Look and See Books
Sylvia K. Forti
Woonsocket Senior High School, Woonsocket, Rhode Island
"The camera has the disarming effect of being 'user friendly.'
Students who were not artists with the pencil or brush achieved
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.
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