Decoding Photographs

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Decoding Photographs

  1. 1. Why Decode a Photograph? A photograph reflects the codes, values, beliefs and culture of the photographer, as well as time during which it was created. The meaning we find in a photograph is similarly influenced by our culture, values and beliefs. The viewer must take an active role in its interpretation.
  2. 2. Questions to Ask To decode a photograph, it is useful to follow a methodical process consisting of four stages:  Describing  Analyzing  Interpreting  Evaluating
  3. 3. Describing Note essential, factual information.  Does the photograph have a title?  Who is the photographer?  When and where was the photograph taken? Describe subject matter. List facts. Finally, look at the elements of art.  How are these used in the photograph? Excerpted from: Decoding Photographs, By Laura McCoy, visual arts teacher
  4. 4. Newsies at Skeeter Branch, St. Louis, Missouri, 11:00 am, May 9,1910Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874–1940)Gelatin silver print
  5. 5. Analyzing What can you learn from the clues in the photo? What draws your eye immediately? Look closely the details. What information can they give you? What is going on in the picture? Do you see any writing in the photo? Are there recognizable buildings or landmarks? What time of day does it seem to be? Finally, how do the various elements work together? Excerpted from: Decoding Photographs, By Laura McCoy, visual arts teacher
  6. 6. Newsies at Skeeter Branch, St. Louis, Missouri, 11:00 am, May 9,1910Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874–1940)Gelatin silver print
  7. 7. Interpreting Draw conclusions about the photograph.  What is happening in the photograph?  What is the photographer trying to say? A photographer uses the boundaries of the photograph as a frame to focus on some things and leave other things out.  How do these decisions affect the meaning? Do some research in order to discover the historical context of the photograph. Think critically; do not simply accept the image as a true representation of something that actually happened. Excerpted from: Decoding Photographs, By Laura McCoy, visual arts teacher
  8. 8. Newsies at Skeeter Branch, St. Louis, Missouri, 11:00 am, May 9,1910Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874–1940)Gelatin silver print
  9. 9. Evaluating The final stage of your decoding is an evaluation.  What do you think about the work? Make a judgment about the value, the significance and the importance of the photograph.  What does it add to your knowledge of the subject? Excerpted from: Decoding Photographs, By Laura McCoy, visual arts teacher
  10. 10. Newsies at Skeeter Branch, St. Louis, Missouri, 11:00 am, May 9,1910Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874–1940)Gelatin silver print
  11. 11. Newsies: Out after midnight selling extras.There were many young boys selling very late. Youngest boy in the group is 9years old. Harry, age 11, Eugene and the rest were a little older. Washington, D.C.
  12. 12. Newsies: Newsboy asleep on stairs with papers. Jersey City,New W. HineLewisJersey. (American, 1874–1940)Gelatin silver print
  13. 13. Newsies: Michael McNelis, age 8, a newsboy [seen with photographerHine]. has just recovered from his second attack of pneumonia. WasThis boyfound selling papers in a big rain storm. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  14. 14. Tobacco Harvesting, Valle de Viñales (Cuba 2002) Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Describe • Analyze • Interpret • Evaluate

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