While people, places, and events change over time, so do the technologies that we use to understand and exchange ideas about them. One important change in photography itself is the move from film to digital formats.
How has photography itself changed over time? How have cameras changed? What is a photographic negative?
How does photography fit into the world of art?
How does the time period that Teenie Harris documented (1930–70s) fit into the history of photography?
Have your students take photographs using a film camera vs. a digital camera. How is this experience different? Ask them to consider how the different technology affects their process and experience as the photographer/artist.
If you do not have cameras in your classroom, find out if your students can collaborate with your school’s newspaper or yearbook staff to use their cameras and document some aspect of school life for them to use in print.
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.).
Compare everyday experiences to major events. How can both be considered history? How can regular activities be history as much as major events? When does something become history?
Identify both everyday occurrences and major events in your history book. What point of view about history does your textbook take? What else could be included?
Is history happening right now? Five minutes ago? Or is history only in the more distant past?
Find examples of major events represented in Teenie Harris’s work. Research how they were described in their own time. Are they discussed differently now?
Describe contemporary events from your current perspective. You can use Picturing the City photographs or ones the students take of their school neighborhood. What might it look like to someone looking back 50 years from now?
Discuss examples of trustworthy sources for history.
How do people change when they know they are being watched or photographed?
Read about Harris’s connection to the neighborhood and people he photographed.
Category: History and the Everyday
, Defending one’s opinion
, Making inferences
, Observation & interpretation
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.
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