Helen Cammock / Hendon School / Visual Literacy activities

TRIP – Imperial War Museum and National Portrait Gallery

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A trip to:






Materials Needed:






– Experiencing and engaging with art/photography in the gallery and festival context.

– Developing visual literacy through the gallery experience.

– Thinking about politics and art.


Which of the 5 ways-in does this activity address:


  1. Considering the FORM an image takes.
  2. How you can build/construct an image – introducing idea of COMPOSITION
  3. Thinking conceptually – metaphor, symbolism and meaning – what is the image about, the SUBJECT of the work.
  4. Thinking about the CONTEXT for images/exhibitions/work.
  5. Developing and expressing INITIAL REACTIONS to work in the gallery context.


What will be the role and responsibilities of the teacher(s) during the session?

  • Supporting all activities in the galleries
  • Organisational responsibility for the logistics of the travel and permissions on the day.


Activity – Step by Step


  • Each of the selected gallery exhibitions introduce both a new and different environment but also three very different exhibitions.


  • Two exhibitions are solo shows whilst one is a group show of individual images.


Two look at War in very different ways. The Peter Kennard show conceptual show that explores the impact and effects of war through print, installation and photomontage. The other show – the Lee Miller Women at War is a documentary photography exhibition that depicts through photography the experiences of Lee Miller herself but also a diverse range of experiences of women during the second world war. The other exhibition presents a show composed entirely of portraiture. It is a competition that people submit to and is therefore a good opportunity to build aspiration


  • Each of the worksheets asks the students to both FOCUS and RESPOND to the work in each show. They are asked to express their responses to the work as well as undertaking a focussed active viewing and reading exercise in order to offer background to the context, subject and form of the exhibitions.


  • The worksheets have questions that ask the students to read, interpret and apply information as well as view and respond to the work. The other worksheet asks students to responds to work and articulate their opinions.


  • Split the group in half and with a member of staff supporting each group. Initially look around the exhibitions, discuss and then begin the worksheets.



Brief for students:


Explore each of the exhibitions in your small group and then after initial discussions about the work complete your worksheets.


This can be completed in discussion in a pair or small group but each person should attempt to complete their own worksheets. They will come in handy when we are back at school and feeding back to the rest of the group.


You are asked to think about these 5 concepts as you visit each exhibition.


In making and looking at images you asked to think about:

  • Composition

How the image is constructed – composition combines framing, light, colour and content.


  • Framing

What is in the image and what is excluded from the image. Think carefully about the background and foreground – move things if they distract from your image, add things in if they add to the image. Think about whether the image is a ‘close up’ or ‘wide angle’ shot.  Think about whether you want to shoot straight on or use angles and creat perspective in your image.


  • Colour

Think about how colour affects your image. Colour can be used to add a feeling/atmosphere or the focus point in an image. It can add to the overall meaning conveyed by an image


  • Lighting

Think about how light affects your image – technically –but also conceptually. Lighting can greatly affect feeling or atmosphere in your image. It can also therefore add to the overall meaning conveyed by an image.

  • Content

What the image is about, what the image is conveying.


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