photographs - part one

The folks at Kodak want me to pass out the cameras and "let kids explore."  I'm imagining plumes of smoke in my room, so I take it cautiously on the instructions.  Yet, first I want students to think philosophically about the new medium.

I ask them to write a plog post answering the question, "What holds more power: words or pictures?"  To my surprise, the students do not all agree.  I assume that with the novelty of the photograph, students would write about picture power.

"A picture can tell you what is empirically real while words can write about reality that we cannot express in a photographic form.  Show me a picture of love.  Show me a picture of hope," a student writes.

One student writes, "Photographs are more permanent.  They are more objective. They capture the truth without having to be reinterpreted.  There are less layers of communication to go through.You can't edit a picture."

Another student disagrees, "Pictures are more emotional and more subjective.  It's because there are no words.  There is no context.  The photographer has deliberately framed a scene, just one scene, and you're stuck with it."

I begin with this concept of more powerful and we more into: Which captures reality better?  Which captures the truth better?  Most students tend to believe that a person can change words, but that pictures are undoctored.  So, I show them the famous Lincoln picture with the body of John Calhoun.  They're floored.

A girl asks, "How do you know what's real if you can just manufacture truth by changing pictures?"

"Isn't that what we do with words?" a boy asks.

"What if all truth is manufactured?  We keep asking 'does the photograph capture truth' and it's not something out there that we capture.  It's something we make up as we go along."


  1. Anonymous7:49:00 AM

    What do you mean the folks at Kodak? did they give you a camera for your classroom??

  2. Yes, they are sponsoring research. I get to use the cameras, they get to see the research. I have my misgivings about it, I admit. I'm a little worried about corporate buying of student minds. But it might be worth it for a few great pictures!

  3. Your students control their expression which in this case is more important than worrying about who controls the means of production or how that expression may be rebranded by a corporation. It all seems harmless to me. The projects your students created sound wonderful. Unfortunately all I got was the words! Where are the pictures?