ECI 832 / Reflections

Why They’re Worth Far More Than A Thousand Words

GoodbyeI can’t remember seeing this photo before discovering it a few weeks ago, while finding photos for my Grandma’s memorial service.  I’ve lost myself in this photo many times since then.  How is that a still image can get such a hold on my heart?  I treasure the photo; it’s a little echo of my Grandma and Grandpa’s love.  I can’t actually recall that particular moment but I can recall every ounce of the love they poured into me through this image.  I can really feel that hug and I can remember the way Grandpa always waved us goodbye with his little smile, just like that.  It’s a moment in time that will somehow continue to live and and to speak: a photo is worth far more than a thousand words.

Images have the power to capture such moments, to tell a story, to transcend both time and space.  Most recently, I have been especially struck by the stories shared through the images of migrants around the world.  Because of spaces on social media, the stories aren’t only being told by the media.  We are hearing the stories of those living the experience, and seeing images that transcend the words.  Barat Ali Batoor was once an asylum seeker and he is now an immigrant living in Australia. He tells the story of his incredible migration from Pakistan to Australia in his TED talk, “My Desperate Journey with a Human Smuggler”.  As a photojournalist, he was able to capture moments of the journey with photographs.  He recalls that “we were watching our deaths, and I was documenting it”.  After surviving a shipwreck, the only thing he had left was his memory card.  Ali Batoor is now set to release a documentary capturing the story of his people, the Hazaras, and the experiences of asylum seekers around the world.  Take a minute to look at Ali Batoor’s photos, and you’ll see: a photo is worth far more than a thousand words.

Hany Al Moliya fled the Syria after his uncle and cousins were murdered in his home.  Along with his family, Hany escaped to a refugee camp in neighbouring Lebanon.  They were eventually selected by the UN to resettle in Regina.  The UN has captured the refugee story of Hany and his family in a five-part documentary series.  Hany has an eye condition that prevents him from seeing anything farther than 10 cm away.  He is legally blind.  Using instinct and imagination, Hany uses photography to share his life experience with the world.  In the first documentary, he explains how “the camera lens has become my eyes, it’s the way I see the world. Through my lens, I want to show the whole world how we are living”.  Hany’s story is one of many refugee stories captured and shared by the UNHCR– the UN refugee agency that rescues and assists people fleeing conflict or persecution.  Watch Hany’s story and you’ll know: a photo is worth far more than a thousand words.

Images have incredible potential in our learning spaces.  They pull us into someone else’s story, they help us to ask deeper questions and I believe they create pathways for empathy.  In Grade 6 and 7, we have been reading about how migrants are using social media to ease their journeys.  We used the featured image to make predictions and ask questions.  Now the article wasn’t just about words strung together to make sentences and paragraphs, it was about the story of those kids, on that little dinghy, seemingly happy to be sailing along together on the ocean.  We started making inferences about their stories.  There were great conversations around fairness and social justice, and we could put faces to the names we read aloud.  We can use powerful images to help our students learn, and they too, will experience: a photo is worth far more than a thousand words.

Is there an image that transcends space and time for you and continues to speak?  How do you use images in your teaching practice? 


One thought on “Why They’re Worth Far More Than A Thousand Words

  1. Great post Harmony! It is great to hear how you are exploring digital citizenship with students in how these online spaces can represent the voice of others globally…. individuals who would have had to overcome diversity and circumstances we can’t even relate to. I used to do a similar writing activity, pre-Social Media using National Geographic cut out photos, where students had to insert themselves into that person and create a social story. It was a great writing lesson, as it explored perspective, and the power of narrative writing. And quite honestly, it was also hilarious at times.

    What I also appreciate about your lesson is that you are also helping your students see the opportunity we have to find out what the voiceless have to say. I’m rambling, so I think I will stop there.

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