Beck, R. J. (2009). The cultivation of students’ metaphoric imagination of peace in a creative photography program. International Journal of Education & the Arts, 10(18).


The purpose of Picturing Peace, a digital photography program conducted in 4th and 5th grade classrooms in the U. S. and Northern Ireland, was to enhance students’ photographic skills to create visual metaphors of the concept of peace. Two principal research questions were addressed: (a) Could 9-10 year-old students create apt and imaginative photographic metaphors of peace? (b) Would students in diverse cultures produce comparable photographs of peace? A model of peace, metaphoric imagination, and metaphoric interpretation was researched to test the effectiveness of metaphors in promoting visual understanding of peace. Barthes’ (1981) critical framework of connotative procedures and linguistic metaphors were used to judge the aptness and imaginativeness of student photographs. Analysis of an archive of approximately 2500 photographs revealed several typical images of peace common to the following three settings: nature, sun/light, community, diversity, place, peace signs, children play, children care, spirituality, and body/hands as subjects. Implications were drawn for the status of the student photographs as metaphors, pictorial concepts, and/or allegories.

Beck, Robert J. Cummins, Jonathan, & Yep, Jasmine (2005). Picturing Peace: Local and Universal Symbols in Three Cultures (2005), Journal of Learning through the Arts, 1-44.


The Picturing Peace program is an ArtsBridge collaboration in which college visual arts majors in one-semester programs help middle school students learn to use digital cameras in order to communicate their feelings and ideas about peace. From 2002-2005, Picturing Peace programs have been offered in nine local schools in Southern California, Belfast, Northern Ireland and Appleton, Wisconsin. The primary purposes of the program are to develop students’ visual thinking, creative photography, digital camera technology skill, and to expand their feelings and understandings of peace. The program employed a concept-oriented pedagogy in which learning is associated with the construction of particulars from abstract ideas (Davydov, 1972; Vygotsky, 1986; Kozulin, 1990; Shotter, 1995). Using the word, peace, and other associated ideas, such as friendship, harmony, and balance as prompts, the students were guided to take photographs visualizing and concretizing the various concepts. But the program also intended to engage young people in the cause of peace and motivate them to use photography to heighten consciousness of peace. The interests of the investigators embraced all of these objectives, but also included conceptual aims in developing models and curricular approaches for concept-based instruction and analyzing the impact of cultural-geographic settings and curricular programs on the form and content of the students’ photographs. It was expected that the three geographic regions and their associated cultures and physical landscapes would undoubtedly influence the look and likely meanings of the pictures. But it was also anticipated that all three cultures would share some common imagery and meaning to communicate students’ feelings and ideas about peace. The role of individual sources of meaning in photographs was also a focus. From an analysis of these pre-adolescent photographs among the three cultures, we propose to derive a preliminary model of culturally-specific and universally shared categories of meanings of peace in this age group. The model should be useful in adapting the Picturing Peace program to the instruction of new student cultures and individual photographers.