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Photographs have a unique ability to stimulate the imagination, memory and emotions. They can be powerful catalysts for storytelling, writing and reflection about our values and priorities—and changes that we want to bring into our lives.
Picture This is a set of 75 full-colour photographs capturing different aspects of our journey through life: the mundane, the whimsical, the soulful, the playful, the challenging, the joyful, the imaginative. The photos, taken by Brent Seamer and others, present slices of both urban and rural landscapes, capturing the detail of the everyday and the extraordinary.
Since it first appeared in 2007, Picture This has been one of our best-selling resources, find its way into schools, workshops, organisations, communities, prisons and counselling situations. Like many of our resources, it is readily accessible to those who prefer to interact, reflect or learn using visual or tactile approaches.
This highly interpretive, versatile tool can open up conversations, storytelling and creative writing about feelings, goals, and points of view. Use Picture This to oil your imagination, memory and emotions, and get your creative juices flowing!
Tell us your Story!
Stories and Reviews
‘I recently used the cards with an adolescent who was very troubled and had been threatening to kill himself. The Picture This cards he chose elicited some powerful responses:
Hands lifting hay bales—No matter what I do I can’t please Dad.
House burning and crashed car—I feel like my life is crashing and burning.
Shredded paper—I feel confused and all messed up.
Walking down the road in snow—I am always going on walks alone.
The crowd—I want to be the person being focused-on in the crowd.
I found it to be a really successful session as it clarified how much he was internalising. For a young man he was such a deep thinker and very aware of his feelings. He is now being referred for further counselling.’
Janine Mitchell, Youth Pathways Advisor
‘I used Picture This to help a new team discover what is important to them as a team and set group norms.’
Hamida Bhimani, Head of Nursing Practice (Ontario, Canada)
The Serious Optimist, No. 37, October 2008.
‘I used the new edition Strength Cards this week in an introductory workshop I was asked to do at Leeds Metropolitan University’s festival for staff development. My session was on the subject of Emotionally Intelligent Leadership. I used the cards to help stimulate participants to identify five talents and to share these in small groups. This helped open up a discussion about why it is so hard to talk about what we do well and the implications of this for our management style.
I used the beautiful Picture This cards later on in the session when I asked the participants to identify images of self-control. The cards were great at moving them beyond the normal brainstorming of words into a more creative space—and the cards looked great as a display! I had to stop people taking them home with them. Several participants commented about how wonderful the cards are.
So a big thankyou for producing such beautiful resources. I will be recommending and using them at the Advanced Facilitators programme I am running later in the year. I hope this will stimulate some more interest in the UK!
Christine Bell, Director, Real Life Learning (Leeds, UK)
Picturing Community Aspirations in the Western Downs, QLD (excerpt from SOON, May 2015)
My research into ‘Understanding Community Aspirations’ explored the social and economic aspects of coal seam gas development in the Western Downs of Southern Queensland. We used Picture This with several focus groups in the rural community, including a local craft group, a Landcare group, social service providers and a group of young people. We also supplemented the cards with some images compiled from an existing Community Development Plan.
To introduce the cards, we invited people to imagine themselves in a future 10-15 years from now in which they were content with the way things had turned out. We spread the cards out on the table and asked people to select two or three cards that captured a sense of that future. Then we invited participants to take turns talking about the images they had selected and what the pictures represented.
People were pretty comfortable with the exercise and seemed to enjoy the process of finding the images that they wanted. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the selected images captured aspects of life that are important to them now, such as a rural way of life where farming persists, incorporating community spirit, family, recreation and a healthy environment. Economic stability was also important and there was acknowledgement that an influx of new families and cultures brought benefits to the area.
Many of the cards selected were fairly literal representations of what people chose to talk about. But there were a few used more as metaphors too. For example, the image of the overlapping umbrellas was used to talk about the need for an overarching structure, representing a desire for development efforts in the region to be interconnected in order to provide stability.
The findings of this work and other research being conducted by my CSIRO colleagues have been presented at a local forum where we invited discussion and feedback on what we’d presented. Currently I’m preparing a more extensive collation of the images, organised into themes, with quotes illustrating what the images represented for the people who selected them.
Rachel Williams, Social Scientist in CSIRO’s Division of Ecosystem Sciences (Australia)