Ana Laura Rivarola, what’s the topic of your final thesis?
As a photographer, I have always been fascinated by deconstructing the graphic elements of what I see whenever I take a photo, by discovering new ways of showing what often cannot be seen, and by pushing myself to go beyond the usual representation of a particular object by playing with abstraction. I enjoy creating photos that do not have a single meaning, that can be re-appropriated and given new significances in different contexts. On this journey, the works of several well-known photographers from the last century – mainly from the constructivist and modernist movements – that capture reality from a different perspective had a deep impact on me deeply. As the Bauhaus painter and photographer László Moholy-Nagy demonstrated through his work, “abstract photographs are an invitation to re-evaluate our way of seeing.”
Furthermore, in my many years’ experience as a childhood educator working mostly through art, music and photography, I learnt a lot from the children’s fresh gaze, imagination, and open attitude towards experimenting and discovering new things. They showed me a variety of points of view (sometimes literally), and I often observed with fascination how young kids relate to visual stimuli and are able to come up with creative solutions and unexpected reasonings. For me, creativity has always been for me both the fuel and the outcome of working with children.
This experience prompted me to write my thesis on this subject.
How can you and your work contribute to the future of our society in terms of the current environmental, political, and/or economic challenges we face today? How do you judge your scope of action in this respect?
Creativity often requires connecting apparently unconnected dots from a variety of sources, identifying analogies and patterns between disparate elements. It is listed first in the top three skills required for 2030 as predicted by the World Economic Forum, followed by critical thinking and decision making. In this context, Design Thinking is presented as more than just an skill to be acquired and used in limited situations; it is a tool that helps us look at and face the challenges around us.
Based on different case studies with children, my research seeks to point out and outline in which way the practice of abstract photography can trigger creativity and promote a creative mindset in terms of: (a) reframing, redefinition, and isolation of visual information; (b) identification of analogies, associations, and connections; © divergent thinking, multiple perspectives, and extrapolation of visual stimuli; and (d) critical observation and situational awareness.
As a medium, photography has been considered purely concrete, intimately related to the things that are in front of the camera. Even though this link to reality creates the delusion that the images are always of something, photography does not always have to limit its subject matter to the actual representation of something else. Instead, abstract photography allows us to prioritize pattern, shape, and form over the object being photographed in order to create a new image that stands independent of the original subject and does not necessarily generate a rational or logical response.
Working with abstraction encourages us to look at things differently and provides us with the pleasure of creating something which is truly unique, while being fun and even liberating at the same time. I am convinced that “the camera is an instrument that teaches people to see without a camera.” (Dorothea Lange).
Pre-visualising and thinking in abstraction are proven methods of enhancing creativity. Hence, what happens when children are encouraged to experiment with abstract photography? Maybe you should also give it a try!
Where do you think your professional journey will take you after completing your studies?
I am open to new challenges in the fields of visual communication and education. Ana Laura is a creative Paraguayan-Italian photographer and childhood educator currently living in Basel. She studied Public Relations, Popular Education, and Photography, and worked freelance and in corporate settings in Latin America and Asia before moving to Switzerland. This MA thesis was the perfect fit to round off her theoretical background and will hopefully kick-start her personal career in Europe.
Ana Laura Rivarola on Instagram