Lesson Plans

Composing Photographs and Creating Exhibition Narratives

DC students curate the 2017 Everyday DC photography exhibition. Image by Evey Wilson. United States, 2017.

DC students curate the 2017 Everyday DC photography exhibition. Image by Evey Wilson. United States, 2017.

Note to educators: this is the sixth of seven lessons in the Everyday DC unit, and all seven lessons can be found here

Objectives:

Students will be able to apply photographic techniques to take photos of a selected environment and practice curating photos to convey specific themes/narratives in exhibitions.

Warm-up:

  1. Guide students in a discussion that responds to the following questions:
    • Look around the classroom. What objects do you see? Make a list!
    • What might a person who sees these objects learn about our classroom? What stories do these objects tell about everyday life in this class?
    • What are some different ways you could photograph these objects to make them look interesting to someone who has seen them before?
  2. Review the term photojournalist, and explain that today's lesson will ask students to work as photojournalists to communicate their everyday lives to people who might never have been to their communities.

Introducing the Lesson:

  1. Share the following video from photojournalist Allison Shelley, who describes the different types of photos that she uses to communicate stories of everyday life in three African countries as part of the Everyday Africa project. As students watch the video, ask them to consider the following:
    • What are the four types of photos that Shelley uses to communicate stories as a photojournalist?
    • What images popped from the video, and why? What stories do those images tell about life in the countries that Shelley visited?
    • How do Shelley's images compare to other images you have seen from the African continent? 
  2. After discussing the questions above, review the mission of the Everyday Africa project by sharing the first 90 seconds of the video below. 
  3. Then, ask students to brainstorm the following as a class:
    • What images might people in other countries see of your community if they were to search for images online? How do those images compare to what your everyday life ACTUALLY looks like?
    • What are dominant media stereotypes of your community?
    • What images do you think should be used to represent everyday life in your community? For example, if you could photography one object from this classroom, which would it be and why?
  4. Finally, guide students in create a list of photos that they could compose to more accurately communicate everyday life in their communities. Their list should include at least one portrait, detail, landscape and action shot.

Extension Activity 1: Photographing places and environments

1. On their own, or with a partner, guide students in composing photos that communicate stories from their everyday lives. If students need to stay in the classroom, ask them to practice taking portrait, detail, landscape and action shots in the classroom that communicate their everyday experiences at school. 

2. Ask students to choose 2-3 pictures that represent their everyday lives.

3. In pairs, students share the 2-3 pictures they selected and engage their partners in a discussion about what stories these images convey about everyday life in their communities. As students listen to their partners' respones, they should reflect on the following questions:

  1. [Without telling them what they hoped to convey] Did my partner see what I hoped to convey in the image?
  2. If not, what did they see?
  3. If they didn't see what I hoped, how can I change its composition so that my ideas are clear?

4. Based on their partner's responses, allow students time to retake photos they want to revise. 

Extension Activity 2: Curation practice

1. As a class, discuss the components of exhibition curation:

  • Establishing anchor pieces for an exhibition
  • Experimenting with how photos are placed and how various placements communicate different themes
  • Writing exhibition titles and descriptions that introduce viewers to the context for an exhibition.

Optional: As a class, view the remaining 8.5 minutes of the film above by Everyday Africa co-founder Peter DiCampo. In the rest of the film, DiCampo describes techniques that he uses to take and select photos.

2. Then, share a selection of Everyday Africa images with students and ask them to organize the images into three exhibitions. The first exhibition should include 10 photos. The next should include only five photos. The final exhibtion should include three photos. 

3. Ask students to write a title describe the story they hope to tell with the three images they selected.

4. Guide students in writing short descriptions that guide the viewer’s experience of their three-image exhibition. Use the following questions as a guide:

  • What themes did you identify when you selected your photos?
  • How do the images fit together (by color, line shape, theme, etc)?
  • What text can accompany your images so that they mean more to the viewer?

5. Break students into groups of 3-5. In their groups, students use the following steps to compose an exhibition representing everyday life in their communities

a. Each student shares the 2-3 images they composed in Extension Activity 1. 

b. After reviewing images by all students, the group works to compose an exhibition that includes at least one image by each student in the group.

c. Once the images have been selected, the group creates a title for their exhibition. 

d. Finally, students work together to compose a short description that guides a viewer's experience of their exhibition. In their descriptions, students should explain the story they hope that their exhibition tells about their communities and how these images tell that story.


Students drafting language to describe their curation visition for the 2020 Everyday DC exhibit. Washington, D.C. 2020 

Assessment:

Students apply photographic techniques and practice curating photos to convey specific themes/narratives in exhibitions.

Sample rubric:

Standard

Exceeds Expectation

Meets Expectation

Needs Improvement

VA:Pr5.1.8a: Collaboratively prepare and present selected theme based artwork for display, and formulate exhibition narratives for the viewer.

 

 

 

 

 

VA:Re.7.2.6a: Analyze ways that visual components and cultural associations suggested by images influence ideas, emotions, and actions.

 

 

 

Educator Notes: 

This lesson plan adapts exercises and activities developed as part of the Everyday DC unit, which was written by Pulitzer Center and D.C. Public Schools. Here is a link to the original PDF for this lesson, which was designed by Fareed Mostoufi (Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting) & Andrew Westover (DCPS).

This photography and curation unit is inspired by the Everyday Africa project created by journalists Peter DiCampo and Austin Merrill and supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Everyday Africa, a collection of images shot on mobile phones across the continent, is an attempt to redirect focus toward a more accurate understanding of what most Africans experience on a day-to-day basis: normal life. 

The Everyday DC cornerstone unit is an opportunity for students to apply photography, photo analysis, and investigative reporting skills to the creation of photo essays that reflect their everyday realities as residents of Washington D.C. Students will create group photo exhibitions that they feel accurately and responsibly represent their communities. Participating schools had the opportunity collaborate with DCPS and the Pulitzer Center to select students who will help curate a district-wide Everyday DC exhibition featuring images from all schools participating in the unit. For support creating a photojournalism project with your students, contact education@pulitzercenter.org.

DCPS Standards:

VA:Pr5.1.8a:

Collaboratively prepare and present selected theme based artwork for display, and formulate exhibition narratives for the viewer.

VA:Re.7.2.6a:

Analyze ways that visual components and cultural associations suggested by images influence ideas, emotions, and actions.

Additional Resources:

For an easily accessible PDF containing images from Everyday Africa, please click here.

For a PDF containing images from last year's Everyday DC exhibition, please click here.

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