Photography lesson

Lesson of the day: “Photographing the reality of war”

Featured Article: “Photographing the reality of warby Emmett Lindner

Did you follow the war in Ukraine? Did any of the photographs showing the people and the destruction stick with you? New York Times photographer Lynsey Addario spent several months in Ukraine documenting the war. The Times interviewed her while she was in Kyiv and asked her about her experiences working in a beleaguered country.

In this lesson, you will examine several of Ms. Addario’s photographs and learn about her approach to documenting the war. Then, you will try to imagine yourself there, both photographer and subject of a photograph.

Start by making a list of everything you know (or think you know) about the war in Ukraine. (If you want to dig deeper into the roots of the conflict and how it started, check out this lesson plan.)

Then scroll through the slideshow below which includes photos taken by Ms. Addario over the past few months in Ukraine.

Stop on a photo and look carefully:

  • What do you notice ? What do you wonder?

  • What story, or stories, does it tell? Does this photo contradict or confirm something you thought you knew about the war?

  • What do you think the photographer was trying to communicate with this photo?

  • What question would you ask the photographer if you could?

Read the articlethen answer the following questions:

1. What is Ms. Addario’s approach to photographing war? What is his usual goal?

2. How does Ms. Addario communicate with the people she photographs? Why does she think it’s important to do this?

3. In deciding where and what to photograph in Ukraine, Ms. Addario said she asks herself, “Where is the narrative? Where are we in this war? What should I include? » Return to one of the photographs of the warm-up. How do you think Ms. Addario answers these questions in the photo?

4. Why do you think photographs are important in reporting on the war in Ukraine?

5. How does reading the article change the way you see the photographs you looked at during the warm-up activity, if any? Does this change your understanding of the role of photography in wars?

6. In your opinion, what is the responsibility of a photographer who covers a war?

7. Did photos and the way Ms. Addario thinks about photography change the way you think about the war in Ukraine?

Carefully study a photo from the slideshow during the warm-up: what is happening in the photo?

Imagine you are there and write a fictional journal entry about the scene, from the perspective of the photographer or one of the subjects.

Draw on evidence from the photo or article to inform your writing. For example, if you’re writing from the perspective of the subjects, consider facial expressions, body movements, clothing, surroundings, or how the people in the photo interact (or not). If you’re writing from the photographer’s perspective, draw inspiration from Ms. Addario’s interview to give you insight into what it might be like to photograph in a war zone.

Additional teaching and learning opportunities

  • Listen to a podcast. If you want to learn more about Ms Addario’s work, listen to an interview with her on ‘The Daily’ podcast, where she explores one of her photographs, which The Times called “the definitive of the war”. What does this photograph tell us about what is happening inside Ukraine? How did Ms. Addario’s approach to documenting the war lead to this photo?

    You can find more of Ms. Addario’s work, and many additional photographs from the war in Ukraine, in “In the Field: Ukraine Under Attack.” (Please note: many images are graphic.)

  • Learn more about war photography. Read “The Afghan War: A Photographer’s Journal” by Tyler Hicks, a New York Times photographer, or “Beyond the Myth of the War Photographer,” an interview with a psychiatrist that explores the complexity of the daily work of photographers covering conflict and human depravity. What else do you learn about the role of a photojournalist and the power of documenting a crisis in photos?


Want more daily lessons? You can find them all here.