Lesson Plans

Creating Individual and Collaborative Photojournalism Exhibits

Students and parents at the Everyday DC 2017 photo exhibition opening. Image by Evey Wilson. United States, 2017.

Students and parents at the Everyday DC 2017 photo exhibition opening. Image by Evey Wilson. United States, 2017.

Note to educators: This is the seventh and final lesson in the Everyday DC unit, and all previous lessons can be found here. 

Objectives:

Students will be able to create individual photo stories and create a collaborative photography exhibition.

Warm up:

1. Post the word, "Washington, D.C." and ask students brainstorm the first images they think of when they hear "Washington, D.C." 

2. As students share words, write or type the words in a place that all students can see.

3. As a class,  discuss and list where students have gotten most of their information about Washington, D.C. News? Movies? Books?

  • If students are unfamiliar with the word media, review this word and list the different forms of media that students may engage with. When talking about news, it may also be helpful to review the terms journalist and news outlet.

4. Finally, ask students to recall stories they remember hearing from different forms of media about Washington, D.C. Ask: What stories do you remember hearing in the news? Add these topics to the list of images that students initially brainstormed when they thought about the word, "Washington, D.C."

Introducing the Lesson: Composing an Exhibition to Combat Dominant Media Stereotypes

1. Share images from Everyday DC, and ask students to share the stories they think are being communicated by the images. Students should respond to the following questions: What do you see? Based on what you see, what story do you think this image is telling about everyday life in Washington, DC.

2. Share the following video with students from the 2019 Everyday DC exhibition and ask students to consider the following:

  • What story were the student photographers trying to tell with the images? Why?
  • What project inspired the Everyday DC exhibition?

3. Share the 2020 Everyday DC virtual gallery with students. As they examine the exhibition, ask them to consider the following:

  • Which photos stand out and why? 
  • What new information do you learn from the images about everyday life in the District?
  • How do the images in the Everyday DC exhibition compare to your initial impressions of Washington, DC

4. The student curators for the 2020 Everyday DC exhibition wrote the following to describe the goal for the exhibition: "As curators, our hope is to open people’s minds about DC. A lot of people have stereotypes about this city. They might only hear or see certain stories. They might not research for themselves. We hope that this exhibit breaks barriers and changes what people think about our city." Discuss the following:

  • What stories do you most often see about D.C.? 
  • How do the stories presented in the exhibition compare to the stories you generally hear about D.C.?
  • What do you think the curators mean when they write that they hope the exhibit will "break barriers?" 

5. The Everyday DC exhibition was inspired by the Everyday Africa project. Both projects aim to use photography to present underrepresented stories about a place. Watch the first 90 seconds of the following video about Everyday Africa and analyze the goal for this project, and how the mission of Everyday Africa compares to what the 2020 Everyday DC curators said were their goals for their project.

6. Guide students in reflecting on how media represents their communities. Ask them to consider the following:

  • What stories would someone hear in the news, or other forms of media bout your community? 
  • How do the stories presented in the news compare to your experience of everyday life in your community?

For more details on how to lead this conversation, check out the lesson, "Exploring Media Representation and Bias in Photography." 

Preparing to Compose a Photography Exhibition that Combats Stereotypes and Communicates Everyday life

1. Guide students in brainstorming places, people, events and objects that represent their everyday lives. 

2. Each student should then plan and prepare 10-20 pictures that they could share to represent these places, people, events and objects.

Option 1: Students compose photos of the items they brainstormed. For support teaching photography skills, see the following lesson plans:

Telling Stories with Photographs

Practicing Photojournalism Skills

Option 2: Students look through photos they already have in their phones/cameras, or photos they can find online, to identify images that represent their everyday lives.

3.  Students select their favorite 3-5 images. For more information on how to select strong images, finish watching the video above. 

4. Students practice ordering their images in different groups, and analyze how different groupings of images tell different stories. 

Final Individual Project:

1. Students finalize an order for their images and lay them out as a photography exhibition. Review that this process of selecting and ordering photos for an exhibition is called curation.

2. Students write a title for this exhibition, and 2-3 sentences that describe why these images together tell the story of everyday life in their communities. To guide their curation, use the following reflections from students KJ and Likuye about their exeperiences curating the 2020 Everyday DC exhibition:

3. Students compose captions for their photos that explain what is happening in each image (who, what, where when) and why these images represent their experience of everyday life in their communities. For support writing captions, students can engage with the following lesson plan: Captioning and Curating Photography

4. Students display their exhibitions (images with captions, exhibition title and introductory text), and review the exhibitions created by their classmates. 

5. After students review each others' work, use the following to guide a discussion reflecting on their experience as curators:

  • What elements did you love about exhibitions designed by your classmates?
  • How were the exhibitions alike? How were they different?
  • What stories were others telling about everyday life in your community? How did they use photos to tell their stories?

Final Collaborative Project:

1. In small groups, students select and order images from among their individual exhibitions to create a new exhibition of 3-5 photos based on a shared narrative or topic of inquiry.

2.Students write a title to describe this new exhibition, and write a title for the exhibit they created with the members of their group.

3. All groups display their new exhibits together as part of a class-wide exhibition of everyday life in their communities.

4. Option: Use the following steps to guide the class in writing an introductory text to accompany their exhibition

a. Take notes as students respond to the following questions: What stories do these images tell about everyday life in your community? How do these stories compare to how your community is represented in the news and other media? What do you want viewers to learn about your community from this exhibition?

b. Using your notes, compose a short introductory text for the exhibition. 

c. Share this draft text with students and work with them to edit. The goal of the final text is to communicate the following: Why did you create this exhibition, what stories does it tell, and what do you hope that people will learn or question after viewing this exhibition.

Optional: This project can be displayed on a wall in the classroom or at an approved location in the school. The Pulitzer Center would also love to display your exhibition on the Center website! Contact education@pulitzercenter.org to share your final projects!


A student curator stands in front of their finished wall at the Fourth Annual Everyday DC exhibit. Washington, D.C. 2020

Reflection: 

Reflect as a class on what students have learned using the following discussion questions:

  1. What is one word that you can use to describe what preparing and curating an exhibition was like for you?
  2. What is something you learned that surprised you?
  3. What was your favorite part? Your least favorite?
  4. What new information did you learn about Washington, DC and the African continent as part of this project?
  5. What new information did you learn about the ways that images are composed to tell some stories, and exclude other stories?

Finally, encourage your students to follow @everydayafrica on Instagram, and feel free to share their work and insights with education@pulitzercenter.org

Optional Extensions:

Photos may also be shared by the Pulitzer Center through posts on the education blog. The Center is also willing to promote individual school exhibitions in support of this unit.

There are also opportunities to connect with students in cities and counties across the United States through the Pulitzer Center education team — please contact education@pulitzercenter.org to learn more. 

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. 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 project is a response to the common media portrayal of the African continent as a place consumed by war, poverty, and disease.

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:Cr1.2.8a:

Collaboratively shape an artistic investigation of an aspect of present-day life using a contemporary practice of art and design.

VA:Cr2.2.7a:

Demonstrate awareness of ethical responsibility to oneself and others when posting and sharing images and other materials through the Internet, social media, and other communication formats.

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.

Through the Pulitzer Center, teachers have the option to connect professional photojournalists with their class in-person or via Skype for this unit. To schedule a classroom visit, or for other questions about this unit, contact education@pulitzercenter.org.

This curriculum was designed by Fareed Mostoufi (Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting) & Andrew Westover (DCPS).

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