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Photograph of the Future

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Taking time to notice that examples of (or symbols of) positive transformation already exist in our present reality can empower people working for change in their own communities.


“The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed” ~ William Gibson

This method gives participants a chance to quietly reflect on what kinds of change are important to them in the context of the project or issue at hand using an intuitive and visual approach. It uses the familiar technology of smart phone photography to support participants to think metaphorically/symbolically and to share insights with others.

Variation 1

Ask a specific question and request that people take a photograph that represents a response to the question. It can be a non-linear response.  

Variation 2

People can first take a photograph of where they feel they are now, and then one of where they want to be (what change looks like).


  1. The facilitator gives an overview of the assignment: participants are asked to go outside and come back with one photo that symbolizes a desirable aspect of whatever change or transformation they hope to see (related to the topic of the workshop or event). Emphasize that the photograph can be as abstract or as literal as each person wants and as intuitive or as logical.
  2. First, request that each person reflect on what types of changes or transformations they are hoping for in relation to the issue at hand. This could be prompted by a specific question, or questions, or be left more open ended.
  3. Second, they are invited to take some time alone and in silence (5 minutes or so)  to walk or sit and see what naturally grabs their attention. If it helps, people are welcome to take notes.
  4. Next, they take a photograph of an image, composition, or object that represents the change. In fact, some people may not even be certain of why they have taken the specific photograph, but through discussion can discover meaning.
  5. Participants reconvene in small groups of 3-5 people and share their experiences and photographs one at a time. Designate one person as note taker for each round of sharing. At least 2 minutes should be allowed for each person to explain their photograph without interruption and another 2-3 minutes for others in the group to ask questions or share their interpretations.  
  6. Key insights can be shared from each group to the plenary.
  7. Provide a way for photographs to be emailed or uploaded onto a central computer so that they can be shared.

Illustration by Réka Livits (visualive.eu)
Place on U
15 minutes to 3 hours
Materials Needed
Climate Change
Future Visioning
Ideation & Brainstorming
Online Engagement
Visual Learning
Deep Time
Tip and Experiences
  • Have technology ready in advance
  • This exercise can be used to feed into further work on change process or additional discussion or activities.

Relevant References & Resources

Glaw, X., Inder, K., Kable, A., & Hazelton, M. (2017). Visual methodologies in qualitative research: Autophotography and photo elicitation applied to mental health research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 16(1), 1609406917748215.

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