Lesson Plans

Exploring Media Representation and Bias in Photography

Everyday Africa photo

Early cell phone photo from the Everyday Africa project. Image by Peter DiCampo.

Note for Educators: This is the first of seven lessons in the Everyday DC unit, and all seven lessons can be found here

Objective:

Students will be able to evaluate how different communities are represented through photography and other media, how media representation of different communities relates with the everyday experiences in those communities, and how photographs are intentionally composed to tell particular stories.

Warm-up: What images and stories come to mind when we first think of Africa?

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

2. As students share words that come to mind when they think of "Africa," 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 Africa. 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 Africa. 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, "Africa." Below is an example of a list created by students in Washington, D.C. in January 2020.


Students list the first words they associate with Africa as part of a workshop in Washington, DC. Image by Fareed Mostoufi. United States, 2020.

Introducing the Lesson: How are images composed to tell different stories?

1. Share online news and image searches of the word "Africa," and ask students to compare their list to the images that populate those searches. Guide students to list the details they see in the images, and then ask students to use these details as evidence when analyzing what stories they think the images are telling about the continent. 

2. Then, use a digital or physical gallery walk to guide students in analyzing images from a different set of journalists who composed images to tell stories of Africa. These images are part of the Everyday Africa project.

  • Click here to download a PDF of printable images from Everyday Africa
  • Click here for the latest images from Everyday Africa
  • Click here to share an introduction to Everyday Africa by co-founder Peter DiCampo. (Screen up to 1:30)

3. Ask students to select a favorite image and describe the story that the image tells about Africa. 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 on the African continent.

4. Students compare stories told by the the images they have chosen to the list they initially created to describe Africa. Below is an example of a list that students in Washington, DC created to document the stories they observed in the Everyday Africa images. 


Image of student brainstorming of themes which struck them while viewing Everyday Africa images. Washington, D.C. 2020

5. As they review these two lists, ask students to discuss the following:

  • How do the images from Everyday Africa compare to images of Africa that you see in other media?
  • Which images presented positive stories, and which images presented negative stories? Do you find that you see more positive or negative images about Africa in the media? Why?
  • Why do you think that some stories about Africa are told more than other stories? 
  • What is the potential impact of only seeing certain stories about a place?

Option: While reviewing the images from Everyday Africa, briefly review the number of countries and size of the African continent. These visuals may support students' understanding of the diversity on the continent, and analysis of how the continent is represented in the media.

Discussion and Activity:

  1. Ask students to brainstorm the images they think would appear if someone were to seek images of their communities in different media. 
  2. Introduce images from news clips and articles about the students' communities/cities and ask students to evaluate how well those images represent how students experience their everyday lives. Option: Students look at images from their personal social media feeds to compare their visual experience of their city with these mass media images. 
  3. Present students with a mix of photos from their communities and photos from Everyday Africa. Students should try to determine whether their photos are from their communities, or from the Everyday Africa Instagram. Note: As students make their guesses, they should identify details from the image to justify their guess. Discuss: What new information do we learn about these communities from these images? 
    • Click here for a printable exercise that compares images from the Everyday USA and Everyday Africa Instagram feeds.
  4. Ask students to work in pairs, or on their own, to create a list of stories that are missing from these news clips and articles. 
  5. Finally, ask students to identify 5-10 photos they could take to communicate these stories to people who may never see their communities. 

Extension:

Introduce a culminating photography project inspired by the Everyday Africa project. For this project, students will be using reporting and photography to create their own photography exhibit that combats media stereotypes about their communities and more accurately communicates the stories from their everyday lives.

1) Students brainstorm themes they want to explore with their images.

2) Students explore the following lessons to develop the photography, caption-writing and curation skills to prepare their final exhibitions.

Optional: Have students devise questions they could ask a journalist contributing to Everyday Africa about how they select images. Contact education@pulitzercenter.org to then set up a virtual visit with a photojournalist who contributes to the Everyday Africa project.

Assessment:

Students evaluate how different communities are represented and how that representation relates with everyday experiences in communities.

Sample rubric:

Standard

Exceeds Expectation

Meets Expectation

Needs Improvement

VA:Pr6.1.8a: Analyze why and how an exhibition or collection may influence ideas, beliefs, and experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

VA:Re.7.1.6a: Identify and interpret works of art or design that reveal how people live around the world and what they value.

 

 

 

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 the original PDF for the lesson, which was designed by Fareed Mostoufi (Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting) & Andrew Westover (DCPS). It was also modeled on workshops created by Everyday Africa and Illinois educator Tracy Crowley.

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.

District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Standards:

VA:Pr6.1.8a:

Analyze why and how an exhibition or collection may influence ideas, beliefs, and experiences.

VA:Re.7.1.6a:

Identify and interpret works of art or design that reveal how people live around the world and what they value.

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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