Literacy Through Photography

Literacy Through Photography (LTP) is a teaching methodology that encourages children to explore their worlds as they photograph scenes from their own lives, using the images as catalysts for verbal and written expression around universal themes such as self-portrait, community, family, and dreams. The work can give teachers a glimpse into students’ lives and give students a way to understand each other’s diverse experiences. One of CDS’s oldest initiatives, LTP was originally developed by artist/educator Wendy Ewald in partnership with CDS and the Durham Public Schools. Ewald also developed an LTP program in Houston.

 Staff at CDS share the LTP philosophy and methodology in various ways:

  • The program continues its decades-long work with students and teachers in Durham Public Schools, working across different curricula and disciplines by connecting picture making with writing and critical thinking. Recent collaborations include “Stories from Stagville,” a multimedia exploration of the lives of individuals enslaved on Durham’s former Stagville plantation; “Song of Myself,” a project inspired by Walt Whitman’s literary classic; and the “Un-Selfie Project,” which takes a critical look at the selfie craze. An undergraduate LTP class at CDS integrates college students into this work, and includes review and discussion of teaching, photography, and contemporary social issues relevant to public education.
  • Through the LTP Arusha DukeEngage summer program in Arusha, Tanzania, Duke undergraduates participate with LTP staff in training Tanzanian teachers in LTP’s philosophy and methodology and work with Tanzanian students on classroom photography and writing projects. Hundreds of teachers and thousands of Tanzanian students have participated in the program.
  • Workshops throughout the United States and abroad train artists, educators, and others in LTP’s methods for combining photography and creative writing while encouraging participants to design individual plans for their own LTP-based projects.
  • With support from Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, LTP has archived photographic and written work made by Durham students. This archive is a resource for researchers and the general public.
  • LTP guidebooks include I Wanna Take Me a Picture: Teaching Photography and Writing to Children and Literacy and Justice Through Photography: A Classroom Guide.