Library of Congress


The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > Touring Turn-of-the-Century America

[Detail] U.S.S. Alert. Photographer - W H Jackson, 1901 or 1902

Photographic Choices and Composition | Drawing Outside the Frame | Art Criticism | Creative Writing

Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company 1880-1920 can be used for a variety of arts-related projects. Historic photographs provide an opportunity to discuss the importance of composition while reproductions of paintings facilitate art criticism. Many images can also be the basis for creative projects such as writing a newspaper or creating a drawing around a photograph.

Photographic Choices and Composition

Photographers make a conscious effort to compose an image using their camera. Select a series of images of a single subject (and, if possible, from a single photographer) to study the composition of a photograph and the photographer’s decisions. Use the following questions as the basis for both a critique and for creating a portfolio of photographs on a subject of your choice.

  • What are the similarities and differences among the photographs?
  • What aspect of the subject does each photograph emphasize?
  • How does viewing multiple images of the same subject help you to understand the choices that the photographer made in creating each image? What were some of these choices?
  • What did the photographer leave out of the image?
  • How else might the photographer have presented the subject?
  • How does the photographer compose his or her image to highlight the subject matter? Does the photographer use the composition to say something about the subject matter or to emphasize some aspect of the subject matter?
  • How does the composition create relationships between the subject matter and any other people or objects in the photograph? What do these relationships suggest about the subject?