Hiding in Plain Sight

Based on the project As Usual, featured on the 7th edition of The FENCE, exhibited in public parks and downtowns across 8 cities in North America.

Photograph by Brooke DiDonato

Lesson Overview

Use photography to encourage students to see new perspectives on objects, people, and places they encounter every day.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Build a visual language from experience

  • Reflect on their own progress/process by examining the ordinary

  • Collaborate with others to think creatively and visually

  • Use photography and writing to learn about others and develop a narrative

Session 1: Intro & One-Minute Sculptures

  1. Show examples of Erwin Wurm’s one-minute sculptures and Brooke DiDonato’s As Usual series. Encourage students to notice how people in these images interact with objects and space.
  2. Split the class into small groups and have each group choose someone to be the photographer, the model, and the director (there can be more than one director if needed). Everyone should have a chance to play each role. Each group receives a camera/uses a smartphone camera and a prop of their/your choice.
  3. Set a timer and have students try their own one-minute sculpture. In 60 seconds, the director should decide how the model will interact with the prop. The photographer will shoot the resulting “sculpture.” After the 60 seconds, swap roles and try again!
  4. Collect photographs from the students and review their favorite poses.
    • What did you find most challenging about this process?
    • How did you come up with new ideas?
    • How did you work together as a team?
    • Which role (director/photographer/model) did you like best and why?

Session 2 - 6: Making Photos / Printing and Editing


For this activity, students will be paired up to take a new photo each week. As the teacher, you can decide how many weeks this exercise should last. We recommend 4 weeks, and the more weeks students are asked to repeat this photo, the more it will challenge them to think creatively outside the box.

  1. Depending on the focus and resources available in your classroom, decide on the technology students will use to capture images. (Film, digital, cell phone or working in groups) Review photography basics with your students, including basic camera skills and composition.
    1. Refer to THE FENCE 2018 Guide for an intro to photography styles and <a “clickables” href=”https://uisd52bq6wh12wtkn2zvn6ks-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/PhotovillePassport_final-compressed.pdf”>The Photoville Passport for helpful vocabulary.
  2. Pair students together (try to partner them with someone they don’t know as well).
  3. Each pair of students will work together to choose (separate answers for both of them):
    1. A meaningful/favorite place that you have easy access to
    2. A meaningful/favorite object that you can bring with you easily
  4. Each week, students will be tasked with the following:
    1. Visit your locations and bring your objects together.
    2. Have your partner photograph you in your location and with your object. It’s up to you how you decide to photograph — and you can work together to come up with new ideas.
    3. Individually: write a one-paragraph journal entry about what you tried this week. What was different about the space and the atmosphere? Was there anything different about your object? How did you work together with your partner to make the photograph? How did you feel about the photo session overall?
  5. Try providing prompts for kickstarting their creativity and review Brooke’s As Usual images (or other relevant examples) for inspiration:
    1. What are different ways you can interact with this object? How many different ways can it be positioned in relation to you? Can you unroll it, unravel it, connect it, disconnect it, throw it, shake it?
    2. What might change about the location you photograph? What does it look like in different times of day? How can you position yourself differently in the space? What does it look like in different seasons? When is it full, empty?


  1. Each week, students will choose their favorite image from the photo shoot and print it out to share with the class.
  2. Encourage students to do a gallery walk to review the week’s new images to see how others are interpreting the prompt.
  3. As a class share out reflections on the following questions:
    1. Choose an image on the wall other than your own (or your partner’s) that is interesting or surprising to you. What do you like about it?
    2. What challenges are you running into as you photograph each week?
    3. What things are working well as you collaborate with your partner?

Session 7: Share & Reflect

  1. At the end of the last week, have student pairs work together to choose their (5) favorite images from each location/object and create a display from their printed images.
  2. Create an artist statement and answer the following:
    • What object and location did you choose and why?
    • What new things did you learn about the object and location that you chose?
    • What did you learn about your partner?
  3. Make space for students to share their pieces with the class or the larger community in a culminating event, such as a gallery or presentation.

Standards Addressed


Write routinely over extended time frames (time for reflection and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.


Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.


Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.


Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.


Paraphrase portions of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.


Add audio recordings and visual displays to presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes.


Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.

VA:Cr1.1.6 Collaboratively exchange concepts and different points of view to generate innovative ideas for creating art.

VA:Cr1.1.7 Apply strategies to overcome creative blocks.

VA:Cr.1.1.8 Document and reflect on early stages of the creative process, visually and/or verbally in traditional or new media.

VA:Cr1.2.4 Work individually and collaboratively to set goals and create artwork that is meaningful and has purpose to the makers.

VA:Cr.2.1.4 Explore and invent artmaking techniques and approaches.

VA:Cr2.1.8 Experiment, innovated, and take risks to pursue ideas, forms, and meanings that emerge in the process of artmaking or designing.

VA:Cr2.3.4 Identify, describe, and visually document place or objects of personal significance.

VA:Cr2.3.8 Select, organize, and design images and text to make visually clear and compelling artistic work.

VA:Cr3.1.4 Revise artwork in progress on the basis of insights gained through peer discussion.

VA: Cr3.1.5 Create artist statements by using art vocabulary to describe personal choices in artmaking.

VA: Cr3.1.7 Reflect on and explain important information about personal artwork, in an artist statement or another format.

VA:Cn10.1.4 Develop a work of art based on observations of surroundings.

Authors: Judi Desire, Leida Torres, Vonecia Carswell, Ryan Lockwood and Brooke DiDonato

Featuring photography by Brooke DiDonato

Grade Level: 4th – 8th grade
Subjects: Photography, English Language Arts
Time Required: 4-7 class sessions

Key Images:

As Usual Image Bank

Materials Needed:

      • Cameras/Smartphones
      • Photo Printers
      • Journals
      • Props

This lesson plan was created during United Photo Industries’  Spring 2019 Teacher Professional Development Day.

Many thanks to PhotoWings for supporting UPI Education!