||49 Practical Activities and Methods for Human
Rights Education > Picture games
A picture says a thousand words and the camera
does not lie - or does it?
||General Human Rights, Media,
Discrimination and Xenophobia
|| Level 1
||Working with images is creative and fun, and these activities
make good icebreakers while having value in their own right.
They focus on issues about:
- How each person perceives the world in a unique way
- How images are used to inform and mis-inform
||Any: depending the pictures and the issues you choose to
- To raise awareness about the relevance of human rights
to everyday life
- To develop "visual literacy" skills, listening
and communication skills
- To promote empathy and respect for human dignity
1. What do you see?
- A set of photos
- Stiff card, glue, sticky-backed plastic (optional)
- Board, large sheets of paper or flipchart paper, and
- A wall chart listing the Articles
of the UDHR
- Collect together a set of 25 pictures showing people
in different countries and different settings.
- Back the pictures with stiff card and cover with sticky-backed
plastic for durability (optional)
- Number the pictures
- Lay the pictures out on tables round the room.
- Tell people to work individually.
- Read out one of the articles
from the UDHR and write it up on the board/flip chart.
- Ask people to look at the photographs and to choose the one
that in their opinion best represents the article.
- Then ask each person in turn to say which picture they chose
- Make a note of which pictures were chosen; write the numbers
on the board.
- Do four or five more rounds naming different articles
from the UDHR. (Choose a mixture of the civil and political
and social and economic rights.)
Debriefing and evaluation
Start with a review of the activity itself and then go on to
talk about what people learned.
- Was it difficult to choose pictures to represent the different
rights? Did individuals choose different pictures in the different
rounds, or did they think that one or two pictures said it all?
- Did different people choose the same pictures in the different
rounds, or did people have very different ideas about what represented
the different rights? What does this tell us about how each
of us sees the world?
- Review the list on the flipchart. Which photographs were
chosen most often? What was special about these images? Why
were they chosen often? Did the size or colour make a difference,
or was it what was in the picture that was significant?
- Was any individual picture chosen to represent several different
- Did anyone disagree with anyone else's interpretation of
a particular picture?
- Were there any photos that were never chosen? Could they
nonetheless be interpreted to represent a human right? Which
rights? People should explain the reason for their choices.
- Did people know that they have all the rights that were talked
about in the course of the activity? If not, which ones did
they not know about?
- How do the media use and mis-use images? Pick one example
of a current event and analyse how it is presented in the newspapers
and on the television. How are the related human rights issues
Tips for facilitators
There is no limit on the number of times a particular photograph
can be chosen. One particular image may be chosen several times
in one round, or it may be chosen in different rounds. In other
words, it may represent one of the articles to several people,
or it may represent different articles to different people.
Refer to section "How to
use COMPASS" for more information about making your own
set of photos. You can collect images from colour magazines, travel
brochures, old calendars and post cards. Be sure that there is
no text with any of the pictures, but make a note of each picture's
original caption or other information, so you can answer questions
about it. The pictures should show a wide variety of aspects of
"life on earth"; they should include images of individuals
and groups, people of different ages, cultures and abilities.
There should be pictures in rural and urban settings, of industry
and agriculture, people doing different sorts of work and leisure
activities. Don't try to put the pictures in any sort of order
when you number them. The purpose of the numbers is just so the
pictures can easily be identified.
It will depend on the group and their general skills of "visual
literacy" how much you need to guide the participants to
analyse the pictures. You may consider starting the activity with
a joint analysis of one or two of the pictures. The questions
presented in the "further information" section below
can be used as a guide.
You could also ask people to pick the one that for them best
represents the concept of human rights. When everyone has chosen,
ask them to give their reasons.
Suggestions for follow-up
Borrow cameras, or look out for some of the disposable ones
when they are on sale, and make a project to photograph "Views
on human rights" in your locality.
Images do not only come from pictures; they also come from situations
and events. Let the group "see" discrimination through
the activity "Take a step forward".
If people enjoyed comparing and sharing their views and interpretations
of pictures, then they may like to share their thoughts about
how the history and heroes of different countries are presented
and interpreted through the activity, "National
holiday" in the all different all equal education
Ideas for action
Make an exhibition of photographs from the "Views on human
rights" project. Alternatively, develop some of the ideas
for posters from the "Other picture games" below and
use them for an exhibition.
"Reading" pictures is a skill, which has to be learned
and developed. People talk of literacy skills, meaning skills
to recognise the letters of the alphabet and to read the printed
word. But the term implies more than that. It also refers to skills
of analysing, understanding and interpreting the text as a whole.
In much the same way, some people talk about "visual literacy"
to describe the skills of "reading" an image. To "read"
a picture, you have to ask who made the image and why they made
it in the way they did - what are their motives? You also have
to be aware of the emotional impact the picture has and how it
affects your attitude to the subject. You may like to ask yourself
the following questions while looking at the pictures of the "Fighters
The subject: who, what, where and when?
- Who is portrayed; what is their age, sex, health, wealth
- What does their posture and facial expression tell me about
- Is the subject aware that they are being photographed? Was
the picture posed, or is it natural?
- What are the surroundings like? Do they harmonise with the
person, or do they contrast with him/her?
- What are they doing? Is it a normal activity, or something
- What is your overall impression of the person? Is it positive
or negative, sympathetic or disinterested?
- Where was the picture originally published? In a newspaper,
magazine or travel brochure? In other words, was it being used
for information, sales, or propaganda? Or what?
- Is there a title or any other information with the picture
that seals the message which the photographer wants the viewer
- Is the picture in black and white or in colour? Does this
affect the impact it has on you? Would the picture have a bigger
impact if it were larger?
- Are you impressed by the angle the picture was taken at?
- What special effects have been used, such as soft lighting
or focusing? Why?
- Has the image been manipulated? Does the picture lie? Is
the image actually what was in front of the photographer when
they took the picture, or have they used a computer to retouch
the image (to make the person look more glamorous, for example?)
Who took the picture?
- What is the relationship between the photographer and the
- Are they sympathetic to their subject?
- Are they being paid, or is it an amateur snapshot?
- Why did the photographer want to take the picture? What were
their motives? What were they trying to "tell us"
with the picture?
To conclude, what visual symbols or stereotypes have you recognised?
For example, Martin Luther King as the political leader standing
over his people, or Ngawang Sangdrol as a Tibetan peasant? Why
did the editors of this manual choose these photographs to be
used with the activity? What effect do these images have on your
attitude to the person portrayed? Do they add anything to your
appreciation of the person over and above what you read in the
texts? How? Why?
2. What do you see in Pancho?
- Photocopy all of Pancho's illustrations in the manual
(see chapter 5). Enlarge them if possible.
- Make duplicate sets of the illustrations, one set per
- Ask people to get into small groups.
- Give one set of Pancho's illustrations to each group and
ask the participants to look at all the pictures and then, individually,
to choose the one that appeals to them the most - for whatever
- When everyone has chosen, then each person in turn should
share their choice saying:
- What the cartoon says to them
- Why they chose the picture
- How it relates to their concerns and reality
- How they see it relating to human rights
- After each turn the rest of the group should share their
- When all have finished, ask everybody to come into plenary.
Debriefing and evaluation
Get brief feedback from each group about their general impressions
and continue with questions as described in the first picture
game, "What do you see?.
Tips for facilitators
You could use Pancho's illustrations in other ways. For example
ask people to write captions or you could white-out the texts
in the speech bubbles and ask people to write their own.
Please make your participants aware of the importance to respect
3. Part of the picture
- Find pictures that tell a simple story. Cut them into
two parts in such a way that separately the two images
encourage the viewer to read the situation in a way which
is quite different from the way they would read the situation
if they read the two images together as a whole.
- Put the picture sets in separate envelopes. You need
one set per participant.
- Ask people to get into pairs.
- Give each pair two envelopes.
- Tell participants to take turns to open an envelope and give
their partner one part of the picture inside. Let the partner
say what they think is going on in the picture, who the subject
is and what they are doing.
- Then, the first participant should hand over the second piece
and ask their partner what they think is happening now that
they have the full picture.
- Go on to a short debriefing:
- What surprises were there?
- What surprises were there? How often do people
accept what they see and forget that it may not be
the "whole story"?
Tips for facilitators
You can use this activity as an icebreaker or you can develop
it further by getting the pairs to swap their pictures with another
pair and repeating the activity. Do people find it easier the
second time round? Or is it more challenging? Why?
4. Captions for pictures
- Numbered pictures
- Paper and pens, one per participant
- Scissors and tape
- Large sheets of paper (A3) or flipchart paper. You will
need as many pieces of paper as you have pictures.
- Lay the pictures out on a table and ask participants either
individually or in pairs to write captions for each of the pictures.
They should keep their writing neat because later they will
cut the captions out.
- When everyone is finished, hold up the pictures one at a
time and invite volunteers to read out their captions.
- Glue the picture in the centre of a large sheet of paper
and ask people to glue their captions around the picture to
make a "poster".
- Tape the posters to the wall.
- Go on to a brief review of the different pictures and their
- How difficult was it to write captions?
- What makes a good caption?
- If a picture can say a thousand words, why do they
Tips for facilitators
Using coloured paper and pens for the captions makes the posters
more attractive. Using this method to get several different captions
for each picture is usually both amusing and provocative. People
are engaged and prepared for a good discussion. The captions are
an ideal base for making the point that each person sees the world
in a unique way, which should be respected.
5. Speech bubbles
- Pictures, one picture per pair. (Two or more pairs
should get the same picture.)
- Paper and pen, one between two people
- Ask people to get into pairs. Hand out the pictures, sheets
of paper and pens.
- Invite them to analyse the Who? What? Where? When? and How?
of the picture.
- Tell them to glue the picture onto the paper and to write
speech bubbles for the characters in the picture.
- Ask the pairs to share their work and go on to a short debriefing:
- How hard was it to analyse the pictures and to
write speech bubbles?
- For the pairs who had the same picture - how do
your analyses of your pictures compare?
- What stereotypes did people find in the pictures
and in the speech bubbles?
Tips for facilitators
You do not have to restrict the group to pictures of people.
Why not include some pictures with animals? This can be especially
fruitful if you want to get people to talk about stereotypes.
You can start out by pointing out how often animals are cast as
stereotypes in cartoons and then get the group to look for examples
of stereotyping in their pictures and speech bubbles.