SchoolArts Magazine

November 2017

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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Cheryl Olson Student Perspectives My students hail from a New Jersey city, where their lives are surrounded by violence, teenage pregnancy, drug addiction, and other characteristics that make up inner-city American poverty. Despite these challenging circumstances that surround them, they continue to rise above them. My students are strong, powerful people, and their portraits need to be viewed from their own perspectives rather than the negative stereotypes that pervade our culture. This portrait photography unit enabled them to cre- ate art that can be shared as a coun- terpoint to the current stereotypes of inner-city America. Day One: Portrait Studies The first day of the unit began when students walked into the artroom and saw three self-portraits on the front screen. I asked them to write three things that were similar in the portraits, three things that were different, and then figure out which one was the photograph (there was a drawing and painting as well). For the rest of the class period, students worked in groups to study photos I gave them and wrote down their observations. As a social justice educator, I chose underrepresented minority portrait photographers for them to look at. Some of those artists included James Van Der Zee, Carrie Mae Weems, Diane Arbus, Jimmy Nelson, Richard Avedon, Dorothea Lange, and Zanele Muholi. Day Two: Prompts and Terms On the second day, I handed each student a sheet with questions prompting them to think about their personalities: "What is one adjective you would use to describe yourself?" "What is your favorite piece of cloth - ing that you own?" "Where do you f eel like you are in your element?" And, "What current political issue do you feel passionate about?" We then looked at more portraits and learned introductory photog- raphy terms, such as composition, a rrangement, close-up, mid-range, long shot, rule of thirds, balance, space, and simplicity. Students began to notice the lighting in the photo - graphs we observed. Day Three: Developing Hashtags On the third day, students developed a hashtag for the political issue they previously wrote about. Some of the hashtags were: #StopDomesticViolence, #IAmNotAStatistic, #GayMarriage, #BlackLivesMatter, and #BuildBridg - esNotWalls. Once they came up with t heir hashtag, they planned their portraits, including clothing, set- ting, background, facial expression, p ose, and distance from the camera. Digital Photography Sessions To prepare for their photo-shoots, stu- dents learned the different parts of a d igital camera and how to use them. They each successfully learned to use a tripod and how to light their portraits using clip-on lights. We were fortunate to receive funding through a Donors Choose grant, which enabled us to get a camera, tripod, and computer. Students took turns using the camera, adjusting lights, costumes, makeup, and directing. The rest of the class worked on drawing self- portraits while photos were being taken. After portraits were uploaded onto the art studio laptop, students edited them using iPhoto and Pre - view. When my students started to br ing their lunch upstairs to sit for portraits, take photographs, and edit, I knew the unit was a success! Reflection/Assessment On the last day of the unit, I gave each student a peer's portrait to respond to with these questions: What tech- niques did the artist employ? What At the heart of each poorl it and composed, haphazardl focused selfie, la s the foundation for a successful and interesting portrait. Aleysha Candelario and Joanna Vasquez, #MentalIllnessIsReal and #StopTheHate&Appreciate, grade seven. Photo by Amir Craig, grade seven. 18 NOVEMBER 2017 SchoolArts

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