A couple years ago I was browsing through the Adobe Youth Voices award winners and I was struck by a photo essay on conservation that featured a light bulb with a tree inside. This image resonated with me and a couple years later when I was given a freshman Introduction to Photography class I decided to try to have my student recreate something similar. Normally I provide my students with extremely clear expectations for a task with a detailed rubric, but on this assignment I simply handed them a light bulb and asked them to tell me a story.
I broke the students into 6 small groups because that is how many cameras I have and gave them a period to discuss their ideas and capture their images. Then they had another period to composite their images along with images from the internet. On the third day we shared the images with the class.
Many of the students asked me if they could do this or that but I simply said that they were the artist and it was their story. For some students, this was very frustrating but most students were energized by the freedom. When the students finished their work they saved their Photoshop projects as .jpg files so we could share them in a shared Google Drive Folder. The resulting images and class discussion was transformative. I was blown away with the diversity and creativity that they demonstrated when the shackles of expectations were removed.
Since this experience I have been looking for additional opportunities to give more open ended assignments so my students can unleash their creativity. Check out some of the best examples and a short video tutorial on how to select, mask and composite images in Photoshop.
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