Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Reading Pictures

I have been at a wonderful workshop today about media literacy. I am really excited about some of the things that we saw. I was really struck by the idea of “reading” photos.

When was the last time you read a photo? Not a photo covered with words in a magazine, but the actual “text” of the photo. We might think about whether we like the photo or not, but we are often at a lost to explain why. When we look at photos with students and use photographic language (like the point of view, framing…), we are giving them the tools they need to “read” and discuss photos themselves. Understanding the structures and subtext of photos allows students to consider the photographer’s purpose and the overall effectiveness of the picture.

Once students are familiar with the various elements to be considered, as well as the power exerted by the photographer’s choices, they are ready to take their own photos with purpose. They can use their photos to tell a story, convey an emotion, or any other use they can imagine.

Best of all, reading photos with a class of students requires very few resources; some found photos, photos brought in by students, a few old calendars... Creating them requires a camera, but I think most classes have access to a camera and many kids have access to one at home.

We often think of media literacy in the classroom in terms of advertisements and commercials, maybe the cereal box project. In the age of the digital camera, how can we ignore photo literacy?

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