Grade: Middle

#4431. Exploring Community through Photography

Social Studies, level: Middle
Posted Sun Aug 1 17:13:07 PDT 2010 by Carol McRae (Carol McRae).
WCU, Cullowhee, North Carolina
Materials Required: Classroom digital camera/s; classroom computer; photography books or magazines;old magazines
Activity Time: 3 class periods
Concepts Taught: Defining community; Portraying communities in photos

Exploring Community Through Photography
Objective: To explore the concept of community through images and words. The students will become familiar with definitions of community and consider their roles in a chosen community.

Students will
• Define community
• Brainstorm different types of community
• Explore photography as a means of depicting a community
• Use writing to describe their roles in a chosen community
• Create a poster of images and words that illustrate the chosen community

Target Age Level: Middle School

Classroom digital camera/s
Classroom computer/s with printer and card reader
Chalkboard, whiteboard, or overhead projector
Old magazines for cutting
Interesting photographs or several photography books or magazines
Poster boards

Step A
Work with the students to create heading which define the basic types of communities. Possible headings proposed by Finnegan (1994) are 1) Locality or place 2) Common interests, not necessarily localized and 3) Localities or groups bound by close ties, such as family or neighborliness.

Discuss factors which may influence the development of a sense of community within a social group. Possible factors include kinship and marriage, language, religion, nationality, ethnicity, culture, residential persistence, availability of community organizations, etc. Emphasize not only the cohesive quality of community but also the potential for internal conflict. Mills (2004) points out that conflicts within communities can be more embittered than conflicts among strangers due to the high degree of knowledge conflicting parties possess concerning their opponents in the dispute.

As a group
Brainstorm to develop a list of communities familiar to the students. Place them under the appropriate headings on the board or with an overhead projector

As individuals
Have the students compose their own personal definitions of "community."
Using classroom dictionaries, the students can then find a published definition.

Step B
Introduce students to the camera as a tool for depicting a community.
Distribute the following worksheet to introduce terms used in analyzing and discussing photographs (Way, 2006).
1. Subject (Who/What is in the picture?)
2. Setting (Where was the picture taken?)
3. Background (What is behind the subject?)
4. Foreground (What is in front of the subject?)
5. Focus (Is any part of the picture clear or blurry?)
6. Vantage Point/point of View (Where was the photographer when he or she took the picture? Below the subject? Above the subject? Very close? Far away?)
7. Composition (Describe the lines, shapes, patterns, and colors in the image.)
8. Lighting (Quality: Is the lighting soft and diffused or hard and contrasty? Direction: Where is the light coming from in the picture?)
9. Mood (How does the picture make you feel?)

10. Meaning (What does this picture say to you?)

Divide the class into groups. Give each group a photocopied photograph (or they can choose one from a photography book or magazine) and ask them to write down ideas about what they can learn about the people depicted by studying the photo. Have each group present their photograph and ideas and encourage the class to comment and share additional ideas.

Distribute a quick guide to taking good photographs such as the one found at the following link
Discuss the guide with the students.

Provide a quick overview of the use of the classroom digital camera/s. Give each group several old magazines, a poster board, glue stick, and markers. Have the students work together to create a poster composed of selected photos from the magazines and have them write creative captions for the photos, imagining what the subject of the photograph might be thinking or what they might say. While groups are working on their posters, each group can take turns taking the camera/s around and practice taking photographs of the other students working.

Groups can download and view their photographs on the classroom computer. Have the students take notes and critique their photographs, commenting on how they might improve the picture if they were to take the photograph again.

Suggest an additional exercise that will help students learn about framing a photograph. Have them cut a small rectangular window in a piece of notebook paper. Encourage the students to spend some time looking at their surroundings in different settings through the frame.

Step C

Assign the students a writing exercise. Have them write a description of the community they have chosen for their final project. What characteristics distinguish this community? What factors connect the members? Think back to the 3 types of communities and the factors discussed in Step A. What role do they play in this community? Why have they selected this community to share with the class? What does it mean to them to be a part of this community?

Have the students make a list of possible photographs which they would like to take which would capture important elements of this community.

Assign the students the task of taking pictures of their community. Set a schedule and plan with students about the required number of photographs and the due date.

The following exercise can help students prepare for writing captions for their photographs. Again students should be supplied with a number of photographs to study for the purpose of the exercise (Way, 2006).

Pretend you are a curator and need to write a caption that tells the viewers the essential information about the picture.

Write a new caption for the picture.

Start by writing what you see in the image.
I see. . .

Expand to what you think the photograph is saying (the theme).
This photography is saying that . . .

Revise your writing to create one sentence that tells the theme of the picture.

Now revise that sentence to make sure your caption is concise and uses clear and specific

When students have taken their photographs they can pair up to critique their photos and select the ones they wish to use in their final project. If editing software is available, students can be allowed to prepare their photographs for printing.

Once the photographs are printed students can write captions and arrange the final elements on a poster board to complete their project. Posters should be displayed in the classroom and an exhibition can be scheduled complete with refreshments and an opportunity for each student to present their work.

Finnegan (1994) as referenced in Mills, Dennis. (May 2004). Defining community: A critical review
of 'community' in Family and Community History. Community History. 7(1).
Mills, Dennis. (May 2004). Defining community: A critical review of 'community' in Family and
Community History. Community History. 7(1).
Way, Cynthia. Focus on photography: A curriculum guide. International Center of Photography, 2006.
Retrieved from