Essential Lens: Analyzing Photographs Across the Curriculum
Focus in on this Photo: Generating Power
Date: April 2011
Photographer: Matteo de Mayda
Source: Matteo de Mayda
Aña Maria Guch, President of “Women for Development in Action,” shows how her association of women makes aloe shampoo with bicimáquinas. From an interview: “First we cut the aloe, then we take off the skin and we put it in the bicilucuadora blender and we pedal!” Maya Pedal.
The woman in the foreground and the woman standing against the wall in the background appear to wear some sort of traditional clothing. The brick structure, porch area, and various items stacked and hanging around the structure suggest the women live in a rural area, and that they may not have access to many modern technologies.
Build on Your Observations
The woman’s positioning on the bicycle allows us to see the stationary bicycle and the pitcher attached to a platform fixed above the front wheel. Because the pitcher is typically used for a blender, and because we can see a screw mechanism that attaches the bike wheel to the platform on which the blender rests, we can guess that through her peddling, she is blending whatever is in the pitcher.
The caption tells us the woman is the President of Women for Development in Action, and she is making shampoo from aloe by powering the blender with the bicycle.
The photograph seems to highlight the way people are using alternative means to create energy to produce goods. Again, the profile orientation serves to support the tone of the image. We associate her position with movement, and here, even though she is still, she is “moving forward” by providing a means to support herself and her community.
The area in which she works is clear of any extraneous objects. This uncluttered composition helps to bring the focus on her and to convey the idea that her production of energy requires very little other than human effort.
The simple bicycle illustrates the fact that she is using common tools to impact her life and the economic life of this community. Presumably, the aloe she uses to make the shampoo is a resource natural to the region.
Her placement in front of the structure suggests this is her home: her bicycle-powered blender supports a new kind of domestic industry. The fact that Ms. Guch is president of an organization is an indication that this new domestic industry is playing in an important role in the local economy.
Formulate Further Questions
What are the advantages and disadvantages to the method the woman is using to generate energy?
How do alternative energy means allow for a broader segment of the population to work as manufacturers?
In what other ways are humans using their bodies to create energy?
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Program 1 A Closer Look (video)
This introduction to the course models the process of analyzing photographs with teachers and students. Photography historian Makeda Best discusses the Focus In method with teachers, and educator Julie Keefe employs the method with students at a photography exhibit on "light and dark." Photography curator at the Portland Art Museum, Julia Dolan discusses how she carefully selects a set of photographs to tell a larger story.
Program 2 Witness (video)
Photographs bear witness to world events and help us to learn more about people, places, and situations -- historical and present day. Middle school teacher Donald Rose guides students in analyzing photos from school integration movements of the 1960s. Documentary film producer Ken Burns weaves photographs into historical narratives to bring the past to life. Photojournalist Louie Palu's photos take us deep into mines and war zones, and engage us with the individuals who take on those tasks.
Program 3 Lives (video)
Lives explores the story of human resilience and perseverance. Middle school teacher Donald Rose uses the Migrant Mother photos by Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange to help students understand what elements a photographer chooses to focus on to create the greatest impact. Historian Linda Gordon, biographer of FSA photographer Dorothea Lange reveals Lange's role in engaging Americans in the plight of those who were most devastated. New Orleans documentary photographers Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick talk about the transformation of their photographs after Hurricane Katrina and working with young photographers to preserve the city's cultural heritage.
video 4 Evidence (video)
An image can show us otherwise invisible processes, previously undiscovered life forms, and dramatic change over time. High school teacher Rima Givot engages her students with highly magnified photos of mouse muscle to study genetically modified organisms. Scientist and photomicrographer Dennis Kunkel demonstrates the fascinating process of creating photographs of the microscopic world. Environmental photographer Gary Braasch reports on his worldwide travels to document the state of the planet through repeat photography.
Program 5 Story (video)
Every photograph tells a story: of struggle, of beauty, of community and culture. Social studies teacher Kim Kanof uses photos from the Protests and Politics collection to teach about protests around in the world in 1968. National Geographic photo editor Pamela Chen details the collaborative process of creating photo-based feature stories with design director David Whitmore. Iowa photographer Danny Wilcox Frazier discusses his work documenting the residents and images of marginalized communities across the United States.