Photographs of familiar and unfamiliar environments are used extensively in studies about areas around the world. The study reported here describes a pilot investigation of how 27 Australian secondary school adolescent students understood and interpreted a familiar environment (represented by Australia) and unfamiliar environments (represented by Singapore and Hong Kong) through 18 coloured photographs. Few of these adolescent students had visited Singapore or Hong Kong, but most of them have travelled in their home country, Australia. They have viewed more of the Australian environment than the Asian environments through media such as television.
The results from this pilot study revealed considerable variation in their understanding of Australian as opposed to Asian environments. The familiar Australian environments were described in physical and human terms whereas the less familiar Asian environments were described in human and cultural terms. Qualitatively different conceptions were also derived from the adolescent students' interpretation of land use and environment from these photographs.