Lessons

Text + Context in Blue Sky Days

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Image by Tomas van Houtryve. United States, 2014.

“Baseball practice in Montgomery County, Maryland. According to records obtained from the FAA, which issued 1,428 domestic drone permits between 2007 and early 2013, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Navy have applied for drone authorization in Montgomery County.” Image by Tomas van Houtryve. United States, 2014.

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Image by Tomas van Houtryve. United States, 2014.

Introducing the Lesson:

1. Open the "Text and Context" worksheet and examine the definitions of "text" and "context." They are also listed below. Prepare to discuss the definitions.

Text: Written or printed words; a coherent set of signs that transmits some kind of informative message

The word text has its origins in Quintilian's book on speeches (approx A.D. 95), with the statement that "after you have chosen your words, they must be weaved together into a fine and delicate fabric," with the Latin for fabric being textum.

Context: The situation within which something exists or happens, and that can help explain it

from con- ‘together’ + texere ‘to weave.’

Analyzing Images (Slides 1-13):

Open the PowerPoint to analyze images with and without their captions. If possible, project the images on a large screen so that all students can view the image together. Each image should initially be projected without a caption. Before advancing to the slide that reveals the caption, respond to the following prompts for each image:

1. Without context, write a caption for this image:  

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

2. What do you notice in this photo that is factual, identifiable, and evidence-based? (not your opinion)

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

3. What do you imagine is going on here?

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

Analyzing Images from Tomas van Houtryve's "Blue Sky Days" (Slides 14-18):

Using the attached worksheet, respond to the following prompts for each photo:

1. Without context, write a caption for this image:

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

2. What do you notice in this photo that is factual, identifiable, and evidence-based? (not your opinion)

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

3. What do you imagine is going on here?

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

Meet the Journalist: Tomas van Houtryve 

Watch the attached short film by Tomas van Houtryve, which investigates van Houtryve's inspiration for the images. Here is a cut of the short film with edits by Diana Greene, based on Brian Storm, which can also be used to introduce the context for "Blue Sky Days."

After viewing the film, respond to prompts 4 and 5 (also listed below) for each photo on the worksheet.

 

4. With context, write a caption for this image:

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

5. How does context change your understanding of this image?

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

Discussion Questions:

Consider the following questions. Be prepared to share your responses with the class.

  1. How does the context of an image change a viewer's understanding of the image?
  2. What reporting do you think Tomas van Houtryve did to create the film "Blue Sky Days"
  3. What additional questions do you have for Tomas van Hourtyve about these images?

Extension Activities:

1. Connect with Tomas van Houtryve directly by emailing education@pulitzercenter.org to set up a Skype conversation with your class. When meeting with van Houtryve, use the questions you devised in step 6 of this process to gain a better understanding of how he used research to inform his photographs.

2. Extend your analysis of "Blue Sky Days" by designing your own project that uses research to inform photographs and captions from your own community.
 
 
Educator Notes: 

This lesson was part of a longer workshop that introduces students to ways in which text can provide context for images. The workshop was facilitated at the Arts Based School in Winston-Salem, NC and resulted in a student photography exhibition. After learning about how the context of an image adds meaning, students practiced reporting and photography skills. They then conducted reporting in their own communities, during which they took photographs. They wrote captions for their photos that reflect the research that preceded the selection of the photo. Their goal was to provide audiences with the context for understanding the images they took in their community.

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