Graduate School Graubünden

September 26, 2019 – September 27, 2019

A Reflective Lens on Environmental Photography

This is a highly interactive workshop with both theoretical and practical components, focused on developing participants’ observational, technical and creative skills. It will assist participants to improve the impact and interpretative power of imagery in the presentation of their research. In particular, it will explore the relationships between aesthetics, ecology and environmental photography.

Images of the natural world have been pivotal to documenting environmental changes and issues since the ‘environmental awakening’ of the 1960s. They have served to open up new awareness and understanding of the natural world. However, effectively portraying these issues is challenging, not just because of the increasingly image-saturated world we inhabit, but also because of the often subtle and gradual nature of environmental change that is not always visually obvious. This workshop goes beyond the literal representations of ‘nature photography’ to address the thought processes behind creating compelling and meaningful visual stories.

Please note: For the practical part you can use any kind of camera/phone.

TRAINERAlison Pouliot, PhD /
DATES & TIMEThursday, September 26, 2019 & Friday, September 27, 2019, (both days from 09:00 am to 05:00 pm)

The workshop begins with a discussion of participants’ interest in environmental photography and challenges or issues they might have experienced. This conversation will shape the direction and thematic emphasis of the workshop. The discussion will then address pertinent questions, such as:

  • The role of photography in the production of meaning. How can images be used to bridge the different interpretations of environmental concepts across disciplines? How can they help calibrate issues that occur on different temporal and spatial scales?

  • How can images relay the urgent nature of environmental issues and make them tangible to lay audiences? How can they be used convey not just scientific concepts and improve environmental literacy, but also to evoke an environmental ethic?

  • How has the popularization and visualization of the environment, such as the notion of biodiversity, influenced public knowledge and engagement in environmental issues? How can images evoke emotions that do not necessarily translate to linguistic form?

THURSDAY (times may be slightly adapted depending on excursion)
09:00 Introduction to environmental photography
09:15 Discussion of participants' environmental photography projects, issues and challenges and areas of thematic interest.
10:00 Discussion and illustrated and interactive seminar covering

  • Purpose of the image – 'Informational' and 'inspirational' images – pinpointing whether the image aims to impart information or to elicit emotional responses. From here we will explore the tensions and intersections between aesthetics and scientific photography.

10:30 Tea break
10:45 Seminar and discussion continued with suggested themes:
  • Developing visual concepts – Environmental issues are complex and the photographer needs to determine not just the purpose of the image, but have a well-developed concept of both the subject and the principles and techniques necessary to convey it visually. Some environmental subjects are more amenable to visual representation than others. Knowing what to photograph (and what not to photograph and describe in words instead) requires and intimate understanding of the subject and the dynamic between images and text.

  • The role of photography in communicating environmental history – Unpacking the myth of the image as a neutral representation of reality and the interplay of political and social influence.

  • Literal and allegorical images – Conveying visual metaphors and the importance of cultural context. Understanding and developing nuance in composition and exposure.
12:15 Lunch break
13:15 Critique exercise
  • Working in cross-disciplinary groups, participants will critique a series of hardcopy images in the light of the morning's conversation. What makes some images convincing and compelling and others banal?

14:30 Field Trip
  • The field trip will focus on developing observational skills and critical awareness and being able to anticipate photo opportunities in both space and time. Several themes will be set and participants will be asked to provide two images for tomorrow's critique session.

16:30 Return to seminar room and discussion of image selection process and file naming protocols.
17:00 Close

FRIDAY (times may be slightly adapted depending on excursion)
9:00 Critique Session

  • Through a guided and constructive critique session we will view and discuss participants’ images and whether they were able to achieve what they intended, and if not, how we can help them achieve their aims.

11:00 Tea-break
11:15 Overview and illustrated demonstration of photo techniques in the context of environmental photography. These could include:
  • Camera operation

  • Photographic principles

  • File formats

  • Photographic technique

  • Metadata management

12:15 Lunch
13:30 Field trip to put photographic techniques and principles into practice around a set of environmental themes.
15:45 Return to seminar room. Discussion of portfolio preparation and assessment.
17:00 Close

TARGET AUDIENCEThis workshop is open to researchers of all stages from member institutions of Academia Raetica and people interested in environmental photography.
CONTACT Course Coordinator: Daniela Heinen,, phone 081 410 60 80
CREDIT POINTSAs part of the course students will prepare an environmental photography portfolio for assessment (total hours: 30 including portfolio preparation) enabling them to apply for credits with their institutions. Please check with your su­pervisor at your university, if the course counts towards ECTS.
COURSE CERTIFICATEYou will receive a certificate of attendance, if you attend the entire course.
REGISTRATIONSign up here. Deadline for registration: September 18, 2019. You will receive a confirmation of your registration within a few days after your registration.
CANCELLATION POLICYWe ex­pect you to be pre­sent for the full du­ra­ti­on of the cour­se. Please see our Terms of Participation for details. (Terms in German)
COSTThe course fee is CHF 150 for staff of Academia Raetica member institutions and students and PhD students. All other CHF 250. The amount is payable ten days prior to the course. You will receive an invoice and our bank details in due time.

About the Trainer
Alison Pouliot, BSc (Hons) (Zoology), BA (Philosophy), PhD (Environmental History) is an ecologist and environmental photographer. She has presented over 350 environmental photography and ecology workshops and seminars in Australia and internationally, within the education, environmental and photographic industries. Alison greatly enjoys working with people from all walks of life to better understand and appreciate the environment and environmental issues and to represent them visually.

Course outline 09-19 Environmental Photography (PDF)