Friday, January 7, 2011

Echos of the Past

Yesterday I enjoyed a virtual tour of Rainbow Bridge National Monument, led by Ranger Doug Crispin. Through the magic of repeat photography we "walked" in the footsteps of the Cummings-Douglas discovery party and their native guides Nasja Begay and Jim Mike.

Repeat photography is a method by which an older photo is photographed in the scene it originally captured. An example explains it better than words.
1955 Flood and present day - Maitland, NWS Australia
In honor of the centennial of the RBNM, an adventurous group (including the grandson of one of that earliest party) attempted to trace the original route to Natural Bridges, a 19-mile excursion through treacherous Utah scrubland. How could they find the long-lost route the party took when they "discovered" the monument? The answer lay in the photographs the Cummings-Douglas party took to document their travels in 1909. As they ventured out, the 2009 travelers examined the old photos for clues. A gap in a rock, the alignment of a canyon with the peak of a distant mountain, all kinds of physical evidence guided their way. The centennial party documented their own travels, photographing the old photos against the landscape, capturing pictures in pictures. That's repeat photography!

Imagine the investigations kids could make into natural and human environments! Causal relationships, physical landmarks and perspective, photography, human impact, change over time... Imagine how seeking answers to questions about our dynamic world could be more meaningful with repeat photography.

Interested in seeing more, learning tips for repeat photography? My web scan for photos-in-photos and methods didn't yield much. The best examples I've seen so far are Ranger Doug's. The best advice for repeat photography comes from University of Texas instructor Craig Campbell's photography course.

I found some photos I'd like to rephotograph here in my hometown. I look forward to investigating the possibilities. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Designing for Change

In this TED talk, designer and innovator Emily Pilloton shares her big ideas about using design thinking to transform a rural school and the surrounding community of Bertie County, North Carolina. Pilloton does more than talk about the power of good design. She has moved her nonprofit design shop, Studio H, from San Francisco to Bertie County and become a certified teacher so that she can work directly with high school students. During the coming year, they will begin building student-designed projects--such as bus shelters or a farmer's market site--to improve their impoverished community.
The video is worth a watch for many reasons, not least of which is Pilloton's passion for this initiative. It's also a good conversation-starter about how schools work--and how they could work better, especially in places that are short on creative capital.
If the video leaves you eager to learn more about design thinking and the role it can play in K-12 education, take a look at the K-12 Laboratory at Stanford University's Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. This Edutopia article offers more information about learning through active problem-solving.