Hampstead School / Liane Harris / Visual Literacy activities

Activity: Telling Stories

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Photos tell stories. Thinking about what is happening outside of the frame, what may have happened one minute before the photo was taken, and imagining what might happen one minute later helps with understanding what the story/subject of the photo is and what the intention of the photographer was.

Materials needed:

  • PowerPoint
  • Before/after activity sheet (see preparation below)
  • Printed out photographs
  • Cameras


  • Make a PowerPoint that introduces the idea of photos being a moment in time, how a split second later the photo tells a very different story.
  • Activity sheet – on A4 paper create a template to drop in different images in the middle with space on either side to describe what happened 1 minute before and 1 minute after. (see example)
  • Print out photographs that have a sense of something about to happen.
  • Useful photographers for these activities– Alex Webb, Alec Soth, Mitra Tabrizian, Stephen Shore, Vivian Maier, Mohamed Bourouissa, Joel Sternfeld, Diane Arbus, Denis Darzaq, Kitra Cahana etc.


a) Introduce storytelling in photography with a PPT

b) In pairs- each pair given an activity sheet with an image (see above) and are asked to:

  • Discuss personal reaction
  • Describe what they see
  • What do they think is the story (this is helped by imagining what happened 1 minute before and after the photo was taken)
  • Give the photo a title

c) In pairs – each pair is given a photograph and asked to:

  • Describe what they see
  • What they imagine would happen 1 minute later
  • Plan a photograph that demonstrates this
  • Go outside and take the photo

d) Upload and edit, choosing the photo that works best. To be viewed and discussed in next session.


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