The Underlying Bias: What most students know and think about photography Most students have not taken photography classes. They know about photography from news and advertising images and from their personal experiences with point-and-shoot snapshots of family, friends, and events. Highly popular disposable and automatic cameras are manufactured to deliver focused representations at the push of a button. Film development and printing takes place at the one-hour processing store. These common photographic experiences contribute to an underlying bias that photographs are mechanical, instantaneous recordings that represent the truth-the real world as it is recorded by the camera's lens.

July 4, 1999, Madison County Courthouse, Marshall
Gelatin silver print
© Debbie Fleming Caffery 1999


Fine Art Photography: As with all fine art photography, the documentary image involves complex intentions and shaping of imagery. Artistic vision reflects a series of decisions by the photographer that are informed by aesthetic, social, and political influences. In addition, Indivisible images were commissioned for an extensive project that explores and honors the efforts of local citizens to improve their communities. Having this assignment influenced the way in which the twelve individual photographers approached their sites. As your students practice the following methods outlined for interpreting the slide images included in this resource, they will be exploring and describing how the photographs contribute to a sense of the people involved, their community, and how they work together to help solve its problems. Diverse reactions to the artwork will emerge, as artistic expression may be interpreted quite differently from one individual to the next. Responses are on track when interpretations are linked to specific photographic details and issues. Participants should have the freedom to express personal reactions to the photographs, but they should pinpoint the source(s) of their perceptions through descriptions and interpretations of what they are seeing.


Dowua Abed, Greater Lawn Community Youth Network
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey 1999


Initiating Exploration of Indivisible Photographs: These exercises can be done individually, in small groups, or with the whole class at school or in the gallery. Resources include: slides, postcards, or the original photographs at the museum. Before you begin each exercise, have your students spend a few minutes looking carefully at the images and then ask them to respond.

REPEAT LINKS TO LESSONS    This page last updated September 24, 2000.

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Center for Creative Photography · The University of Arizona · Tucson, Arizona 85721-0103 · Phone: 520-621-7968