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The Pedagogy of the Lens: Exploring Identity Through Photography

It’s not only about mathematics and grammar, geography and history. The educational philosophy of the Social High School (SHS), run by educators from the Akko kibbutz, places equal importance on providing the school’s students with opportunities to explore creative pursuits and develop new skills.

The photography program at SHS now counts 50 students among its ranks. The 10th-12th graders in the program learn how to point the lens to shed light on social content relevant to their lives, such as the complexities of youth identity, the challenges of adolescence, and more.

Over the course of the recently completed school year, the students used their cameras to delve into questions of digital identities, consumer culture, racism and prejudice.

“Learning photography has given me totally new ways of seeing the world around me,” said Shachar, 16, a 10th grader in the program. “It’s like, the physical objects captured in the photo are the same, but learning to read the story they tell has been very eye-opening. But the coolest thing by far has definitely been learning to use the camera to tell my own story, to learn about who I am and share this with others.”

[Photo of shachar?]

Each year the students decide upon a particular focus to guide their learning. This past year, the students decided to explore how digital identities develop. They investigated the duality created when digital and real identities develop alongside one another.

“We tried to look at contemporary culture from diverse perspectives, and to understand and provide room for the human need to document, photograph and “brand” themselves as part of their day to day lives,” said Or Sachs, director of the photography program at SHS.

[photos from the exhibition]

“We asked the students to turn the camera around and produce four images that tell their own stories. The sheer range of what they produced was incredible. It made for a beautiful tapestry in which the students explored how to use images in the formation of identity in a more conscious, developed and honest way.”

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