It is no secret that art education in America is woefully underfunded. Students are no longer getting classroom time dedicated to learning and practicing art in its diverse forms, despite the fact it is extensively documented to improve the well-being of students in a wide variety of ways. We here at PhotoWings are troubled by the erosion of arts in the classroom, and believe photography is a great avenue to reintroduce this important component to a well-rounded education.
Unlike painting or sculpting or other artistic mediums, photography has a low threshold to entry, both in terms of material cost and familiarity. Most high school students have smartphones, and that percentage is getting closer to one hundred all the time — from 2011 to 2012 the number of students using them increased a whopping 60%. And with smartphones comes built-in cameras of acceptable, if not "top-of-the-line," quality. Students may not be carrying around canvases and paintbrushes and paints in their backpacks everyday, but they do have cameras in their pockets. And they are using them. A lot. As of 2 years ago, more than half of teenagers used some type of social networking platform (a number which has surely increased markedly since), with Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram clocking in first, second, and third. It goes without saying that social networks in general, and these in particular, are built around the sharing of images. Which is all to say that it would be relatively low cost and pedagogically "easy" (aside: teaching is difficult, period, and teachers deserve utmost respect for the work they do) to create arts curriculum around an activity most students already have the hardware for and the inclination to do.
Take, for example, the above video from Cooperative of Photography on image composition using the photographs of Steve McCurry. In three minutes, the video covers a great deal of ground, exposing its audience to a variety of concepts fundamental to competent visual literacy, an aptitude which becomes more and more important every day. Further, our PhotoWings interview with renowned photo-documentarian Jason Eskanzi delves into these same issues of visual literacy in a more advanced way, using his photographs to talk about how images convey complex stories.
Photography is a powerful tool for education in a variety of ways for a variety of reasons. How might you utilize photography in the context of creating an arts curriculum?