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Philosophy at the Virtual Art Museum

Using art to prompt philosophical discussions in the high school classroom.

Teacher Guide

Portrait of Carol Janeway

Maya Daren, 1943
FILTERS: Photography

Artwork Module Navigation

Questions for Philisophical Discussion

  1. Is this photograph realistic?
  2. How do you think it was made?
  3. What is the significance of the fact that this photograph is composed of two different images?
  4. Is this photograph a trick?
  5. Does it convey something specific about the sitter?
  6. What are the most significant differences you see between a painting and a photograph? Do you think that photographs are more (or less) realistic than paintings? What exactly does this claim mean? Are there different ways in which a photograph or painting can be realistic?
  7. How are digital photographs different than ones made using the traditional method of recording the image on a celluloid negative? (If you don’t know how this works, traditionally cameras had film in them and the image was recorded on the film, which had to then be developed and then printed. This is a very different process than digital cameras use, in part because the image was analogue rather than digital.) Are there things that can be done with a digital photograph that cannot be done with a film-based one? What are some examples? How about the reverse? Is one form of photography superior to the other?
  8. Does the fact that photographs can now be digitally altered affect your sense of the reality of a photograph? How? Does this affect the degree to which you “trust” what you see in a photograph?
  9. In what sense do you think photographs resemble the things they are of? Are they different than paintings in this way?
  10. Do you trust a photograph more than you trust a painting? In what way(s)? Why? Are there ways in which you trust paintings more than photographs?

Additional Resources

Essay on Maya Deren’s photography and filmography

Photography Overview and Resources

Photography is an art form that came into existence in the mid-nineteenth century. At the outset, photography consisted of the recording of light on a photo-sensitive emulsion. In recent decades, digital technology has replaced the photo-chemical one, transforming the nature of photography. Because photography reproduced reality in a naturalistic manner, it caused a crisis in traditional painting and the art world at large.

Resources on photography from the Museum of Modern Art


Timeline for the history of photography

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Maya Daren, Portrait of Carol Janeway, 1943
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Maya Daren, Portrait of Carol Janeway, 1943
Download & Print Send Via Email
Maya Daren, Portrait of Carol Janeway, 1943

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