Photography, Truth and Justice

Do photos help us understand the truth and spur movements?

To what extent does photography limit or enhance our understanding of the world?

What does this mean?

Documentary photography = photographs meant to document the human experience


What do you think? Do photos tell the truth?

Photography and Race

Let's think about what is happening in our current society and how photography makes a difference.

Photography and History

Let's also think about the historical context of these discussions.

Socratic Discussion

•Some of you will talk – some of you will type on the back channel. Then we will switch.

•We will continue this discussion throughout the unit to help you formulate ideas for your essay.

Thursday 1/7/16

Continuing look at the ways photography affects our understanding of the truth.
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King: No justice for Tamir Rice makes him our modern day Emmett Till


Now that you've read one perspective, you will take time to look at photos and write a blog post. Scroll through the galleries of photos below and think about which photos help you to understand the world and which ones don't. Choose one photo (from these lists or elsewhere) that you think helps understand truth, and one photo that you think hides or hinders the truth. Post those photos on your blog (with credit to the website where you took them from) and explain (in a paragraph for each photo) why you chose those particular photos.
Eddie Adams Talk About The Saigon Execution Photo

Using Photography to Make an Argument

Kids Who Die
As a class, we will create a video like the "Kids Who Die" video we watched - combining Langston Hughes' poetry with photographs you choose. We will make one video, with each of you taking one small part of the poem to be in charge of.

Today, we will read and study the poem, looking for parallels between now and then. We will consider the ways this poem still speaks the truth and search for photographs that potentially can help us reveal that truth to an audience.

This should be fun!

"On Photography"

Read the short excerpt "On Photography" and as usual, be thinking about the argument the essay makes. Is it saying that photography enhances or limits our understanding of truth?

Photography implies that we know about the world if we accept it as the camera records it. But this is the opposite of understanding, which starts from not accepting the world as it looks. All possibility of understanding is rooted in the ability to say no. Strictly speaking, one never understands anything from a photograph. Of course, photographs fill in blanks in our mental pictures of the present and the past: for example, Jacob Riis’ images of New York squalor in the 1880’s are sharply instructive tot hose unaware that urban poverty in late-nineteenth-century America was really that Dickensian. Nevertheless, the camera’s rendering of reality must always hide more than it discloses. As Brecht points out, a photograph of the Krupp works reveals virtually nothing about that organization. In contrast to the amorous relation, which is based on how something looks, understanding is based on how it functions. And functioning takes place in time and must be explained in time. Only that which narrates can make us understand.

The limit of photographic knowledge of the world is that, while it can goad conscience, it can finally never be ethical or political knowledge. The knowledge gained through still photographs will always be some kind of sentimentalism, whether cynical or humanist. It will be a knowledge at bargain prices – a semblance of knowledge, a semblance of wisdom…The very muteness of what is hypothetically, comprehensible in photographs is what constitutes their attraction and provocativeness. The omnipresence of photographs has an incalculable effect on our ethical sensibility. By furnishing this already crowded world with a duplicate on e images, photography makes us fell that the world is more available than it really is.

Needed to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted. Industrial societies turn their citizens into image-junkies, it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution.

On Photography - 1977

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I Take A Lot of Photos! Why?

I read your blogs, now you read mine. Make sure to read the comments on the post as well.


Now you have the rest of the class to think about how you will organize your essay when you come to class next week and write. I've given you a graphic organizer to use. The more you prepare today, the easier and better your essay will be on Wednesday of next week.


Take out your outline and all of your sources (and anything else you think might be helpful.)


To what extent does photography limit or enhance our understanding of the world?

Today you will HAND WRITE your essay. You have 50 minutes to write. Use all of the resources you have to help you.

Analysis to Action - You Make The Argument!

Your next job in this unit is to create a photo essay on a topic of your choosing. Your essay, as usual, will be persuasive in nature.

Today we will spend some time looking at sample photo essays, generating a list of characteristics, and deciding which styles appeal to you personally.

Genre Study - The Photo Essay

Let's Chart

What are the shared characteristics of these photo essays? What do they all do?

What unique choices did you notice?

Make yourself a list:

A good photo essay does:





Write your proposal!

Use the list on the handout and the topics in the link below to help you narrow down to a topic you can argue in a photo essay.

You will write a blog post TODAY that includes you topic idea, working thesis, why that topic is appealing to you, your plan for taking photos and the list of what all photo essays have and unique features of some photo essays.

Link to NYTimes list:

Let's Study Some Famous Photo Journalists

Spend a bit of time today looking at the photos of

What do you notice about their photos? What makes them appealing? How do they use the camera to tell a story?

Tips For Taking Better Photos...

Project Progress

Now that you've spent time looking at good photos, thinking about image use and read some tips for better photos, choose two photos that you brought with you to class today and post them on your blog with some commentary.

  1. Choose one that you think really does a good job of capturing the story/message you are trying to send. Discuss why you think it is effective.
  2. Choose one that you think is weaker or that you might want to retake and discuss why it isn't as effective.


On a google doc that you share with me, please begin drafting your introduction and your captions.

Remember what you told me that a good intro will do 2 things:

1. Pull out the emotional or value aspect of your topic to help your reader immediately care.

2. Use some shocking facts or statistics to illustrate logically why this issue is worth considering.

Captions can take various forms. The most boring and least useful captions simply tell what the photo illustrates. Don't do that. The best captions are going to make arguments, tell stories, use quotes, help the reader build curiosity about the topic. Look at the samples above for some examples of good captions.

Others aiming to argue through photography...

Final Draft!

Today, your job is to PUBLISH! your photo essay.

Remember these criteria:

  • Creative Title
  • Intro with research, statistics and emotion
  • captions of 1-3 sentences for each photo
  • 10-12 photos total, at least half of which you took yourself
  • conclusion with a call-to-action

After you publish, find others who are finished and comment on their posts.

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Read and Comment on the following blogs: