Famous photographs for 5-6 year olds?
November 29, 2014 8:46 PM   Subscribe

Running a discussion Monday night with a group of 5-6 year olds. We will be discussing how photography has changed the way we view the world, and I was looking for suggestions for some example photos to use.

As in, the "blue marble" and "earthrise" photos taken from space, Ansel Adams photos of Yosemite, perhaps some of the Dust Bowl photos, the kind of groundbreaking views we first experienced through the lens. These showed us how small and fragile our world was, helped solidify support for the National Parks, helped make sure social programs didn't let Americans starve. There are many such photos I could use. However, in terms of pictures that helped us change the world, there are a lot that are not age-appropriate though. Any good ideas I should include? Links appreciated too! This is for a Cub Scout group, plan is to make a (short) slideshow of some of the pictures to help spur discussion.
posted by caution live frogs to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Neil Armstrong walking on the moon.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:57 PM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

V-J day (the sailor kissing the nurse), Tiananmen square (you know the one, with the lone man in front of the tanks -- not overtly violent, unlike say the 1968 Viet Cong guerrilla execution photo), the "pale blue dot" photo taken by Voyager 1, segregated water fountains (maybe not age appropriate), Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston (a super famous sports moment), the Wright Brothers' flight (basically any first anything, but flight is age appropriate).
posted by axiom at 9:09 PM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

The most famous Loch Ness Monster and/or Bigfoot photos might go over well at that age and serve as useful illustrations of photography sometimes teaching the world to be skeptical.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:12 PM on November 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Robert Capra's "Omaha Beach" shows soldiers swimming up to shore in Normandy in 1944. There's nothing grisly about it, but it's often cited for showing the real life of a soldier as opposed to a romanticised view. A brief discussion about Robert Capra's work and war correspondents generally would be good.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:13 PM on November 29, 2014

I might show a pre-photography realistic painted portrait, and compare it to a post-photography abstract portrait -- once we had a simple way of making a photographic representation of reality, artists could stretch and grow in new ways.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:25 PM on November 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

This is a great idea. I'm a former kindergarten teacher, so I'd say at the same time, you might find you want to focus on visual qualities and new worlds that photography reveals, rather than "changed the world' discussions, as 5 year olds are just putting together an understanding of change over time and know very little history. It's hard for them to get their minds around "before/after" in a historical way, and the idea of a world without the media that surrounds them is not fully fleshed yet in their imaginations. It's pretty abstract at that age. They are also quite little - kids this age develop fears and have nightmares, and for this reason I would recommend being careful about any graphic or threatening war imagery or even anything that requires lengthy stage-setting about war, monster imagery, disaster imagery, or anything else that may create anxiety.

I have found that really striking wildlife and landscape images, emotional portrait photography, and unusual landscapes and human-madescapes spark a lot of discussion. I might suggest you definitely use gripping, iconic, historic imagery, but rather than focusing on the "changed the world" thesis, focus on the power of photography.

Some photos that occur to me that would resonate with 5 year olds: Ruby Bridges, maybe some really amazing sports photos from the Olympics and the like, great arrested-moment close-up wildlife photos, something from space, Dorothea Lange's Depression mother and maybe the famous Afghan girl.
posted by Miko at 9:26 PM on November 29, 2014 [20 favorites]

The picture of Harry Truman holding the Chicago Tribune with the Dewey defeats Truman headline.
posted by brujita at 9:28 PM on November 29, 2014

Lewis Hine. Pictures of children in factories, kids who were practically their age, helped establish child labor laws. None of them are particularly graphic, they're mostly just regular kids looking out at the viewer, in the factories they worked in. But you should be able to draw a direct bit of empathy as well as a pretty object example of the power of photography.
posted by klangklangston at 9:31 PM on November 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

On YouTube tonight we were watching something that paired striking landscape visuals with classical music.

We live in Southern California, so seeing deserts, jungle canyons and waterfalls, plus other types of mountain peaks and valleys really sparked my son.
posted by jbenben at 9:32 PM on November 29, 2014

Life and NationalGeographic covers come to mind. Particularly the Afghanistan girl. Photos of kids about their age...I don't have particular ones, but kids in school in a one room school house, country kids at school (US) with no shoes, kids doing scary bridges and zip lines just to get to school(not US).
posted by 101cats at 9:37 PM on November 29, 2014

Some of Matthew Brady's Civil War portraits... perhaps the first time people got such an intimate look at their rulers.

Eadward Muybridge's studies of motion.
posted by zompist at 9:49 PM on November 29, 2014

Robert Doisneau's photo of little boys on rollerskates in 1950's Paris, and have them look for differences! This is photography-learning about others through time and space.
posted by jrobin276 at 9:52 PM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

5-6 year olds would certainly appreciate the portrait of Albert Einstein sticking out his tongue. I like the message that "smart" and "accomplished" and "silly" can coexist in the same person, so be yourself.
posted by cecic at 9:57 PM on November 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

Lots of good civil rights protest shots that don't show violence ... Sit ins, march on Washington, etc.

Life has an interesting collection here. Some are too violent, but other could be used. Look at the photo of the commuters all buried in the evening papers when Kennedy was assassinated .. How different from how we get our news today!

Children playing all over the world

From buzzfeed: 18 (gay marriage), 22 (koala), 24 (LBJ sworn in), 37 (Pele) (The koala one is probably not important it's just a personal fave)

Queen Elizabeth II - then Princess - doing her WWII national service as a mechanic. In PANTS.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:04 PM on November 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you show them The Afghan Girl, it would be well to also show them the photo of that same girl as a care-worn woman, and her story. Maybe not the whole intensity of war but young children can read humanity, anyone can read those images.
I cannot look at the second image without considering what that woman would look like had she lived a wealthy US life, eating organic foods, getting manicures and pedicures and massages, driving a Lexus maybe. She would be by far the most beautiful woman in town.

The Lincoln Image is an amazing photograph, every second of The US Civil War etched into Lincoln's face, the image focused exactly upon his eyes. This image shows him exhausted, worn, unbelievably human. I saw it at a show at Museum Fine Arts Houston, if you have a large screen available to you look at it on that; I saw it fairly large, it blew me out of the room.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:55 PM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just a few nonpolitical ideas (though I'm not sure if your focus is as broad as these) about how photography changes our scientific understanding or our perspective -

-Do all four of a running horse's hooves leave the ground at the same time?
-What happens when a soap bubble bursts?

-... and so many more! Astronomy photos, microscopic photos, long-exposure photos, time lapse photos, aerial photos, underwater photos...

-Family pictures. You could ask them if they have seen a photo of their relatives they've never met (like their parents' grandparents). It's very new in human history to be able to see a real picture of their ancestors/faraway relatives... for most of history they would only have heard stories about their ancestors, and maybe seen paintings or drawings. Same thing for seeing pictures of their parents before the child was born, or pictures of themselves as a baby. (Or photos of your city at different times in history, showing how more and more buildings get built.)

-Medical imaging has made a big difference in how doctors can treat people, like x-rays that show where a bone is broken.

-You could talk about the idea of a "photo finish" in a race. (One example)
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:32 AM on November 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

The Underwater Dogs series by Seth Casteel certainly shows dogs from a different perspective that might be very fun for kids.
posted by rpfields at 2:07 AM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Show them some pictures of Lartigue. He started taking photographs when he was seven years old.
posted by ouke at 3:30 AM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

When you say We will be discussing how photography has changed the way we view the world, who is "we"?

I ask because children at 5 or 6 are constantly having the way they view the world change, because they're brand new humans with both a lack of life experience and a developing (brain/emotional/getting taller) ability to see the world in different ways.

If by "we" you mean "photography has changed the way the adults in your life view the world" or "photography has changed the way different generations of people view the world" -- then you're talking about the kind of history lesson to which kids have a tendency to respond/learn "gee, past generations weren't very smart. We're smarter, because we already get this."(which is what I call "the myth of progress" and has a cumulative tendency to narratively obscure problems like racism or sexism or anything that might be a lived problem in today-times.)

I like the suggestions that stick with changing the way the kids themselves view the world -- seeing things they haven't seen before, like the underwater dogs. The photo of Albert Einstein sticking out his tongue or Princess Elizabeth wearing pants only works if kids already know the trope that women didn't used to wear pants or smart people can't be silly. If you have to spend time explaining to kids how unknown (to them) people used to think, in order for them to "see" the photo the way unknown people in the past saw them, you're going to lose them and your impact on them.

So, it really depends on whom you mean by "we."
posted by vitabellosi at 5:10 AM on November 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

There are all kinds of photos at http://www.shorpy.com. You can search to find something local.

Also pictures from Ellis Island.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:16 AM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Material World and Hungry Planet are both good photo essay books for kids which give perspective about families around the world.
posted by coevals at 5:38 AM on November 30, 2014

I would show them the Hubble Deep Field and then maybe talk a little about Drake's equation. Ask them to imagine how many worlds might be out there in all those galaxies. Bring a mop for when their little heads explode.

Neil Armstrong walking on the moon.

Good luck finding a decent photo of that.
posted by bondcliff at 6:33 AM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, this is at the tip of my tongue... Eadward Muybridge? The first person to use strobe-lighting for photography--so many excellent photomontages of how people and animals move!
posted by Sublimity at 7:04 AM on November 30, 2014

This Garry Winogrand illustrates how artistic capture of the light can say a lot.
posted by mr. digits at 8:02 AM on November 30, 2014

I had a first grade teacher who did something similar in the classroom one day! I very specifically remember that she started it off with a picture of *herself* at our age, and similar picture of our teacher's aide. The teacher was 30ish, the aide 65ish, so beyond the mind blowing idea that these people had once been kids, there was a lot to look at and talk about with the clothes, hair, cars, etc. in the backgrounds. The aide had grown up in the 30s and 40s and one of her photos was of her in her victory garden with a dog - so we talked about WWII but also about that dog, where he was now, how long ago? It was one of my first introductions to the idea of time and history being tangible and concrete, not just "now" and "before", and to the idea of documenting something so you could see or read about or otherwise know about not-now. It worked perfectly because the personal was pretty much the biggest scale I had reference for, and it was actually an incredibly powerful lesson.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:59 AM on November 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

Some of the pictures from the Mars rovers might be neat. Maybe the Spirit panorama here?
posted by deludingmyself at 11:53 AM on November 30, 2014

Following up on LobsterMitten's answer, Harold E. Edgerton's high speed photographs of bullets cutting through playing cards or milk drop splashes opened a new window on the commonplace world and are very cool for kids.

(...on preview, what Sublimity was suggesting)
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:14 PM on November 30, 2014

The first thing that came to mind was Eadweard Muybridge, horse in motion....

After he did his famous horse photographs, people realized they had been painting horses wrong the whole time. It was also the beginning of moving images and cinematography. (If you are doing a Powerpoint via projector you can say that he did something similar back in his day, he called it a Zoopraxiscope)

Mubridge used multiple cameras to make it work. Etienne Jules Marey was inspired by Muybridge and made his motion photos with a single camera.

Eventually things were refined more, film was added to the mix, and motion pictures were born.
posted by starman at 3:44 PM on November 30, 2014

i think chuck close is an interesting example of how photographs have changed the way we see the world. His big self portrait contrasted with his later photo-inspired self-portraits (like the squiggly ones) are fascinating: they're all painted but they're paintings in a world that takes photography for granted which leads to really interesting dynamics of use of photorealism or representation.

in terms of more recent contemporary artists, gerhard richter's atlas is a great example of a classically trained painter that made interesting use of photographs and ephemera to inspire his painting process.

it's that contrast of knowing that photography is a thing and still relevant, but using it as a way of changing how you see the world. impressionists couldn't freeze a scene in time and study it, their paintings were trying to both capture that moment and the fleeting quality of time. but not so with modern painters! they have photos as a given and as a result their paintings can address issues like "how the lens affects the world" but in a graphic, painted way.

For fun, also see andreas gursky who is in his own class of wealth generation from photographs. His stance is very different, it's _all_ about the photo and, in particular, manipulating the photo to create extra-photographic experiences, moments that sort of transcend the photographic medium by doing things that regular "camera eyes" can't actually do, but still treating them like "photos." His 99 cent store diptych is a prime example of that, as is his rhein river photo, both of which use digital editing to correct for the behavior of the lens and the nuissances caused by items in frame that would distract from the effect. They're idealized and stylized photos like paintings are idealized form, but they are still presented as photographs despite these qualities.

good luck!
posted by nsfmc at 10:18 PM on November 30, 2014

« Older World religion for kids   |   Do I REALLY need to take a break from dating? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.