Communications 1306 Students Use Photography Assignment To Present Viewpoints
If you look at a photograph long enough, your mind begins to piece together a story that outlines your perception of an image.
Photography not only offers the viewer stimulation of the eye and mind, but also serves as a useful tool for communicating. It opens a window for interpretation and evaluation that’s shaped in part by our individual worldview.
In UHD Professor Dr. Susan Osterberg’s Communications 1306 classes, students presented their observations and reactions to a series of selected photographs.
Osterberg encouraged students to look closely at their chosen photographs and ask deep questions. Is the image evocative or ambiguous? What perspectives does the photographer present? What’s the story? What emotions does it bring about?
In addition to making these observations, each group found creative ways to present their work using music, slideshows, props, and other imaginative forms of communication.
One group presented their insights on the world-famous photo “Migrant Mother” that was captured during the Great Depression by photographer Dorothea Lange in 1936. The photo features a mother, Florence Owens Thompson, sitting as she holds a baby. Two older children lean against her with their heads turned away from the camera.
“In the photo, we see a mother with her children clinging to her, but the story is much deeper,” one student said. “We see sadness and suffering, and we feel empathy for them. When you look at the photograph in color instead of in black and white, you can see the details of their distressed clothing and think of how affected they may be in their circumstances.”
Following each presentation, Visiting Photography Emeritus Anne Tucker — who spent nearly three decades working as a curator of photography at The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston before retiring in 2015 — gave her own comments and insights on the images presented by each group.
“The students of Dr. Osterberg’s classes rose to their challenging assignment in different and impressive ways that involved creative thinking and communication,” Tucker said. “The photographs they were given were not ‘one-glance-and-you’re-done’ images … they were open to various interpretations, which required careful looking, questions, and discussions within their groups to craft their in-class presentations.”
While students were only tasked with presenting their perceptions of photographs, many groups went beyond the assignment and incorporated research into their presentations.
“They came to understand that the pictures were layered and open to various conclusions – in part determined by many factors having as much to do with them individually as with the subjects of the pictures," Tucker added. “It was a pleasure to hear their evolving discoveries.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.