Thanks for reading our series of articles about using photography as a teaching and learning tool across the curriculum. Please check out all of our posts (including how to get started, resources, and other areas of study) by clicking on the “Previous” and “Next” links.
Two of the most logical places to incorporate photography into your curriculum are social studies and history. Photography has made an incredible impact on human history in the past 150 years. The invention of the camera and its subsequent developments have led to other inventions, such as motion pictures, film, video, X-rays, and digital imaging. There is no doubt that cameras have had a major impact in altering the course of human history, and the historical implications are broad.
Beyond the invention of the camera itself, certain photographs and photographers over the years have also had a significant impact. Who can forget the iconic images of Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, and Dorothea Lange taken during the Great Depression? Civil War photographers such as Mathew Brady helped bring the realities of the battlefield to the towns and cities far away and helped people see what the soldiers were experiencing in a graphic way. Ansel Adams photographed the beauty of creation while breaking new ground with the use of photography as an art form. During the Vietnam War, photojournalists brought home images that solidified an antiwar sentiment in this country, and more recently, portrait photographers such as Richard Avedon and Annie Liebovitz have captured our attention with iconic images of human emotion.
To introduce photography as a theme unit in history, your child can study the biographies of early inventors of the modern camera. Of particular note is the story of George Eastman, who made photography more accessible to everyone by inventing the portable camera and film. History is often portrayed as a series of dates and events to be memorized; therefore, learning about the work of important photographers gives a behind-the-scenes view of major events in history, which in turn makes history come alive for your child.
Check out our post on Recommended Resources for a list of good books about famous photographers, the history of photography, and iconic images that captured history and made history themselves.
Social Studies—Current Events, Sociology, Anthropology
Photography provides a nice segue from history into current events and social studies.
Anthropologists and sociologists have long used photography to document their studies, and your child can use photography to document events in his or her life and report on them as well.
You can also use photography to inspire children to look through newspapers or news websites to find images that impact them. It must be noted, however, that you must use extreme discernment, because many photos can be very graphic in depicting death, human emotion, and destruction, and this sometimes includes the naked human form.
In the next article, I will discuss ways to incorporate photography into the study of Science.
Lupe Tucker and her husband, Curtis, homeschool their five children in Florida. They publish this site, HomeschoolingFlorida.com and www.Homeschool-Evaluations.com, a portfolio review & standardized testing service. They conduct academic workshops across the country with the nonprofit organization www.KidsAboardWorkshops.org. A lifelong photographer, Lupe is always on the lookout for the perfect shot and is hopelessly addicted to photo books.