Modelling Press Photography Analysis: Learning through Pictures
Press is dominated by pictures. Readers are interested in photographs which capture the suffering and pain of others (Sontag, 2003; Zelizer, 2010). But are they capable of interpreting the visual content of press photographs? The aim of my study is to examine and develop the reception process of press photography (PP) as a competency in visual literacy (VL). The concept of VL emerged in 1966 (Fransecky & Debes, 1972), but no substantial theory of this concept has yet been developed (Avgerinou & Pettersson, 2011). VL is broadly described as a multidisciplinary area of knowledge which could be defined either as a skill, a competency or an ability (Avgerinou, 2003). Therefore, my contribution is to introduce methods for PP interpretation to improve VL skills among students. First, I created and evaluated a model for PP story analysis. The research comprised two stages: (i) familiarising study participants with the interpretation model and (ii) qualitative content analysis of the participants’ interpretations of samples of press photo stories. The result is that the model enabled the participants to develop their skills in VL, while a secondary result is that familiarity with the model facilitated the activity of interpreting PP. Second, I introduce a universal typology for photojournalistic image genres. The typology provides the reader/viewer with a description of the visual and textual indicators of each photo-genre. Moreover, the definition of ‘press photography’ and ‘photojournalism’ is evaluated and discussed. Therefore, the classification may assist as an additional tool in journalism studies as well as in teaching VL. Further, by reviewing methods on photography analysis, I formulate an application of some of them to create a model for PP analysis in order to facilitate students’ individual development in VL. Finally, I test the model and report results through an autoethnography, i.e. my own experience as a teacher, and a participatory observation during a study visit to a university with a developed curriculum in visual communication. Participatory observation will be based on descriptions and evaluations of individual and group exercises in which students discuss and analyse press photographs in order to improve their VL skills. The project has been undertaken in order to design a model for PP analysis and to develop PP theory. The results could be applied for teaching and learning VL, as well as for further studies on PP analysis as one of the research methods within humanities.