Popular Education in Revolutionary Times: Reflecting on Nicaragua's Popular Education Program in the 1980s

4. Analysis

The struggle to adapt to a collaborative model is reflexive of the more individualistic mindset that is typically taught in formal educational settings. People who are trained in these settings are taught to value individual authorship, credit, and publications and, generally work in a more competitive atmosphere. There’s a certain aspect of ego that is fostered within these environments, as photographers develop their own aesthetics and skills and attempt to create work that stands out and comes be recognize as “their own” through a unique identifying style. It was enlightening to see how adapting to the collaborative model entails more than just being willing to learn and share with and from others, but also requires individuals to undo years of training and mental positioning of one’s self as photographer. There’s a struggle between giving up this control, and opening one’s self to the richness that comes out developing a collective project. Within photography at times individualistic approaches lead photographers to take a picture and, as “owners” of that photograph they may edit and publish it in ways that are reflective of their own style, but that might feel foreign, unfair or voyeuristic to the photographer’s subjects. This risk is especially present when photographers are travelling to take pictures in different socio-cultural contexts or more marginalized settings. However, engaging in a collaborative process with the community, working with them to ensure that the picture taken and edited shares a message that is jointly developed can be instrumental in preventing this. As such, collaborative approaches to education, but also photography as a field of work, are important not only in terms of developing richer more inclusive knowledge, but also in terms of addressing ethical concerns that arise from individualistic approaches to creating this knowledge.

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