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Photography is the subject of this lesson involving Dorthea Lange’s Migrant Mother
Art, Computers & Internet, Social Studies
9, 10, 11, 12
By – Stephanie Slatner
Primary Subject – Art
Secondary Subjects – Social Studies, Computers / Internet
Grade Level – High School
A Lesson on Photography
Grade: High School
Concept Statement: Using Dorthea Lange’s Migrant Mother series as inspiration, students will create an image that depicts life in a high school setting.
Cognitive – Students will determine what information is unnecessary to a photograph for it to portray the most powerful image.
Affective – Students will tell how they feel when seeing Dorthea Lange’s Migrant Mother series and talk about their own lives in relation to those images.
Psychomotor – Students will use a computer to crop and image.
Activity or Product – Students will look at and discuss images from the Migrant Mother series by Dorthea Lange. They will then take this issue of capturing social commentary and translate that into a photograph from today. They will have to present their photograph with information on who/what it is, why they chose it, what speaks to them in the piece. They will also explain how the photographer decided to crop the piece and what makes it a strong/weak composition. How they could improve or what they would change if they were going to be taking the same picture. Then they will be given a week to take a photograph that speaks to us today and represents life in high school. Exploring the idea of cropping, composition, and elimination of unnecessary information as Dorthea Lange did in her works.
Digital Camera used by one student a day?, or cameras they have at home. Magazines with images of news going on today for the look and talk session. Images from Dorthea Lange’s Migrant Mother series. Mat Board for cropping and displaying images.
Motivation and Presentation:
I will show them pictures of the Migrant Mother series and ask them this series of questions. Which of these images do you think Lange took first? What evidence supports this conclusion? What factors might go into a photographer’s decision to crop or not to crop an original image? Try cropping some of the variant photographs. Would cropping of any other image have produced as powerful an image as the one selected by Lange?
Dorthea Lange spent part of her career as a photographer for the U.S. government’s Rural Resettlement Administration, which later became the Farm Securities Administration (FSA). The Federal government turned to FSA photographers to document American life during the Depression, and more importantly, to raise American awareness and sympathy for the plight of families such as this mother and her children. Does this information change the way you see the work? Do you think this image says something about the daily life of this family? Why or why not? Lange happened upon this family by their tent in a pea pickers’ camp in California. She took six photographs of the family, starting from forty feet away, moving closer and closer to them with each photograph. Do you think seeing this family from forty feet away would be different from how you see them up close in this photograph? Why or why not?
Demonstration of Techniques, Tools, and Materials:
The students will have to take turns using the camera daily and be let from class in groups of two to take their pictures during class time.
Materials Distribution/ Cleanup:
We will need to collect all of the magazines used for the look and talk part of the lesson, otherwise we will be using the computer for cropping the image.
We will discuss each students image in relation to it’s meaning and it’s composition.
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