Photography lesson

Lesson of the day: “The year in pictures 2021”


Featured Article: “The year in pictures 2021

Each year, the New York Times photo editors sift through thousands of images to find the perfect photographs to represent the news of the year. The 176 images gathered here present the story of 2021 “through the universal and eloquent language of photography,” writes Meaghan Looram, director of photography for The Times, in the collection’s introduction. They relate the conflicts, triumphs and poignant scenes of everyday life over the past 365 days.

The collection also showcases the bravery of the people who took the images. Ms Looram writes:

This period underlined the particular communicative power of the image, as well as the risks taken and the hardships endured by photographers to show us the world. While some people retired to work from home or keep their distance, these engaged journalists did not have that option. Our writers describe and sometimes interpret the world for our readers, but our photographers literally show the world to our readers.

In this lesson, you’ll explore the visual history of 2021 and reflect on the power of photojournalism. In the Going Further activities, we invite you to analyze and interpret a meaningful photograph from the Times collection and organize a “year in pictures” for your own life.

Note to teachers: Some of the images in the featured article depict scenes of conflict, trauma and death. Please preview the collection to make sure it’s right for your students.

What is the story of 2021?

Before looking at the collection of photographs from the past year, brainstorm a list of images, sounds, words and artifacts that come to mind when you think about the events of the year. elapsed.

Next, think about your list: what do you notice? What major themes and ideas are emerging?

Next, draw a picture that best captures the past year. Your drawing can be realistic or abstract, detailed or just a few stick figures. Add a caption that explains your creation.

Finally, share the drawing with your classmates. What is similar and different about your 2021 performances?

Look at the photos of the collection and the accompanying text, then answer the following questions.

(Note: There are many ways to explore the collection. You can quickly scroll and then come back to take a closer look at the images that stood out. Or you can work with a group to review a single month and share the facts. highlights with the class.)

1. Think about the photo collection as a whole: What emotions and feelings did the images arouse for you? Taken as a whole, what story do these images tell about 2021? How is this story similar or different to the drawing you created in the warm-up activity?

2. Respond to the power of individual images: Which images from the collection have marked you the most and why? Which do you think best capture the highlights of the year? Are there any events that you think are missing? If so, which ones and why?

3. Discuss a caption or quote: Times photographer Michelle V. Agins describes herself as “a thief of moments.” Todd Heisler says he developed “a kinship” with the New York service employees he photographed during the pandemic. Which legend or story behind an image do you find most illuminating?

4. Ms. Looram notes in the collection’s introduction that while much of photojournalism, like news reporting in general, focuses on uproar, conflict and tragedy, The Times asks its photographers to document “ joy, optimism, curious and dynamic moments that reminds us of the breathtaking beauty of the world and all that connects us to each other. Select an image that captures the beauties and joys of 2021 and explain why you chose it and how it relates to your own life.

5. What are some of the challenges Times photojournalists faced in documenting the world in 2021, according to the article?

6. Ms. Looram’s introduction concludes:

Photographers are often invisible and unrecognized. This collection puts their voices at the center of the conversation. As much as it is a representation of the events of the year, it is also a tribute to them.

Do you think the work of photojournalists needs more attention and appreciation? Why is photojournalism – and a collection like “The Year in Pictures” – important? What can photojournalists capture on world news and events that words and text alone cannot? Would you like to be a photojournalist? Why or why not?

Option 1: Organize a “Year In Pictures” collection.

Create a new “Year In Pictures” slideshow using five to 10 images from the Times collection. What story would you like to tell? Which images would you choose and why? Annotate your slideshow with a written explanation of why you selected each photo.

Option 2: Analyze and interpret a photograph.

Choose a photograph from the collection that you found particularly informative, surprising or touching. On a closer look, answer adapted questions from our What’s Going On In This Picture? characteristic:

Then dig a little deeper:

  • What do you notice about the composition, colors, objects and people in the photo?

  • Why did this photo strike you? What do you find intriguing or moving about this?

  • How does photography make you feel? How does this resonate with your own life and experiences?

  • What challenges do you think the photographer faced in taking the photo?

  • What do you think the photographer wanted to communicate with this image? What questions would you ask the photographer or the subjects of the photo?

Option 3: Create a “year in pictures” for your own life.

If you had to make a “Year in Pictures” of your own year, which photos would you choose? How do these images illustrate the most significant moments of your 2021?


Want more lessons of the day? You can find them all here.