Inspired by the popularity and sharability of Everyday Africa -- @everydayafrica -- as a social media initiative on Tumblr and Instagram, journalists Austin Merrill and Peter DiCampo expanded into education. Everyday Africa educators work with students to dissect traditional media representations of Africa and of the students’ own communities. Students then take their own local “everyday” photos with smartphones or other simple cameras, telling their neighborhood stories while learning and eventually showcasing valuable visual and cultural literacy skills.
- Using contemporary photographs of everyday life in various African communities through the Everyday Africa Instagram account and online platform, and by discussing and taking photographs of their own communities, students will:
- Learn about life/culture/customs in African nations via photography, breaking down stereotypes and misconceptions in the process.
- Explore photography as a medium of communication
- Learn basic visual literacy skills.
Assignment ahead of Step 1: Have students each find one news article about Africa. They should bring their articles with them and be prepared to discuss. Do not specify how they should find their articles, or what the articles should be about.
- Important that this discussion comes first: Have students share the first word or impression that comes to mind when they think of Africa. Record their responses.
- Have students share their news articles.
- Where did you get your news article? How did you find it? How does it portray Africa?
- Compare/contrast traditional media representation of Africa (war, malnutrition, wildlife) with the work of Everyday Africa. If students' news articles are applicable here, use them.
- What do you think of when you think of Africa?
- What information/story does each set of photographs communicate? Why do we see so many "traditional" images and not more "everyday" images in the media? Discuss other viewers' comments on Everyday Africa photos.
- After looking at the Everyday Africa photos, what new words come to mind when you think of Africa? Talk about perception shift.
- Define your community.
- What do you like about your community? What do you dislike? What do other people think your community is like? Do you wish they thought about it differently? How can you play a role in people's perceptions of your community?
Assignment before Step 2: Each student shoots at least one photo from their everyday lives, to be shared and discussed/peer-critiqued at this session.
What is the role of the photographer in photojournalism?
Working in pairs, students search online for images of people and places from the [local city/community]. Each pair finds at least two examples of a negative portrayal and two of a positive portrayal. Students should conduct research to find out all the information they can about the photographs – name of the photographer, where and when it was published, why it was taken.
- Why do photographers take photos?
- Is everything you see in a photograph real?
- Is it okay for a photographer to stage a shot?
- What if someone doesn’t want his or her photograph taken?
- Is it fair to portray someone in an unflattering way?
- Is it wrong to use Photoshop or other editing software to change the way someone or something appears to the audience?
- What is the role of the photographer in photojournalism?
What makes a good photograph?
Assignment before Step 4: By this point, students should be shooting their communities consistently and have a collection of “Everyday” photos ready to share and discuss during step 4. Make sure students make note of the location, date and time they took the photo as well as other context that might be helpful for a caption later (subjects’ names if applicable, what was happening outside the frame).
- Whole-class share of images. Students viewing the images will respond to the following:
Why was the image selected?
Did the image communicate the message the photographers intended?
What could other people learn from this image?
What feeling/perspective is the image trying to communicate
Does it do that successfully?
- Students should discuss their image selections in small groups or as a class before making their final selections.
- Have students write captions for their images. In the style of an AP (Associated Press) caption, students’ captions should in the first 1-2 sentences explain the who, what, when, where and why of the picture. After covering the “5Ws,” students can add relevant descriptive context, details and/or quotes to their captions.
- Students should also be able to describe how their picture represents the "Everyday-ness" of their communities.
- What challenges did they run into?
- What did they like about the experience?
- What did they learn?