Learning to See short-term projects utilize the technique of making photographs, without a camera. Sunprints, also called Cyanotypes or Photograms are a fun way to create art as a group or individual and is perfect for all ages. The first step is to arrange objects (natural objects such as leaves and skulls; art and learning supplies; hands and feet; anything one can think of) onto light sensitive paper. The next step is to expose the paper to UV light, sunlight, for several minutes; remove the objects and then rinse in water. The places where the objects were remain white, and the rest blue. Other color combinations, on paper of all sized, and fabric can be used. These pieces of art can be finished or then worked further by coloring or painting, or creating a sculpture. A finished project can be made in one session.
Learning to See projects include four distinct stages: introduction to photography, taking pictures, editing, and presentation. While the actual schedule and scope of a project varies according to each project's goals and collaborators, a typical project devotes one day to each stage:
To begin, students learn about the art of photography and the use of the camera. Students look at a variety of images, from famous historic photographs to images made in local newspapers. They use these images to observe perspective, composition and discuss the message of the image. Having the students bring in their favorite visuals is also encouraged. Then students are instructed on the function of the camera, and how to use it to achieve different effects and results.
In the second stage, students go out into their environment and shoot what interests them: their families, their neighborhood, their cultural activities. The emphasis at this stage is on exploring students' personal visions, and gaining some insight into what draws them to the images they make. Students may be assigned particular technical exercises, such as to use their images to study framing and point of view, or they may have more general goals, such as to document their neighborhoods or local cultural events.
With all their images developed or printed out and gathered together, students now jointly review and critique their work, learning more about what makes an interesting photograph. Discussing the pictures engages students both visually and verbally, as they study their images' merits and themes. Depending on the project, specific assignments are given and further sessions include critiquing the images, discussing intentions behind their images, and how successful they feel they were. Writing about their images then becomes an additional way of using visual art to help verbal communication. Students are made aware that in art there is no right or wrong. All efforts are a stepping stone to further exploration.
The final stage involves public display: sometimes an exhibit, sometimes a printed book, sometimes a collaborative presentation with other educators or artists. This stage has two goals. First it allows students to take pride in their work and experience the reaction of others to it. Secondly, when viewed as a whole the project often makes a statement about a neighborhood, event or culture. Very often this stage involves a writing component: either writing captions as to the who, what, where, why, when of the images, or using the images as the basis for creative prose and poetry.