Reflection Photos:

Facilitating Intercultural Reflection with Visual Imageryreflections

by Anne P. Copeland

Published October 2012

Reflection Photos is a collection of 100 photographs you can use to elicit reflection about the process of intercultural transition. Grounded in both theory and research, it was designed initially to help people who have moved from one country to another reflect on their experience, but can also be a powerful tool for those who work in multi-cultural teams and those fac­ing other life transitions. It is an open-ended, free response tool that works well with both adults and children, in any language.

"Reflection Photos is a fantastic tool. I have used it in a variety of settings and the participants always open up about their experiences in ways that are deeply meaningful to them. By asking them to connect metaphorically to one or more visual images, the discussion quickly moves from a vague discussion of feelings to specific stories and incredible insights that would never have occurred without the use of this tool. I've noticed the tool is also effective at drawing out even the most contemplative and quiet participant."

Tina Quick
International Family Transitions
Author, The Global Nomad's Guide to University Transition

Price: $139

Includes 100 photographs (5.5"x4.25") and two blank cards printed on durable stock for frequent use (handy and well-sized for use with groups or individuals), suggestions for use, and resources for understanding the foundational models and research.

Details and Sample Ways to Use this Tool:

Because people vary in terms of their comfort thinking metaphorically, the photos range from fairly concrete

brick wal

(a roller coaster, a brick wall)

to purposefully ambiguous (a spider web in the rain, a leopard staring at the viewer).


A few of the cards include human figures varied in gender, race and age,runner

but most do not include humans at all, opening up the possibilities for use in story-telling, self-reflection and sharing. The photos were taken around the world, but only a few include identifiable landmarks.


They therefore will appeal to the globally mobile while still being relevant at a metaphoric level to all.


Landscapes evoke such emotions as tranquility, nurturance or danger regardless of where they were taken.


Visually strong and appealing images of flowers, animals, household objects all become tools for people to examine their experience and tell their stories.

The photos are large enough (5.5x4.25 inches) to be used with individuals or in groups:

  • small groups (for example, support groups of ex­patriate spouses or global teams, or language classes),
  • large groups (for example, ice breakers or team-building activi­ties for conferences, or
  • individuals (for example, coaching or therapy clients, relocation training participants).

There are no rules for how to use these cards, but here is a sample of the suggestions for use that are included with the tool:

Speak to Me. "Think about your [expatriate experience] so far. Pick 1-3 photos that 'speak to you' about your [intercultural experience]. With a partner or in a small group, describe why you picked each photo. If another person's connection to a photo is very different from your own reaction, discuss these different points of view as interesting examples of how people view the world differently."

On the Road. "Think about the different phases of transition, based on the model we have just discussed." [See description of models at the end of the guide included with the tool]. "Pick one photo that captures where you are in your transition right now, one that captures where you've been, and one for where you would like to be in the future. Would the people who know you well be surprised at the cards you chose?"

Best and Worst. [For small, on-going work groups] "Pick two cards, as a group, that capture the best and worst moments of your work together and describe why you chose those."

My Best Seller. "Think of your intercultural story to date as if it were a book you'd written. Pick the photo that would appear on the cover and write a title for the book." [If you have time, participants could also pick 4-8 photos, each to illustrate a different chapter of the book they would write.]




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