Students will examine photographs and identify their different functions (documentary, persuasive, portraiture).
National Core Standards
Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work
One class period
Paper or blank cards
Cut-out or printed photographic images from magazines, online images, newspapers, family photos, posters, pamphlets, diagrams, billboards, etc.
Before class: ask students to bring in several (at least ten) photographic images from newspapers, books, magazines, online, recipe books, student ID cards, galleries, diagrams, illustrations, posters pamphlets, billboards, etc.
Before students enter, place bright labels on tables around the classroom with the following words: Teach, Buy Me!, News, Real Story, Made-Up Story, Discovery, Persuasion (Believe Me!)
Photographs have various functions. Family snapshots preserve memories and help document relationships between loved ones and the passage of time. Travel photographs provide visual documentation of faraway places. Portraits preserve the likeness and characteristics of a person, family, or group. Sport photographs reveal action and the intensity of physical endeavors. Documentary photographs provide a candid, seemingly objective record of a cultural, social, or political event. Advertising photographs present a stylized, enhanced view in an effort to entice people to make purchases. Scientific photographs document subjects of investigation to record and share information including microscopic and telescopic views. Fine art photographs reveal an artist’s personal perspective.
Students should look at their photographs and consider: ● Does this photograph teach us something? ● Document an event or situation? ● Encourage the viewer to make a purchase? ● Tell a story about an actual event? ● Tell a story about a fictional event? ● Does this photograph reveal something? ● Persuade us to believe a certain political viewpoint?
Students place their pictures on the table with the best description of the function of their photograph. After they have placed their photographs on tables ask them to stand next to one of their favorite photographs—not necessarily one they brought in. Go around the room and ask each student to say quickly why they put it on that table. Have them sit down at that table and write a sentence about what they just said on a card or separate piece of paper. What clues in the image tell the viewer the answers to these questions? Can an image have more than one function?