Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Documentary Photography project

Studying photography covers so many art standards:  exploring careers in art, discussing how images tell the story of a time and place, building a repertoire of artists, learning techniques and media. I started this  unit by introducing my students to famous photographers throughout history starting with Alfred Steiglitz, Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams. Steiglitz elevated photography to an art form by dealing with formal elements and compositing. Dorothea Lange documented the Dustbowl in a way that told stories and put a human face to suffering. She and Ansel Adams showed the world what Japanese Internment Camps looked like, and he was ahead of his time in forwarding conservation with his photos of Yosemite that brought feeling and drama to landscape.

My students walked the campus of the Academy for the Blind, looking for objects that could document what was happening. An empty pool, a Perkins Brailler, stacks of pots, waiting for horticulture students to fill them. We pulled the up on a big screen and discussed how to make compositions stronger, contrast more meaningful. I taught them how to crop and straighten. How to adjust color to change the mood. For those with no vision at all, they would find things on campus, direct the camera, take the photo, and I would then print the photo and outline it in puffy paint for them to discuss compositional issues such as negative space and scale. I'm so glad we started our year with photography, so that we could address formal issues in Art, while learning how to notice the world around us, and appreciate those who went before and taught us how to document time and place.


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