Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Snapshots of Life, or Teaching with Photojournalism

When I was still a young student myself, I remember how much I was struck by the images in Peter Menzel's Materials Worlds photojournalism project. It's a cliche to say that "pictures are worth a thousand words," but in this case, a single image did more to describe everyday life for average families around the world than prose ever could.

I have taught lessons based on these photographs a few times to teach a huge idea that I simply call "worldly thinking." A few years ago, I heard about a similar project by another photographer, James Mollison. His gallery of images shows Where Children Sleep and again, a single image shows the radical disparity between the way different people live from country to country, even from town to town. I was so struck by these complimentary projects, that I blogged about it here on SpenceSpace back in 2011.

Well, I'm back again with another similar project and this time, the uses for the images can be used for "worldly thinking" instruction, but also to discuss nutrition and health. Peter Menzel has started another project, featured here on Nutrition News, showing a week's worth of groceries from various countries around the world.

Some viewers will be affected by the sheer quantities of food in the industrial world versus the simple sacks of grain in the developing countries featured. Others, however, will be struck by the amount of fresh produce in so many homes compared to the piles of processed and prepared foods in Europe and North America. Either way, the images can be used for a host of lessons about culture, food, nutrition, globalism, or just that big notion of "worldly thinking."

As the world continues to become more global, there are still massive disparities between lifestyles around the world. There are few ways to show this better to students than with a series of photographs that do more for their understanding than words or explanation ever could.


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