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Look and See Books

Sylvia K. Forti
Woonsocket Senior High School, Woonsocket, Rhode Island

Subject: Art/Photography
Grade: 10-12

"The camera has the disarming effect of being 'user friendly.' Students who were not artists with the pencil or brush achieved equally well."

Purpose and Description of Project

ASPIRE (Art Shared by People Investing in Relevant Education) is a state-funded, citywide program for the visually gifted and talented in Woonsocket. Students participating at the high school level expressed themselves through 35 mm color slides, black-and-white photos, and video films as they completed a three-year study cycle on foundations, imagery, and visual literacy. The first 13 seniors to complete this cycle became "mentors" for 2,000 elementary students in 13 area schools when they used their photography skills to prepare a series of elementary-level Look and See books on visual literacy. Sylvia Forti's project was intended not only to provide a visual instrument for the elementary-level students but also to improve each senior's ability to use the 35 mm camera and print black-and-white photos, to interpret each problem according to his or her own style and creativity, and to develop visual perception. As an example, one book gave the elementary students "A New View" of familiar objects. First, a small portion of a photo was revealed and the reader was asked to guess the object's identity before turning the page to see the entire photograph.

Activities

Over the course of six months the students were introduced to black-and-white film processing and printing, and then began doing their own photographic work. The students photographed appropriate subject matter for the content, wrote the text, used transferable letters to design the text layout on the book pages, developed and printed their photos, organized and sequenced the material, made book covers, and finally bound 13 Look and See books.

Materials, Resources, and Expenses

Within the school, an art teacher consulted on the general production of the books, and the metal instructor drilled holes in the paper and book boards to facilitate binding. Two newspaper photographers and a nature photographer shared their knowledge with the students, as did the artist-in-residence.

The students used six 35 mm cameras with close-up rings and PLUS-X and TRI-X film. They developed their film in the school's darkroom using Kodak chemistry, 5 x 7 and 8 x 10 RC paper, and typical film processing and enlarging supplies and equipment.

To make the books, students used four packages of 11 x 14 60-lb. Fairfield Vellum for mounting the photos, gray book boards and two yards of 1/4" polyester batting for the covers.

Outcomes and Adaptability

The creation of the Look and See books proved to be a total success in providing a special creative outlet for the gifted students. Even those who were not adept at drawing or painting achieved equally as well as class members who received regional and national Scholastic Art Awards. In the end they endowed their community with a unique visual literacy resource as the books were placed in the libraries of the 13 elementary schools. While classroom evaluation techniques indicated that the students had improved their photographic skills and expressed aesthetic principles clearly, Forti says, "The ultimate evaluation will be the amount of usage the books will receive."

Forti believes that the opportunities for replication and adaptation of the project are limitless. Teachers might employ the same format for books focusing on a single theme-e.g. the seasons or man-made objects.

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