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Teaching photography to kids

My oldest daughter was in first grade last year and I volunteered to teach  2 Art Masterpiece lessons one quarter.  The first lesson I taught was photography.  I told the kids that photography is art because art is a way we can express what we care about.  I told them that Ansel Adams was an American photographer who cared deeply about the environment; that he is best known for b&w landscape photographs of nature and landscapes;  that Annie Leibovitz Is a an American portrait photographer who cares about what makes people special; that she mainly photographs famous people in extraordinary settings; that Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French photographer who cared about what was happening in the world; that he started a movement called photojournalism – which means to tell a story with your photographs; that he captured the human experience.

To get them in the mood, I set up a backdrop, a couple of umbrellas and 2 Canon 580EXiis.  I told them to come up with a pose that expresses something about themselves that they love.  Some kids jumped for joy, kicked invisible soccer balls or struck a dance pose.

I bought each child a disposable camera and before giving them each one I told them a little bit about framing, composition and light.

We went out on the playground and they went bonkers with their cameras, all happily snapping then hurriedly checking the back of their cameras for the digital image that was not there!  I explained that they were shooting in film and that they won’t know how their stuff looks until I had their pictures developed.   

I was under the impression that all went well until at the very end, one of the two Kaden’s said “Wait, this was an art masterpiece lesson?  But photography’s not art!  Art is painting and stuff!”

So the next time I went in, it was to teach them a lesson on mixed media using their developed images (people told me that it was ridiculous to try with 7 year olds but did I listen?)  I showed examples of other mixed media pieces made by the super talented but still undiscovered creative Anessa Matthews.  I showed them her paintings made on pieces of fence, paper birds on a wire in a 3D frame and some of my own awesome products with photographs on metal and glass.

The kids were in awe.  I reiterated how photography is art because art is how we express what we care about and that photography is a way to express what we care about. I think the message landed more firmly this go ‘round.

For the mixed media lesson, I had the kids make a four paneled ornament out of the images they took during the previous art masterpiece lesson.  They snapped up the project lickety split and ornaments quickly were everywhere!

I LOVED the way these lessons went together but unless you have funding of some sort, buying and developing images from 22 disposable cameras is PRICEY!  I didn’t have any funding though a few parents donated a little something to help out.  Anyway, it was still worth it, I got some good Mom mojo from my 7 year old daughter and that, my friends, is priceless.