Think of a lesson that combines careful observation, patience, art, technology, storytelling, and investigation. Photography!
We’re excited to have some advice from Annie Griffiths, author of National Geographic Simply Beautiful Photographs and A Camera, Two Kids, and a Camel: My Journey in Photographs. Griffiths was one of the first female photographers at National Geographic, beginning in her early 20s. Let her suggestions and her story inspire your students.
- “I always like to tell a story, even if they just use one picture.” Help students understand what a story is and identify the story in their subject. This will also encourage students to take a lot of pictures, one of the keys to success with photography — with lots, you’re more likely to get one that’s amazing.
- “Keep yourself open to paths you can’t expect… Don’t plan too much.” If your students start with a particular shot in mind, they might miss the wonderful serendipitous photos that appear before their eyes. Visit Annie’s website to see some amazing examples.
- “People say, ‘How do you do your research?’ I never stop!” Encourage students to seek out opportunities. For example, when we’re working on the Art of Farming project, we certainly can visit chicken farms and dairy farms, but we shouldn’t miss the emu farm down the road, either. Ask students how they can learn about additional opportunities they don’t already know about.
- “Photojournalism has maintained a very strict code of ethics about altering reality.” Talk with students about how they can make sure that their photos tell the truth. For older students, discuss the difference between photoillustration and photojournalism.
- “I would look people in the eye and make sure they know I’m not doing anything sneaky. And most people are never made to feel special.” Talk with students about how they can include human subjects in their photos in a way that is honest and respectful.
- “Be real. Be sincere. Have an experience together.” When students are photographing people and animals, as they might for the Art of Farming project, discuss how they can get close to their subjects for better pictures, and how they can take pictures of people and other animals behaving naturally instead of posing them.
- “It’s really a bad idea to be the best photographer in your group, because then you’re not learning.” Encourage students to learn from one another.
Annie also told us about the day on a ranch when she woke up and the sky was so beautiful that she had to run out and take pictures — only later realizing that she had run out in her T shirt and underwear. “I wish for each and every one of you,” she said, “to find a passion that makes you so focused that you forget to put your pants on.”
Share that with your students, too; it’s a perfect wish.
Visit the website Annie Griffiths and other creative women are using to help women and girls around the world: The Ripple Effect.