Tapestry of Faith: Families: A Jr. High School Youth Program that Explores the Diversity, Commonality, and Meaning of Families


Part of Families

Photography, fortunately, to me has not only been a profession but also a contact between people—to understand human nature and record, if possible, the best in each individual.

Nickolas Muray

This session explores the art of photography. It addresses the elements of effective photographs and the process of creating them. Participants also practice "framing" photographs. In addition, the group plans the first Family Event for families who will be photographed by participants for the project. The first Family Event should be scheduled to take place between this and the next session.

Photography and Youth

This session encourages participants to look beyond the utilitarian and recording functions of photography, such as for drivers' licenses and travel respectively, to understand the power the photographer has to be creative, expressive, and artistic.

Consider, for instance, a photograph in which a person is the subject and a train is the background. Let us say that in one example the photo was taken at a distance; it shows a tiny human figure in a tourist-style pose, in front of a train that is dead center and stretches from right to left. In another example, imagine the photographer moving closer to the subject in order to capture expression and mood, and photographing the scene from an angle in which the train forms a diagonal line in perspective. Each of these photos creates a different mood, tells a different story, and serves a different purpose.

Youth may have their own ideas about what constitutes art, and these ideas may differ greatly from those of their adult leaders. Participants will have an opportunity to explore how photographs can be utilitarian, tell a story, or arouse emotions. They will discuss the importance of content and composition.

Tips for Youth Photography

The process of photography is an intimate interaction. Support participants as they learn how to make their photographs personal and artistic. They will be balancing the challenges of photography with the challenges of interacting with families. Make the following suggestions:

  • Invite families to dress in ways that express their personality and/or interests.
  • Use props that are relevant to the family's life together. Props help create a mood for the photograph. Explain to youth that the results of prop use can surprise even seasoned photographers. Offer the following example: Consider a photo of a small child. You decide ahead of time that you want to create a happy mood, so you select balloons and a stuffed bear for props. If the child smiles, laughs, or is even complacent, you may succeed in your objective. If the child cries or looks pensive, the mood of your photo will be different from your expectation. You may end up creating a poignant but unintentional product.
  • Be prepared to converse with subjects while shooting. Conversation will relax them, providing more animation and expression. It also allows participants to get to know the families better.

A Closer Look at Camera Types

Although you and the group have already made decisions about the types of cameras you will use in the photo-documentary project, keep in mind that different types of cameras pose different possibilities and challenges. There are even differences between cameras within individual types. For example, some digital cameras have a long delay between pressing the shutter button and actually recording the image. These photographs can appear more posed and less spontaneous.

The type of camera, film, and lighting equipment you use will partially determine the quality of the final photographic images. The degree of photographic experience that leaders and participants have will influence the complexity of the equipment you will use. Simple equipment can be quite satisfactory when it is used correctly. Lighting equipment should be simple and compatible with the camera(s) you use. Either become familiar with each type of camera you plan to use or have access to the camera manuals. Be prepared to demonstrate operating techniques for each type of camera.


Participants will:

  • Increase their ability to understand multiple visual perspectives
  • Deepen spirituality through engagement with others and through their work with an artistic medium
  • Enjoy the process of creating art

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Learn about the critical elements of a photograph
  • Engage in image design
  • Examine ideas about photography and art