EDUCATOR'S GUIDE: INDIVISIBLE - Lesson
This lesson offers "how-to" instructions
for creating a documentary photographic essay. Documentary photographs are taken
with the purpose of informing, interpreting, or preserving information about
Plan in Advance
- Determine what subject (person,
place, thing, event, etc.) you would like to document.
- Talk with someone in charge, or
to the subjects themselves, and explain that you want to take photographs
for a documentary project. You will need their permission and cooperation.
- After your interview, think about
the subject you will document and make a list of what kind of photographs
you might want to define your subject. List the people, places, events, and
details you think are important to help you tell your subject's story.
- Visit the subject. View the space
and surroundings, the people involved, and the things that contribute to their
- Choose the type of film you will
use, either black-and-white or color. This choice should be based on your
subject. For instance, to take photographs of your neighbor's flower garden,
you would probably want to use color film to emphasize the beauty and variety
of colors. For photographs taken to document the architecture downtown, you
might choose black-and-white film to accentuate the form and scale of the
buildings or the deep shadows they cast on a sunny day.
Set the Stage
- In order to create a photograph
that is interesting to look at and communicates your ideas clearly, you will
want to consider its composition (design) and content (meaning). Three important
things to think about are the angle from which you aim your camera, framing
the boundaries of the image, and the light and shadows within the frame.
- Practice the following activities
with the viewfinder provided in this section in preparation for using your
o Consider the angle from which you
will take your photograph. Hold the viewfinder in front of your face and look
through the opening to see your subject as if you were looking through the viewfinder
of a real camera. Viewing the same scene from above, eye level and below will
change what you see and reveal about your subject.
o Next, use the viewfinder to frame
different views from a variety of distances away from your subject. This will
help you determine which details to include and which to exclude from your scene,
and it will add variety to your compositions.
o Observe the qualities of light
and shadow within the view. For instance, if you are inside, is there enough
light to capture your subject, or will you need to add additional light or use
a flash? Outside, take note of the time of day and how it affects the light
and shadows. Light reveals details and often contributes to the mood or feeling
of the work.
- Read through your list of what
photographs to take to define your subject, and recall your viewfinder exercises.
- Different people approach and
interpret subjects in different ways, so always allow your own sense of the
subject to guide you as you take your pictures.
- When your photographs are completed,
look through them several times and choose the ones that best describe your
- If you are planning to use your
photographs as a narrative (to tell a story) determine their sequence by arranging
them to introduce and explain aspects of the story. Practice this step several
times and try different sequences.
- If you want to include text, discuss
with your teacher the possibility of adding words on your photographs (pen
or markers work well) or alongside them, to further explain the subject.
- Consider how you would like to
display or present your photo-graphs. Some options include mounting them onto
construction paper or tag board for a wall exhibition, combining them on a
poster, or creating an album or book. Don't exclude unconventional yet creative
solutions such as hanging mobiles, or stacking photographs with instructions
for viewers to arrange them in different ways.
Thank your subjects,
parents, teacher, and anyone who helped you with this project. Consider
offering a selection from the project photographs as a gift
CHALK development coordinator
Ruth Barajas, age 18, talks to her boyfriend during her shift at Youthline.
The Youth-line listeners say that many of the support calls are about
Silver dye bleach print
© Lauren Greenfield1999
Sam Davis, Columbia City
Council member and former president of Eau Claire Community Council
Gelatin silver print
© Eli Reed1999
This page last updated September 24, 2000. email@example.com
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