Saturday, 4 August 2012

Lesson idea: Photography

What I love about teaching photography is that students can work from 'found' imagery: magazines, newspapers, photo booth images, family/friend collections or any old vintage photographs found in a local jumble sale. Found imagery is great because not only is it cheap but students can start to build a story and a relationship with the images. In this lesson idea I am going to share with you some fun techniques/artists that will revolutionise students work and grades. I hope you find that each technique allows students to generate their ideas with exciting techniques that combine primary and secondary imagery. I haven't included lesson aims/objectives as these will be dependent on what you are using the methods for. Have fun!

Starter Activity:
Some of you may remember our 3W post about paper doctor Stephen J Shanabrook? His work is great and so easy to do.
You will need: found images (or student's own photographs) and your hands! 
How to do it: squash, crumple, fold, twist, etc. your photograph. Consider how the final image will fold together to make a new, distorted image.

This idea would be perfect as a 5/10min starter activity and from my experience students respond really well to it. It's an exciting way to engage students and it provides them with a contextual concept and refreshing ideas for the rest of the lesson.

Don't fancy this idea? Then why not try a more conceptual approach with the fantastic work of Laura White.

Artist: Laura White 
She has created some brilliant photographic sculptures entitled: Poster Series.
You will need: found photographs (or students own photographs) and your hands! 
How to do it: squash, fold, chew, scrunch, etc. your photograph. Each scrunch, fold or tear has a purpose and it is important for your students to understand why they are destroying the image.

This would work well as an alternative to the Shanabroostarter activity or compliment any lesson activity as a midway 'break'. As a conceptual artist myself I particularly love this method. The outcome has a lot of potential and it challenges students vision by making visible that which is not apparent, confusing photography's traditions and manipulating reality and meaning.

Lesson activity:

After thinking about the two starter activities available I went on the hunt for some similar photographic processes that could be your main lesson activity. The results of this technique are endless and work best if you set different timed activities on separate tables. I find it makes the lesson more fun and students 'peer' teach and critique without even realising!

Artist: Off Camera
Off Camera are a group collective of photographic works who use sculpture as way of breaking away from photography's 'normal' conventions.
You will need: found photographs (or students own photographs), scissors, stapler or sellotape.
How to do it: ignore the constraints of the image and start to extend the edges of the image by adding on paper, drawing or painting, collaging with other materials or creating a new, transformed image by combining two or more photographs together. In the final step you need to start to free the photo from it's two-dimensions by folding, cutting and shaping prints into sculptures. Once complete, install in the classroom and enjoy your new walls!

Extension Activity:

Now, this following artist is a bit different and creates origami 3D objects out of photographs. This concept can be a bit tricky for students but once the technique is mastered the results are very effective. Depending on how complex the sculpture you may need to go into 2 lessons for this activity if you prefer it over lesson activity number 1. You could even set it as a homework to check students understanding!

Artist: Rebecca Chew
You will need: found photographs (or students own photographs) and a tutorial of your choice on how to make origami. 
How to do it: choose a tutorial from youtube such as this one for making a boat and have a go at making this with your images, create a selection and try different examples. 


I love a good critique as it always makes my students leave the lesson feeling confident. It's entirely up to you what critique method you wish to use but I have selected 3 that would work well with this lesson:

1) open critique: students share their ideas and get feedback from different peers and their teacher. The idea of communication is key here and students can say what they want about each others work comfortably. Students will become aware of what they have created and how they have met the lesson aims and objectives by the end of it - hooray!
2) post-it critique: students love this - probably because they get coloured bits of sticky paper! It's an easy end of lesson discussion that gets all students involved. Students can walk around and leave one strength and one area for development comment on each piece of work. Once this is complete pick students at random to read the comments out. A good group discussion often happens and the best bit - students get to include the feedback in their sketchbooks!
3) prepared question critique: Get all students to stand in the middle of the classroom and make the left hand side 'YES', the right hand side 'NO' and the middle 'MAYBE'. As the teacher, ask a series of questions so that students have to move around the classroom to which statement best suits them. e.g. Did you enjoy this lesson? Did you use your time wisely? It's a great indicator to see how each student feels and provides instant feedback to yourself. Students also enjoy it as it keeps them interactive right up to the end of the lesson!

In the last 1-2 mins of the lesson get each student to set themselves a SMART target to achieve in the next lesson. They'll have the group critique to guide their answers and as the starter activity for the next lesson they can work in pairs to see if they have met their target. If not - why not and what needs to be developed? If yes - well done and set a new target for the lesson. You will be surprised how well targets motivate students and you will have a very productive lesson from it.
- Kirsty 
ps. we'd love to see how your students have evolved any of these concepts so if you use our ideas then please comment and let us know how it went. 

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