Monday, September 5, 2011

Photo of the Week- Prompting Discussion

Have you noticed this photo at the top of the sidebar on the right-hand side of the page?

After thinking about it for some time, I have decided to broaden the stated scope of The Creativity Greenhouse. Much of creativity is, after all, self-expression. But on another level, our folks too often have limited opportunities for self-expression, the kind of self-expression that goes beyond discussing the headlines or remembering commerical jingles. I'm not belittling these types of activities- I've used them and they can be great fun. But think, if you will, to a time when you sat with a friend or two and pursued a line of conversation that was outside the normal rut of conversations that we all get into in our daily lives. Think of a time when you shared with another the very core of who you believe yourself to be, your very identity and values. Remember that feeling? Remember the way your relationship changed with the person with whom you were talking? Many of our residents need help with those types of conversations. Maybe just an opportunity. So even though creative writing has always been a given in The Greenhouse, I hope to be able to explore with you (and you with us) ways to facilitate not just reminiscence but expression of self, formally and informally. So having said that, let's get to today's post about using photographs as discussion prompts. This post introduces a short little series  about using photographs that I would like to explore with you in the coming weeks/months/whenever I can get to it ahead.

Downtown Pittsburgh by jani
Roberto Clemente Bridge in downtown Pittsburgh,
a scene many of my folks would recognize.

I post a Photo Of The Week every Monday in the Great Room (my Activity Room). These photos generate a good bit of casual discussion and comments among folks coming and going in the Great Room through out the day. I use a wide variety of photos: seasonal, funny, amazing, cute, touching, odd, thought-provoking, historical, current events...

Photo by Chris Preovolos via ctnews/In-Sight

A Japanese Maple Tree In Portland Nature Photograph
Image via All That Is Interesting

Image via The Buzz Media

Image via MHBlog

Photo by Thang Nguyen via Flickr

Image via Forwarded Emails

Image via Amazing World

I like to use these photos as a prompt for discussions within groups or during meals. I also use them for in-room visits as I keep all of the photos in a folder after their week in the spotlight and have a good stockpile built up. If I have background information about a photo I share that. If not, we wonder about it. Use the 5-Ws for generating questions: who, what, where, when, why. Sometimes the photos are so incredible we use "How"- How in the world did they get that picture? We have had several patients who were Photoshop users and there is always the question- is that fake?

I work up a list of questions ahead of time that go beyond the 5-Ws that may serve to initiate further conversation. For example, some of the questions from the photos above may be-

Did you/your children ride a school bus?
What was your school like?
What do you like the most about autumn?
Can you think of how a pile of leaves smells?
What do you think about pets in costumes?
Did you ever do anything unusal for your pets?
Do you recognize the fast-food places in this photo?
Do you like fast-food?
Did you ever ride/race a horse?
Would a hen adopt a puppy? And what about that little chick standing to the side?
Have you been to an exotic island?
Have you been snorkeling or scuba diving?

Each question and the answers lead to more so of course the questions can go on forever. Your group may engage in conversation with minimal help from you or, as we've all had happen, getting anyone to speak up and interact just doesn't happen.

And you never know what will come up during these discussions. Once we had a photo of a lighthouse in New England and one of the ladies immediately exclaimed, "Oh, that's Such and Such Lighthouse in Cape Ann. I grew up about 5 miles from there." And she proceeded to tell us all kinds of stories and history about the lighthouse.

Another time I had selected one on my photos of My Khe Beach in Vietnam and a gentleman looked up at me with an expression of startled recognition. "That's China Beach." (which it is). "I was there during Vietnam. See that spot right there? Shot a gook there." (My apologies but that's the term he used). Though I gently forbid him from sharing explicit details in that particular group setting (it was during a meal), it did generate some interesting conversation about that era in our history. I did hear him and another vet later discussing their time in Vietnam and they ended up exchanging email addresses and one emailed me later to say that they live 20 miles apart and have become great buddies. So you never know what's going to develop when people start talking.

I stay away from raunchy, provocative, vulgar, demeaning, and racist photos. And those photos, sadly, are all too easy to come across.

I have collected photos for years and of course have a folder on my computer for Photo of the Week. (You may be guessing by now that I have folders for everything on my computers and you would be right!) Sometimes I go browsing for photos, sometimes I happen upon then, other times people send me photos. Here are some of the websites where I go in search of photos:

National Geographic The photos from National Geographic have always been beautiful and they have a great section on their website focused just on their photos.

** National Geographic was hacked on September 4th by an infamous Turkish hacker. It may be a couple of days before they can get their site up again. There is no danger to your computer- traffic is simply re-directed to the Hacker's page proclaiming his responsibility (i.e guilt).

Of course you can always check out Flickr, though that site has become rather noisy and crowded. There are still amazing photos there by very talented photographers but it takes a bit longer to weed through the family vacation/drunken frat party pics. You can also check out photobucket and SmugMug. In these photo hosting sites you can browse through photos by tag that other folks have uploaded.

Another way to find photos is to use the website StumbleUpon. You do eventually need to register but you can narrow your stumbling by interests, including photography. If you are looking specifically for photos, definitely narrow your search to Photography or you'll get all kinds of things. Finally there is Pinterest. With this site, you request an invite to join the site but I can't imagine that they turn anyone away. Once you get your invitation, you login and start to explore, either by all or by category. Pinterest calls itself a virtual pinboard: you can browse through other "pins", repin photos to your own boards, comment on photos, or link to the original source for the photo. You can also pin photos from other websites but that gets into more than we need to discuss here. There is a fair amount of junk on Pinterest but there are also some stunning photographs. Just be sure to select the Photography category or, as with StumbleUpon, you'll get all kinds of things. Again, I'm issuing a warning because it can be addictive. And don't get the app on your iphone or you'll be pinning all the time. I'm just sayin' ....

Image via Cool Pictures
The gentleman who took this photo said he discovered the frog in his backyard one Christmas.
He tried several times to remove the light but the frog always put it back in its mouth.
He thinks the frog was warming itself. You know, on one of those cold December Florida nights ;)

Then there is the good old image search. You can type in keywords under the Image tabs on Google, Yahoo, or any other browser. Enter phrases such as autumn scenery, beach retreats, kids playing little league, cute puppies,  Easter bunnies, whatever you're looking for. You generally get broad results ranging from exactly what you're looking for to the odd photo of someone's boobs- you just never know. You can also search for "Photo of the Year", "Top Photos of 2011", "Amazing nature photography", and so forth. Finally, if you type in an image search for "Funny Photos" be aware that some are funny, some are not, some are vulgar, some have the block captions, some make no sense what so ever. You've been warned.

Photographer unknown- if this is your image, please let me know so
I can properly credit you for this great shot.

Thanks so much for visiting the Greenhouse today. If you click on the Facebook logo in the right-hand sidebar and "Like" the Greenhouse on Facebook you will get short notices of new posts via FB. (Those of you subscribing by email will need to visit the website to find the link)

See ya next time! Do you have any cool photos to share with us?

1 comment:

  1. I love the photo idea. I am going to try this in my memory care area. I am sure pictures of Portland would be a big hit because most of them grew up there. I actually recognized the Maple tree from the Portland, Or Japanese garden. I have taken a picture in the same location during a different time of year.