Visual World Assignment #3: Analysis: The Photographic Record

While it is generally accepted that photographic images provide a record of significant moments and events, there is debate among scholars about how the photographic record influences individual understanding of public events. For example, in “Childhood of Human Rights” Sharon Sliwinsky suggests that viewing photographs of tragic events often results in a kind of cathartic voyeurism: we feel bad, congratulate ourselves for feeling bad, and do nothing. Your task in this assignment is to argue for the role of photographic images in creating a public record of an event of your choosing by synthesizing two scholarly arguments about photographic images and offering your own interpretation of an example image related to the event.

Audience: Scholars of media and photography

Format: 1200 words (4-5 pages); MLA style, including in-text citations and Works Cited page

Advice: The best essays will provide thorough summaries of at least two theories of the uses of photographic images and will apply at least one of Gaipa’s strategies for entering the conversation. You should be able to state your argument about the photographic record of a public event in a single sentence.

(FOR INSTRUCTORS ONLY)

Type: Use a secondary source as a lens to analyze a primary source and support a thesis with evidence

Rationale: The purpose of this assignment is to give students practice summarizing, paraphrasing and otherwise engaging theories of photography and the public record. The assignment prepares students for the culminating research paper in which they combine analyses of photographic images, visual representations such as comics and graphic novels, and written sources to produce an argument about the current understanding of a public event.

Pre-Draft Activities:

  1. Annotating and discussing essays on photography such as Slovic, Sliwinski, Sontag, and others;
  2. Practicing Gaipa’s strategies for entering academic conversations using common texts;
  3. In-class writing focused on developing and supporting thesis statements through structure, analysis, reflection, and consideration of counter-arguments;
  4. In-class writing and peer review focused on clarity and argument;
  5. Practicing in-text citations and formatting entries for a Works Cited page.

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