Liz Orton / Queens Park Community School / Visual Literacy activities

Activity: Looking at Images II

looking at images II

This is an activity developed by Liz Orton

I spread about 100 images – cut from magazines and books, or printed from the web  – on the tables, covering the whole surface. I call out different categories and pupils have to find an image they feel fits into the category. Each category generates a small discussion. For example:

a. A photo that tells a story – the range of choices shows us that most photographs can be read for narrative when we use our imagination.

b. A portrait – what constitutes a portrait? Can it have more than one person in? Does it have to show the whole person? Do they have to be looking at the camera? Pupils realise that portrait is a very wide category. We look at how a portrait can suggest all sorts of things about a person based on where they are, what they are doing, how they are holding their body, what they are wearing etc.

c. Nature – there were a number of traditional nature photos for them to chose from – including a mountain, some animals, a field – but not enough for all the pupils, so some of them were forced to consider different choices. There was a photograph of an apple with writing on it, and a photo of a plastic waterfall in a natural setting: both of these images prompted conversations about whether a photo could accommodate signs of culture and still be considered to be of nature.

d. Something unfamiliar – we often pick out images which are familiar to us as they can be reassuring. I invited pupils to pick out something unfamiliar. They picked a range of images, from unfamiliar places and scenes, to photos that were abstract, or where something unusual was taking place within the image.

We had a discussion of the way that images are flexible, can fit different categories, and where the meaning can change depending on the context.

An extension of this activity (which we didnt have time for) might be, in small groups of up to 5 pupils, to provide about 20 images and invite them to find as many different ways of categorising as possible.

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