What is photography? An advanced TED video lesson
This is another image and video-based lesson. The students first discuss the concept of photography, watch a 6 minute video (Impossible Photography; a TED talk by Erik Johansson) and finally describe complex images.
- Giving opinion
- Listening comprehension
- Describing in detail
- Listening for detail
- Vocabulary building
Extra materials -
Many thanks to Márcia Elena Schaedler for providing a language page designed to help your students describe photos – click on the link to download the PDF.
Stage one – mind-map
Ask your students how they think photography has changed in the last 10 years.
Some ideas you might expect:
- Digital cameras are more prevalent and cheaper
- Digital storage of photographs means less space needed & easier to transport
- Can print own pictures more easily now
- Selective development of photos
- Instant viewing of photos and the ability to delete unwanted images
- Photoshop and digital editing more sophisticated
- Camera phones capture news as it happens; more eye-witnesses
You can obviously expand and ask for more opinions. Let this section go as long as you feel it is useful.
Then ask your students to define the word photography – considering the difference between amateur and professional photography.
- Ask them if they think a digitally edited image can truly be called photography.
- You could follow-up and see if they think digitally edited images can be considered art.
Stage two – comprehension
Erik speaks slowly and clearly and the language is fairly straight forward. Intermediate students and up should be able to follow without too much bother. You may want to modify the wording of the questions below to suit the level of the group. Dictate the following questions to be answered as a comprehension to the video below (suggested answers in italics):
- What question does Erik pose the audience? Is it photography?
- What was Erik’s first real passion? Drawing
- What conception of photography did Erik previously hold? You had to be in the right place at the right time, the process ends when you press the trigger.
- How did this inspire him? He wanted to create something that began at the press of the trigger, to make something different.
- What “common goal” do Erik’s photos have? To have an element of realism.
- Define realism as used in this context. Photo-realism: something that looks as if it could have been captured, that it looks realistic.
- What principles does he adhere to when creating an image? Little details: 3 rules – photos combined should have the same perspective, the same type of light and they should be seamless.
- Why is it easier to create a place rather than to find a place? Because one does not have to compromise the ideas in one’s head.
- How does he plan the photos? He draws a sketch, combines different photographs and follows the principles.
- What is his conclusion? We’re only limited by our imaginations.
Ask your students to compare answers in pairs. Go around the class asking for feedback. If they are unclear on the answer replay a section and let them find the answer themselves. The video I’ve embedded is on YouTube, but it is originally found on TED.com, the best website in the world. The link is http://www.ted.com/talks/erik_johansson_impossible_photography.html
Stage three – describing deconstruction
The following slide show has a selection of Erik Johansson images. Each is copyrighted by Erik, though he gives permission to use them on blogs, so, cheers Erik! Erik Johansson’s website.
You can do this in several ways; – either print out colour copies of the images, or show the images to individual using a computer screen/iPad.
The aim for your students is to describe the photograph to their partner (or whole class) well enough for them to be able to reproduce it in sketch form. In this way, they will deconstruct Erik’s images to their base sketch-form and use lots of interesting vocabulary and description.
They will need some difficult vocabulary – so I recommend doing this in small manageable groups in order for monitoring to be successful. They’ll need lots of guidance. For more fun, you could have votes on who produced the closest image, etc.
Next time you’re in the countryside at night do yourself a favour: look up. If it’s clear and conditions are right you’ll see a seemingly infinite number of stars twinkling like diamonds on a sheet of black velvet. As a visual pleasure it’s hard to […]
The photo director for National Geographic David Griffin knows the power of photography to connect us to our world. In a Talk filled with glorious images, he discusses how we all use photos to tell our stories.
After many years as a keen amateur photographer, I decided to start a small landscape photography business called Lakescenes which I ran alongside my main job as an IT Manager. As business increased, I found myself working long, but rewarding, hours just to keep up […]
Rob Sheppard is a naturalist, nature photographer and videographer who says his favorite location is the one he is in at any time. He is the author/photographer of over 40 books, as well as a well-known speaker and workshop leader, and a Fellow with the […]
Gary Hart has photographed California’s natural beauty for over 30 years. Gary’s photos and writing have appeared in many publications, most recently Outdoor Photographer and Sierra Heritage magazines. You’ll also find his images in greeting cards, postcards, calendars, and many galleries and private collections throughout the world.
Originally from Poland, based in London UK, Jaroslav has background in Fine Arts, degree in Architecture, and wide array of experience. Being an Architect taught him how to be resourceful and to solve complex problems with simple, yet innovative solutions. Constant passion for graphic & […]
Use a wide-angle lens to add some humor to your images. Superwide-angle lenses practically force you to create wacky images, simply by letting you cram so many elements into the picture. It can be a blast to use them to distort perspective. But there are […]
As with the old film darkroom, taking a picture is only part of the process – you also need to know how to edit images to get the most from them in the ‘digital darkroom.’ Here are some of the more common errors to watch […]
We asked portraits pros to share their best tactics for framing up a subject. Many decisions go into shooting a single portrait. Often, as we chat with our subjects, we’re not even aware that we’re making choices about framing, subject distance and position, color palette, […]