Library of Congress


The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Lesson Plans > Civil War Photographs
Brady's photo outfit in front of Petersburg, Va

[Detail] Brady's photo outfit in front of Petersburg, Va

Student Project Outline


You are a reporter during the Civil War. You will be viewing hundreds of photographs taken by Mathew Brady and other photographers who are out in the field. Your job is to sort through their photographs and find one that will bring the war alive to your readers. Once you find this "perfect" picture, you will write a corresponding newspaper article.


The Civil War was one of the first wars caught on film. The majority of the photographs taken during the war were by Mathew Brady and other photographers who worked for him. The Library of Congress online collections include a collection of over 1000 of these photographs which have been digitized and published online. It is from this collection of Civil War photographs that you will select your photograph. Your teacher may have additional questions to focus your analysis and discussion.

How To Be An Investigative Reporter

Photographic analysis

Before you can begin, practice learning how to analyze a photograph. What you see is not necessarily what you get! Look at a photograph from the Civil War given to you by your teacher. Looking at your photograph, complete the Primary Source Analysis Tool, to learn strategies on photographic analysis. When you finish, compare your findings with your classmates who analyzed the same photograph.

Civil War photograph selection

On the first day online, browse the Civil War photographs collection so you are familiar with it. Follow your teacher's directions on how to search by keyword, browse by subject, and browse by year.

On the second day, search the collection and choose the photograph you wish to use. Print or save the photograph according to the teacher's directions. Print or save the photograph according to the teacher's directions.


Analysis of specific photograph

Take a look at your photograph and analyze it using the skills you learned in the photographic analysis lesson. Make sure you have a copy of the Primary Source Analysis Tool. This will help you formulate questions which you will answer through your research.


Bring your photograph and completed Photographic Analysis Form to the library for two days of research. To help you with your research, use your Research Guide for note taking. Begin your search for information based on the questions you wrote on your photographic analysis form. You may use online sources as well as books, magazines, etc. Don't forget to record your citation information in the correct format.


As you complete your research, go over How to Write a News Article. Write your rough draft on your own and then bring it to class and complete the Peer Editing Guide. Revise your article.

Self Assessment & Peer Evaluation

Review your article and your classmates' articles. Give some feedback using the Self Assessment & Peer Evaluation. This is your chance to be the evaluator.


There are several grades in this project. Your teacher will complete a final evaluation to give you feedback on your final product. Additionally, the different activities have their own evaluation criteria and grades.

Photographic analysis          
Analysis of your specific photograph          
Peer editing          
Self and peer assessment