Posted on 09/19/2014 at 02:56 PM by Blog Experts

iTunes U has a series of six short videos published by the Smithsonian titled, click! Photography changes everything. Each video covers a different aspect of photography:

  • Photography changes everything
  • Photography changes who we are
  • Photography changes what we remember
  • Photography changes where we go
  • Photography changes what we see
  • Photography changes what we want

This is a new initiative promoting that photographs don’t just document what we do, but how photography shapes everything that we do. Marvin Heiferman, curator of this program along with Merry Foresta, director of the program, have also authored a book with the same name, Photography changes everything. They explain that there really isn’t a single history of photography—it depends on who is taking the photographs and the reason for the photographs. Therefore there are lots of different ways to look at each photograph, and different ways of understanding them. This philosophy is in alignment with the Iowa Core standards for visual literacy (See the Fine Arts blog of April 23, 2014 titled, “Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’”).

In the book, Photography changes everything, there are over 300 images. These photographs ask readers to think about the extent to which our lives have been transformed through our interaction with photographs. This is reminiscent of another book by Ransom Riggs, Talking pictures: Images and messages rescued from the past. The messages in Riggs’ book were written on the back of the photographs he has found and rescued, thus giving us a snapshot into the lives of the people in the photograph.

Lonnie Bunch narrated the second video. He explained that photographs can solve problems, can be used as evidence, are an important entry point into complex history, and make us want to know more about the people who were captured in that image. Bunch believes that photograph changes who we are.

Photography changes what we remember, according to Hugh Talman, who documented the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans. Until he photographed it, he didn’t feel that he or others really realized the enormity of the disaster.

Lisa Stevens discussed the photography of pandas, and believes that photography changes where we go. People, after seeing photographs of pandas, want to go to see them for themselves—as well as photograph them. She felt this was important for helping to make others aware of endangered species.

Photography changes what we see, according to Jonathan Coddington. He talked about the importance of the advancement of photography that allowed people not only to photograph spiders, but also spider webs.

Photography has long been important to the advertising world. According to Susan Strange, photography changes what we want. When we see a well-executed advertisement, it motivates us to purchase the item.

I found this series interesting for two reasons. First, art teachers often feel that finding professional development specifically for them is difficult. But iTunes U can be viewed anytime, anywhere. Plus, this series is free!

Secondly, what a great project this would make for students. Have them view each of the six videos. They could do this in class or for homework, as each video is only two or three minutes in length. Then students could take (or find) photographs for each of the six categories. Have them explain in two or three sentences why they believe each of their particular photographs fits into the category. Collect all of the photos and commentary, and put them together in a class book.


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