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Imagination in Art and Photography

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During one of the first photography classes of the semester, I presented my students with photographs of a flower being used in different ways. In one photograph, a girl had plugged a set of headphones into the flower’s stem. In another, the flower was attached to a key chain and being used to open a door. “You can’t listen to a flower!” “You can’t open a door with a flower!” My students told me it was impossible. I disagreed.

Examples of a flower being used in different ways.

Each week, Triple Exposure classes strive to teach students that anything is possible through art and photography. That lesson is critical not only for children of all ages and nationalities, but especially for children from underserved communities in Nablus and the West Bank, where creativity and imagination are not sufficiently nurtured. According to a 2007 report from UNESCO and Save the Children UK, creative pursuits suffered setbacks during the Second Intifada, when schools were forced to prioritize other academic objectives:

“Despite children’s need to express themselves and their desire for sports, playtime, and arts subjects, these activities were often removed in order ‘to compensate for lost days and catch up with curriculum requirements.'”

The result is a generation of Palestinian students who often struggle with the idea of creating, or even imagining, worlds that are not their own. Their struggle manifests itself daily in the Triple Exposure classroom, as teachers attempt to stimulate their creativity through art and photography, which they know can be the key to creative development. According to a 2008 article of the Early Childhood Education Journal, the “role of mental processes during art-viewing and art-making experiences goes beyond merely allowing us to see a work of art.” Engaging with art, as the article notes, allows students to exercise “the most sophisticated forms of problem-solving imaginable through the loftiest flights of the imagination.” As the following photographs demonstrate, we are getting closer and closer to the lofty flights of imagination each week.

Above, Hala, age 12, uses a water pitcher as a lamp while Rafal, also age 12, pretends a pine cone is a lion's cub.

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