Through a Lens Darkly: Urban Schools and the Photographic Imagination
When developing a photographic imagination, historical photographic evidence can be examined following a three-fold structure - evidence, interpretation & speculation.
Evidence is characterized as factual, objective & documentary in nature.
Interpretation or deductions are generally built on circumstantial evidence. This evidence needs to be verifiable by more than one individual.
Speculation extends an individual's interpretation based on the emotional reaction that is evoked when viewing the image.
The virtual sphere makes it possible for major historical collections of photographs to be available through photographic archives. These visual representations of the collective memory are governed by socially established symbolic codes. Each image can be critiqued from the standpoint of semiotics, history, cultural criticism, or literature.
When viewing these archives; it is paramount to consider the photographer's intent, the relational elements of the image itself & the individualized perspective of the viewer. It is, also, equally critical to recognize that photographs are subjective, cultural productions.
The agendas of the photographers who are featured in these archives varies depending on their level of education and the social context surrounding the capture of the photograph.
For example, photographs of educational institutions depict socially established relationships between teachers and students. These relationships vary according to determinates such as race, gender & social class.
Educational institutions reflect a constructed environment. Therefore, by precedent individuals existing in the metropolitan environment are regimented into the 'urban person.'
Historical photographs have the capacity to alter individuals' views of themselves, specifically in relation to society as a whole. Whether by propaganda or educational material, photographs aid in the development of a sociological imagination.
For example, photograph 13 by Anne Knudsen symbolizes the breakdown of previously accepted law and order. Authority is under attack from student activists, who channel resistance into organized political action.
The caption for this photograph reads: "Undercover LAPD officers Dwane White (left), and Yolanda Gonzales appear at a press conference with Chief Daryl Gates, where Gates said the two were among eight undercover agents behind a narcotics operation at nine high schools."
This photograph depicts the transformation in the popular imagination of educational institutions in urban environments from centers civic price, order, socialization and achievement to centers of chaos and social disorder. Vocabulary such as "inner city" and "urban schools" became synonymous with "ghetto."
As a result of this paradigm shift, pedagogical authority was withdrawn from schools, metal detectors, cameras, security guards replaced the previously socialized surveillance of the teacher.