Claire Collison / Visual Literacy activities / Westminster Academy

Activity: The Medium and The Message

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This activity invites students to think about the choices a photographer makes, and why. This was particularly useful for the students at Westminster Academy, who are not studying practical photography.

This gallery visit introduced them to the possibilities of photography as fine art. Definitely one for a gallery trip, as materials and context are all-important here. We visited two galleries: PACE Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery.


How to:

This works best when considering the work of a range of artists and photographers.

Ask students to consider: how has this image been created?

What processes have been used?

How would they go about producing it, if they were to try?

Encourage a discussion around the logistics and practicalities of re-creating the work.

What kind of equipment and conditions would it require?

Where might it have been made?

How long might it have taken?


Once these ideas have been explored, ask students to think about ‘why’: what do they think the artist has achieved by making these choices and using these materials?

Finally, how successful do they think the artist has been? Do they like the artwork? Does understanding how it was made make them like it more or less?


Outcomes/ Learning objectives:

This activity introduces students to the genre of fine art photography, and helps them appreciate the choices that photography can require. Asking students to think about the materials and processes an artist has used requires them to look closer and harder. Entering the mindset of the artist, and thinking about the decisions they have made, helps students explore what the artist was hoping to achieve.


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