accessibility & help

Hiding faces

Two Afghan boys from the Pashtun tribe hide their faces from the camera as a soldier from the Afghan National Army (ANA) looks on© InfoChildren in areas affected by armed conflict sometimes play up to journalists' cameras. They can be happy to pose, grin and lark about, welcoming the distraction from danger and boredom. That can produce charming, even cute, photographs, contrasting their irrepressible spirit with the seriousness of the security forces. This is different. Two boys hide their faces, providing an intriguing opportunity to explore why. Activities range from role playing photographers' subjects, to stereotypes, to technical aspects of photography. 

Who, where and why?

Show the photograph  and invite students to say:   

  1. where they think it was taken
  2. who they think the people are
  3. why the people are behaving as they are.

For each answer ask students to say how they know what they know. What evidence can they point to to back up their ideas? Discuss and try to come to agreement, before checking out with the detail below.

The picture was taken in Afghanistan in Kandahar province. The village is called Morghan-Khecha in the Daman district. The man in the foreground is a soldier from the Afghan National Army. The man behind is a villager who has been stopped as part of a programme of gathering information about people's lifestyles and views.   

The boys are hiding their faces from the camera. There is no information from those present about why. They may be playing, having fun. But there is nothing to indicate that - they seem quite watchful and serious - and may actually be concerned about being photographed. The soldier seems to be watching the photographer carefully.   

Ask students to write a caption to the picture, for a newspaper or magazine, based on their discussion and analysis.  

By the end of the activity students will be able to identify details of a previously unseen photograph and discuss the evidence behind their judgements.

"Don't take my picture" role play

Invite students to say why these boys, or anyone else, might not want their photograph taken. What personal experiences have students had of awkward situations? Set up a role play in which one or more students who don't want their photographs taken respond to another who is keen to persuade them. What techniques work best? Does getting angry and threatening help, or is it better to be calm? What persuasive approaches from the would-be photographer are hardest to deal with?  

Finish by talking about, and, if necessary, researching, the editors' code of practice for photographing children in the UK. Are the guidelines generally applied to photos they have seen before? Can students remember seeing children with pixellated, unrecognisable faces? Are the guidelines different for children overseas? Should they be?  

By the end of the activity students will be able to list reasons why people may not want their photograph taken and be able to identify effective ways to request privacy for themselves or others. 

Where do stereotypes come from?

Look back at what students said about identifying the photograph in the first activity. What specific influences help form our view of what Afghanistan's landscape and people are like? List all the sources students can think of - television news, aid agency adverts, newspaper photographs, movies and, for some, direct or reported personal experience. Survey the list. Do students think it adds up to a narrow or wide experience? If they visited Afghanistan do they think they would find it as they expected it?  

For an out-of-class activity ask students to find photographs of Afghanistan that do not meet the common expectations - ones that would not be instantly recognisable to an outsider.   

By the end of the activity students will be able to describe the sources of their knowledge of the landscape of rural Afghanistan and reflect on potential stereotypes.

Life patterns in a war zone

The soldier in the photograph is gathering information in Kandahar province, part of Afghanistan occupied by NATO forces and which has seen fierce fighting. The aim is to find out who lives there, their ages, lifestyles and opinions. Such data is important for planning and delivering services such as health and education.

Ask students to say why this useful information, often taken for granted in a peaceful country, might be unavailable in an area which has experienced armed conflict. See who can come up with the longest list of reasons, from population movements, to destruction of records, to the difficulties of operating an effective local authority.

By the end of the activity students will be able to give possible reasons for the shortage of data about people and their lifestyles in regions that experience prolonged armed conflict. And understand why such data is important in any country.

Photography, art and physics 

Invite students to analyse the image. Why is it so striking? How does it communicate the subjects' essential humanity? Comment on the colours, the tints and the contrasts.   

Discuss elements of the composition - for instance, the central figure in white and the way the domes of the buildings are matched by the shape of the soldier's helmet. Explore the technical use of depth of field, whereby the foreground and background are out of focus and the middleground subjects sharply defined. What effect does this have? How was it achieved? Explore how variations of aperture and focus distance achieve different effects. Set up a physics practical using lamps and lenses to illustrate the basic principles.

Encourage discussion of how these different details can impact on how people feel about the people and place represented in the image.

By the end of the activity students will be able to outline some of the elements that contribute to a striking photographic image. They may be able to explain the technical term depth of field and describe how to vary it.



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