"The Wizard of Photography" offers a unique lens through which to study economics, technology, literature, media, arts, and labor in American history. You can either use part or all of the film with your class or delve into the rich resources available on this Web site to supplement your classroom activities.
Running Time: 1 hr
Taping Rights: Educators can tape the film off the air and use it for one year after broadcast.
"A picture paints a thousand words." Discuss this old saying with your class. Why do people value pictures? What do they capture? What do memories mean to people? What does it mean to "document" a moment or event? What opportunities does documentation through photography present? Ask students to discuss their favorite pictures, and what value they see in them.
How is new technology financed? Discuss with students development processes. Why might somebody back another persons inventions? What limits might this relationship impose? How does a developer profit? How does an investor profit?
What legacy did George Eastman leave? How did his discoveries change daily life? How did they change his own life? How did his personal life contrast with the emotional possibilities his technology offered the world?
What role did finances play in George Eastmans life? What did money or the lack of it mean for him? How did his childhood shape his views on the importance of money? Why did he keep such meticulous accounts? Did having a lot of money make him happy?
How do we use photography today? Do students think photographs are a more truthful medium than paintings and drawings for capturing events? How are photographs objective? In what ways are they not objective? How can photographs be manipulated? What are the implications of this in terms of photographys role in documenting history?
Ask students to bring in favorite photographs, whether personal or not, and have the rest of the class to guess what is being documented there. Where was the picture taken? When? What time of day? What are the people, if any, thinking? What does the picture tell you about that particular time in history? What incident does the picture document? After the class takes their best guesses, have the student explain whats going on in the picture, give historical context, and discuss why its significant to her/him. If possible, have your class make an online photo album from the pictures presented, with captions provided by students.