Katelin O’Hare and I are meeting with the 6th grade Art classes this week to introduce our Renaissance Photoshop project where students locate a Renaissance painting and layer themselves into it. In the past we’ve used Dove’s Evolution of Beauty campaign video to kick-off a discussion about image manipulation. This year, I gathered examples from additional resources, news stories, and ad campaigns.
Three noted moments from the ensuing conversation:
1. When looking at examples of image manipulation in advertising and fashion magazines, one 6th grader came up with the analogy: “Photoshop is to models what steroids is to athletes.” This spawned a really interesting discussion.
2. When asked where they should start their search for images of Renaissance paintings to use for their project (before we introduced Artstor), many students called out Google! One child then piped in, “The problem with Google, is that you don’t know if the images you locate will be an authentic image or an altered one.”
3. When asked why Artstor rightfully charges for a subscription to their amazing digital repository of art, one child said it was because, “They take really big photos of paintings and then host them on their computers and let us download them. It’s like iTunes for artwork. That costs money.”
Today, I began the annual Renaissance Photoshop Project with Yoshiko Maruiwa, my favorite 6th grade Art teacher at The School at Columbia University. As part of the 6th grade integrated study of Florence and the Renaissance in English, Social Studies, Science, Art, Music, and Wellness, Yoshiko and I team-teach this Photoshop unit where students locate a Renaissance painting and layer themselves into it as either the main character or an additional character.
Here are the directions for our 3-day unit:
1. We talk about media literacy. Today, one girl said it was like “reading pictures.” I liked that a lot. As a group, we defined media as the plural of medium and gave examples of both:
Media = how to convey or communicate information or mass communication, the news are described as “the media” and can share information using a variety of means (television, radio, internet, etc…)
Medium = how something is communicated or expressed: a drawing, painting, watercolor, television, email, texting, movies, music, commercial, song, newspaper, internet, magazine
With a team of Googlers working across many product areas we are able to harness the best of Google to power the Art Project experience. Few people will ever be lucky enough to be able to visit every museum or see every work of art they’re interested in but now many more can enjoy over 30 000 works of art from sculpture to architecture and drawings and explore over 150 collections from 40 countries, all in one place.
5. We talk about Artstor and it’s subscription service which Columbia University pays for. We look at the Permitted and Prohibited uses. I remind them that it is super important to read the terms and conditions of a website so that they avoid doing anything illegal or unethical (whether intentionally or accidentally). Everything they do online public, permanent, and traceable. (http://artstor.org)
The ARTstor Digital Library is a nonprofit resource that provides more than one million digital images in the arts, architecture, humanities, and sciences with an accessible suite of software tools for teaching and research. Our community-built collections comprise contributions from outstanding international museums, photographers, libraries, scholars, photo archives, and artists and artists’ estates.
6. Students choose a Renaissance painting from Artstor that they will manipulate. The directions for the project are here.
7. We talk about ownership of Art. Who owns the Mona Lisa? Yoshiko made a simple slideshow about variations of the Mona Lisa here. We discuss copyright and fair use and discuss Shepard Fairey’s Obama Hope painting. My lesson plan is here.
This semester, the 6th graders engaged in an integrated study of Florence and the Renaissance in English, Social Studies, Science, Art, and other subjects. This is the second or third year that I have teamed up with Yoshiko Maruiwa to team-teach a Photoshop unit where the kids locate a Renaissance painting and layer themselves into it as either the main character or an additional character. We find our paintings on http://Artstor.org, an amazing online gallery of digital images. As The School is part of Columbia University, we can access the site from school without needing to create a login.
I used to do something similar with my 7th graders at Convent of the Sacred Heart, though they were allowed to layer themselves on any image (from Smurfette to Mia Hamm to The Pope…) In the course of teaching students how easy it is in can be to manipulate photos using a few basic tools and settings in Photoshop, I implore them to appreciate that every image they see in magazines, online, on billboards, on posters, etc. has been altered in some way, shape, or form. In the course of our discussion this year, one student exclaimed, “Even Taylor Swift doesn’t look like Taylor Swift!”