This exercise can help students discover how history is written. A good place to start would be to research the history of the Hill District through Teenie Harris’s photographs.
Pick photos from different eras and explore how people, places, and events have changed over time—and why. You can view Harris’s photos by theme or thread to find a sequence of images with similar content that range from the 1930s to the 1970s. How is change evident in the photographs?
You can also research some of the important figures from the civil rights era.
Lead a discussion comparing Teenie Harris and the Picturing the City photographs in terms of race and gender relations.
What do you notice? How have things changed over time?
Research additional legislation since these people, places, and events were photographed (examples such as civil rights, equality, etc.).
Many of the photographs in the Teenie Harris exhibition are linked to audio recordings of people who knew Teenie and his work . This project could present new perspectives on history and how individuals and their everyday lives play an important role in understanding and exchanging ideas about history.
Have students find an older family member or person in the community. Ask them to interview that person about a selection of Teenie Harris images from a time when they were alive. Get their opinions and perspective of that time through the photographs. Ideally students should find people to talk to from a range of times (1930–70s) represented in Teenie Harris’s photographs.
Students could photograph the person and plot the new photographs and interviews along a historical timeline.
Make comparisons with Picturing the City photographs. Students can share their perspective on what’s happening today. Ask students to imagine being interviewed in the same way when they are older—what would they want to tell someone about what was happening “in their day”?
Share your findings with the class.
Document and share students’ current insights and opinions about the Picturing the City photographs. These ideas could be recorded using journals, writing prompts, audio recordings, or visual arts projects.
This could be implemented as a school-wide project, including teachers from a variety of disciplines, and include historical research, interviews, writing, art-making, and more. It could also occur each year to create a record of your school and neighborhood’s history—and what students want to see for its future.
Define the characteristics of your school community based on people, places, and events. Create a list of the class’s ideas.
Research the history of your school. This might include interviews with teachers, family, and community members as well as finding sources on the internet and in the library.
Discuss how you are learning about history, as well as contributing to and preserving the school and neighborhood’s history.
Share your findings with a larger community. Remember visual arts are a way to understand and exchange ideas, so how can findings be shared visually? Think about the variety of places to share these ideas, including bulletin boards, the yearbook, school newspaper, website, blog, etc.
Discuss how your students’ research and discoveries might lead to visions about the future of their school and the community surrounding it.
Category: Identity and Community
, Observation & interpretation
Explore ideas of how people, places, and events shape a community. How does it relate to someone’s sense of place? How can communities change over time?
Students should pick a variety of Teenie Harris and Picturing the City photographs that they think convey the idea of community and/or a sense of place.
Brainstorm how each photograph conveys the idea of community. What are the elements that make up a community? In what ways did the artist accomplish this visually? Make a list of the class’s observations and ideas.
Ask students what is their community? How can you be part of more than one community? What are the people, places, and events that come together to create those communities? What about online communities? How do they compare to physical places? Make a list.
How do the physical and virtual communities you belong to relate to your identity? How do you shape those places— and how do they shape you?
Use photography to document a shared community: the school community! Discuss how you might use the techniques explored through Teenie Harris and Picturing the City photographs to take new photographs.
Be observant of places, people, and events around your school.
Compare photographs by Teenie Harris and Picturing the City artists with the photographs that students took of their school community. What can you learn about the people, places, and events in each? In what ways does that affect the sense of place associated with those communities or neighborhoods? How do the artists capture a sense of place in both?
Category: Identity and Community
, Making inferences