History of LTP

Literacy Through Photography (LTP) encourages children to explore their world as they photograph scenes from their own lives, and then use their images as catalysts for verbal and written expression. LTP also provides opportunities for students to bring their home and community lives into the classroom. Photographs can give teachrs a glimpse into their students’ lives and, in increasingly diverse classrooms, give students a way to understand each other’s experiences.

In 1989 the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) invited photographer Wendy Ewald to Durham, NC, to offer a two-week workshop for local schoolchildren. A year later, with encouragement from Durham school administrators and support from CDS, Ewald started the Literacy Through Photography (LTP) program, working in the Durham Public Schools to make photographs the basis for a variety of learning experiences across the curriculum. Since then, LTP has worked with numerous elementary and middle-school teachers and children of varying ages and backgrounds through programs with the South Carolina Arts Commission, Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Arts and Education Council of Chattanooga, Rhode Island School of Design, and the Alvarez Bravo Photographic Center/Galeria de la Luz in Mexico. School districts across Texas and in Colorado, California, Oklahoma, Colorado, North Carolina, and New Mexico have also used LTP. More than 25,000 students have benefited from the Literacy Through Photography program since its introduction. For more information: LTP Blog at Duke University


In the early 1970s, Wendy Ewald was one of the early pioneers in investigating collaboration as part of her artistic practice. Starting as a documentary investigation of places and communities connected to teaching, Ewald’s projects have evolved over the years to focus on questions of identity and cultural difference working with communities in the United States and throughout the world.

For more than 38 years, Ewald has collaborated in art projects with children, families, women, and teachers in Labrador, Colombia, India, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Holland, Mexico, and the United States. In her work with children, she encourages them to use cameras to record themselves, their families, and their communities, and to articulate their fantasies and dreams. Ewald often makes photographs within the communities she works and has children mark or write on her negatives, thereby challenging the concept of who actually makes an image, who is the photographer, who is the subject, who is the observer and who is the observed.

These early collaborations with children, a process called Literacy Through Photography (LTP), have become a model for curriculums across the country that engages students through photography as a means of improving literacy skills and exploring issues of identity and cultural diversity. In connecting picture-making with writing and critical thinking, LTP promotes an expansive use of photography across different curricula and disciplines, building on the information that students naturally possess. LTP also provides opportunities for students to bring their home and community lives into the classroom.

Ewald has received many honors, including a MacArthur Fellowship and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andy Warhol Foundation, and the Fulbright Commission. She was a senior fellow at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at the New School from 2000-2002. She has had solo exhibitions at the International Center of Photography in New York, the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, the George Eastman House in Rochester, Nederlands Foto Institute in Rotterdam, the Fotomuseum in Winterthur, Switzerland, and the Corcoran Gallery of American Art, among others. Her work was included in the 1997 Whitney Biennial. She is an artist-in-residence at the John Hope Franklin Center and senior research associate at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. She currently teaches at Amherst College.

Images (top to bottom): Wendy Ewald with students in Richmond, VA, 2004; Wendy working with a student, Margate, England 2005.


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