Comprehensive looking you also have to learn! Looking is the very first strategy in your life to relate to the world around you. Your brain makes a blueprint in your visual memory of everything you see. You recognize the objects you often see, based on a number of characteristic features. The older you get and the more visual experience you gain (it happens in an amazing tempo involving all screens we see in our daily life), the faster you learn to process visual information. Marije Visser (2016) ‘What do you see?’ in Prikkels (Dutch culture magazine for primary schools).
“When we have a lot of visual experience, we are able to look in a superficially scanning way, filter information and quickly find our way; for instance to the correct answer to a question.”
We notice that when we look at photographs with young people and children, they often try to answers questions without really looking in detail at what they see. They try to find the desired answer instead of opening up to their own observations. We give a lot of attention in FOTODOK’s educational program to discovering and researching as an activity. What do you see? What is it about? How do you know? How can you find that out? What do you think of it? How is it made? To wonder, unveil, reflect; through learning by doing pupils get more and more fascinated by photography.
Comprehensive looking from ‘nice to know’ to ‘need to know’
People and devises exchange data, text, audio and video in great quantities through many multimedia channels. Societal and economical innovation builds on the ability to handle this exchange. This comprises also the ability to understand information and use it with purpose. In the view of KNAW (Dutch scientific research institute), competencies to handle digital information and use them purposefully as well as being able to reflect on the impact, are very important in the 21stcentury. They are as essential as competencies in language and arithmetic, as is the insight in its meaning and consequences.
The Social and Cultural Planning Bureau has calculated that the importance of images as information source is growing. We spend daily three hours looking at images and only one and a half hour at reading. Visual literacy, image literacy, comprehensive looking or whatever you call it, is an important skill that needs to be developed. For FOTODOK, comprehensive looking should change from nice to know to need to know.
Since FOTODOK’s start in 2018, we have focused on the development of comprehensive looking of all visitors. But there is still much work to do, and the best place is at the heart of all learning activities: school. At school we learn how to read and understand a literary text. Information about time, background of the writer and the symbolic meaning of words make that we understand a text and that we are able to make choices in what literature offers us. When we look at the areas of photography and visual culture, this is hardly the case. Looking comprehensively is a crucial ability to be able to read a photo series, but it also learns you how to interpret and evaluate images on the Internet, in advertising and in daily life.
For FOTODOK, this comprehensive looking plays an important role on different levels, together with media literacy competences and 21stcentury skills in what SLO (foundation for curriculum development) rightly calls ‘the curriculum of the future’. It helps us understand the narrative of images and how it is achieved, but it also helps us understand how a maker can create stories with images. For this you need certain basic skills. It’s also relevant to discover that understanding is linked to the context of a presentation. FOTODOK has an important part in this development by participating actively through exhibitions, presentations, debate, and educative programs in schools and at our location in Utrecht.