Using a Headshot Assignment to Incorporate Critical Theory Into Photojournalism Classrooms

Main Article Content

Andrea Briscoe
Kyser Lough


This case study uses a diversity and critical thinking exercise in a photojournalism class to show how journalism educators can incorporate race and gender conversations about ethics and judgment into traditionally skills-oriented courses. It is crucial that journalism students learn how to apply their skills properly in an era of social unrest, inequality, and dwindling media trust. Democratic citizenship and journalism are intertwined, but often the bigger ethical conversations are left out of skills-oriented courses. This can lead to a disconnect between the skills themselves and the responsibility of practicing the skills, especially when it comes to matters of power and representation. The field of photojournalism remains predominately White and male, which makes it all the more crucial for students to interrogate their own biases to ensure ethical coverage of their communities. The assignment asks students to make 36 portraits of strangers, and the subsequent classroom exercise has them confront their inherent biases by looking at the demographics of the people they photographed compared to the general population. Data for this case study consist of observations of the classroom conversations and a reflexive journalism exercise the students completed afterward. Findings indicate this exercise is a successful way to introduce racial and gender considerations as part of photojournalistic ethics and judgment. Students initially neglected to think about representation and diversity in their selection of people to photograph but afterward said they could effectively incorporate reflexivity into their work in an effort to provide more representative imagery and confront their own biases.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Briscoe, A., & Lough, K. (2021). Using a Headshot Assignment to Incorporate Critical Theory Into Photojournalism Classrooms. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 21(4).
Pedagogy of the Polarized