thinking about this can be useful in looking through old photos to understand where you’ve been helps inform where you may choose to go in the future and why. Having this understanding will serve you well.

 

"Earning Trust"

Description:

Before photographing subjects, Steber is always sure to sit down and speak to them first. Regarding that relationship between photographer and subject, she feels that “it's a collaborative effort on both our parts.” Steber believes that she takes more successful photographs through intimate and mutual interaction with her subjects. 

Why this is important:

Communication skills are critical to almost anything you do in life. Earning trust will open up new worlds in work and in life as you build empathic connections with the people around you.

How you can use this information:

Having the skills of communication and earning enough trust so people open up to you will enable you to learn more about your work, your world, and ultimately yourself. Creating such relationships is not only interesting, it can help you do your job better. It could even help keep you out of harm’s way, as Maggie suggests.

Earning trust will help you enormously in doing your project. Once people feel comfortable and safe, they may pour out information you may never have even guessed existed.  It can be incredibly interesting and rewarding, and it can help develop a new kind of relationship in the process.

Critical Thinking: Advice from Photographers

Foundry Photojournalism Workshops

Michael Robinson Chavez

"On Research and Critical Thinking"

 


 How you can use this information:

The subjects Michael addresses can be also utilized in changemaking. Having a deep knowledge of your subject can open doors and also help get the support you will need to succeed.

Click here for biographical information on Michael Robinson Chávez

Description:

Michael Robinson Chavez discusses his research process and the critical thinking skills required for developing a story.

Why this is important:

Michael Robinson Chavez is a seasoned newspaper reporter who has experience covering a wide variety of topics. He discusses the importance of research and a deep knowledge of the story and location.

Kael Alford

"Critical Thinking Skills and the Public"

How you can use this information:

She encourages people to get out of their comfort zone to really learn about the world and challenge themselves.

Click here for biographical information on Kael Alford

Description:

Kael Alford tells us how the general public would benefit from approaching the world as a photographer— that photographers have to constantly break their own stereotypes and photography encourages the critical thinking required to participate in the world.

Why this is important:

Kael Alford is a compelling and articulate teacher as well as a documentary and conflict photographer. She shares her critical thinking about challenging your ideas and learning about the world by participating in it. 

Andrea Bruce

"Critical Thinking, Photography, and Selective Editing"

How you can use this information:

Andrea Bruce is an experienced conflict photographer. She discusses some of the critical thinking that a professional in the field needs to think about. She has learned to think on her feet and anticipate needs. You can feel her intensity and commitment to her work. These are things that you will also need to know; it's knowledge that is useful beyond photography.

Click here for biographical information on Andrea Bruce

Description:

Andrea Bruce talks about her photography, editing process and the critical thinking skills involved with selective editing in the field.

Why this is important:

Andrea is an award-winning photographer working with the NOOR photo agency. In this video she discusses some of the complexities of working as a professional documentary photographer. This is just a small insight into her world.

Click Here: Photojournalist Steve McCurry

Photojournalist Steve McCurry

McCurry's famous photograph, "Afghan Girl," on the cover of National Geographic

 

“Getting past disappointment”

 
Click here for biographical information on Steve McCurry

Why this is important:

Steve McCurry is one of the top photographers in the world. People at his level have highly developed critical thinking and resiliency skills. You can learn a lot from them.

How you can use this information:

Smart, innovative and caring people, such as you, are leaders. When you’re out front, there will be frustrations and disappointments in addition to the satisfaction of knowing you’re leading an impactful life. I was once told that if you don’t get frustrated, you aren’t trying hard enough.  Resilience, tenacity and critical thinking are some of the most important keys to a long and successful life and career. We thought including Steve’s wisdom would be useful for that purpose.

Critical Thinking: Practical Applications

Description:

Cognitive Scientist Stephen Kosslyn sits down with PhotoWings to talk about an experiment he conducted regarding the brain. His team measured how problem-solving teamwork is affected by pairing people with different types of abilities together. He discusses some conclusions to make from the results.

Why this is important:

Stephen Kosslyn is one of our leading cognitive scientists and brain experts, running the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. This fascinating work explains how people with different abilities can compliment or impede each other in a teamwork situation. This video is not only thought provoking but also actionable. After viewing, you may take this in consideration when choosing collaborators based on your mutual strengths and weaknesses.

Cognitive Scientist Stephen Kosslyn

"The brain and choosing compatible partners"            

How you can use this information:

Sometimes we choose people to work with before fully considering their skill sets. Picking people who complement one anotherturns out not only the smart thing to do, but given this study, can work to ensure the success of a project.

Amber Lucero-Criswell, Director of Education and Public Programs, MOPA

"A Story About Teaching Medical Students Visual Literacy"

 

http://photowings.org/wordpress/wordpress/PW%20Audio/PWAU12_CTS/Criswell_MedicalStudentsclip.mp3
[4:00]

 

Description:

MOPA Director of Education and Public Programs, Amber Lucero-Criswell, speaks about how she taught medical students how to make critical interpretations by looking at photographs. 

Why this is important:

Amber Lucero-Criswell is an articulate expert on pragmatic photography education. She tells a compelling story about the practical application of visual literacy for teaching the field of medicine.

How you can use this information:

This is an excellent example of the powerful use of visual literacy— deep looking for details, non-verbal skills and such that can be even more finely tuned through photography and other arts. These skills include observation, description and interpretation. There are many unexplored options for using photography to teach those skills. Listening to this may give you inspiration and innovative ideas.

Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego
A view of the reading room at the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego. Image Courtesy, © Suzie Katz 2010

 

Optional Section – Professor Phil Zimbardo Explaining his Stanford Prison Experiment & Abu Ghraib

Phillip G. Zimbardo

"Explaining his Stanford Prison Experiment & Abu Ghraib"

Description:

Psychologist Philip G. Zimbardo talks with PhotoWings about the role that photography played in his seminal Stanford Prison Experiment. He goes on to speak about how the visual record of the experiments steered conversations during the 1971 congressional hearings about prisoner abuse in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. With this experience, Zimbardo was asked to be an expert witness decades during the trial of Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick, in the aftermath the events at the Abu Ghraib prison in 2003. He discusses the Abu Ghraib guards' photographs, an unfortunate visual story of unintended consequences and unethical compliance.

 

Click here for more information about Philip G. Zimbardo

 

Why this is important:

Phil Zimbardo discusses critical thinking skills in terms of his Stanford Prison Experiment and Abu Ghraib.