Full Curriculum, Unit I: Through a Jewish Lens - Lesson 2: What’s a Photo For?

Time: 50 minutes
Materials: Magazines that can be cut up
Poster board, scissors, and glue
Blackboard or chart paper
Worksheet D: The Second Commandment
Preparation: Collect magazines that contain a variety of photographs (advertising, news, fashion, etc.) Divide up magazines, poster board, scissors and glue to be distributed to small groups. Make enough copies of worksheet D for the class.
Overview: In this lesson, students consider the uses of photography as they find examples of different kinds of photographs and discuss the multiple motivations of photographers.
Big Idea: Photography is used for many purposes, including art, documentation, news, and persuasion. The intentions of the photographer will impact the content and composition of the photograph.
Let my people go, NY, USA

Let my people go, NY, USA

Introduction (5 minutes):

  1.  Ask students:
    • When have you taken pictures?
    • Why do you take pictures?
    • What other reasons are there for taking photographs?
  2. List students’ answers on the board. Discuss some of the different types of photographs one might see—for example, art photographs, documentary photographs, news photographs, and photographs meant to persuade people, such as propaganda or advertising photographs.

  Finding Photographs (25 minutes):

  1. Divide the class into small groups.
  2. Give each group a stack of magazines, a sheet of poster board, scissors, and glue.
  3. Ask one group to cut out and glue onto their poster board examples of news photography. Have another group find images of documentary photography; the third, art photography; and the fourth, persuasive photography.

Depending on the size of your class, you might need two or even three groups working on each genre.

Share and Discuss (20 minutes):

  1.  Have each group (or at least one group representing each category) share their work.
  2. Discuss:
    • How do the photographs differ from one category to the next?
    • How does the purpose of a photograph influence its content or composition?
    • Are the distinctions among different types of photography always clear?
    • Can a photograph be put in more than one category?
    • How do these photos compare with the ones we’ve looked at by Zion Ozeri?
    • Why do you think Ozeri takes his photographs?


You might point out that these different types of photography have corollaries in the literary world. Like photographs, some texts (such as newspaper articles) are created to report on events. Other texts are used to tell stories (novels, for example), persuade people (e.g., essays and advertisements), or evoke emotions and associations (e.g., poetry). As in photography, the form and structure of a text will be determined in part by its purpose.

You can also use this notion of different types of photography to make connections to other curriculum areas. For example, in talking about documentary photography or propaganda, you can discuss the role of these types of images in the context of Holocaust studies. Similarly, you can relate the use of persuasive and propaganda photography to the history of modern Israel and Zionism. Israeli photographer David Rubinger has, for example, captured many iconic images that have helped to mold perceptions of the Jewish State in the eyes of the world.

For Homework:

In biblical times, there was a concern that images would be used for yet another purpose—worship. For that reason, the Second Commandment prohibits the creation of “graven images.” What is the impact of the Second Commandment on photography (and art in general)? For homework, have students complete Worksheet D:  The Second Commandment.