Several months ago, I was invited to participate in Career Day at my sons’ elementary school. I’ve done freelance photography on the side for several years, and though I could have presented about the kinds of photography I do, I decided to go a different route.
Here is my thought process.
Photography is a skill, a multifaceted skill that combines art, math, science, and technology. A photographer learns the craft by studying artistic principles, the science of light and motion, math to calculate focal length and angles of view and ratios, and an ever growing multitude of technology hardware and software. Photography is a skill that can be used in many careers in many different ways: science, engineering, teaching, medicine, marketing and advertising, the arts, and others.
So for my 20-minute talk with groups of fourth and fifth graders, I created a presentation that had a dozen photos, each aligned to a certain idea of what photography is and does. I cannot say that my presentation is comprehensive, because I only had 20 minutes. As I led them through the photos, we talked about each one and what they saw, what they felt, the stories and messages in the images, and the purpose of each. Here are the ideas we talked about:
- Photography captures memories.
- Photography helps us visualize something we read about.
- Photography captures the world around us.
- Photography freezes time.
- Photography tells stories.
- Photography teaches.
- Photography influences our opinions and purchasing habits.
- Photography pushes the boundaries of our imaginations and technology.
- Photography helps us see things in a different way.
The students also learned a few tips for making their own photographs for science fair projects.
As I reflected on my time with those students, I have considered the role of photography in education, and how students can learn to tell stories with images. The stories can be about almost anything they do. My own sons have avidly enjoyed the Lego Animation Club at their school, and create elaborate Lego setups that they photograph and string together for stop-motion video. Play, photography, storytelling, and technology combined. Give a child some Legos and an iPad, and let the storytelling begin.
Posting my presentation online would violate copyright on some of the images, so I have listed the photographers whose works I shared with a description of the images used.
Destitute peapickers in California; a 32 year old mother of seven children. February 1936, via the Library of Congress. No restrictions. (http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/128_migm.html)
Irradiating Food to Perfection (http://g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images/G/01/books/hopub/images/MC1._V181696795_.jpg)
Unidentified insect (http://www.johnhallmen.se/studio-stacks/sgm9qhk9ogfwl7v8afsorehtk1q7xf)
Visible View of Pillar and Jets HH 901/902 (http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/star/pr2010013c/)
Got Milk ad with Apolo Ohno (http://artworkshollywood.blogspot.com/2010/10/got-milk-apolo-anton-ohno.html)
Untitled 1976 (image of a room in a house with open sky above), (http://www.uelsmann.net/works.php)
Southern Guangxi Province, China (http://www.treyratcliff.com/photograph-detail/?rid=1&min=1&max=21)