Posts Tagged ‘Photo Gallery’

Developing Visual Literacy

Dadès Gorges, Morocco. April 2017. Photo by Rachel Ligairi.

When I was in Morocco this spring, I took pictures of all the usual things, like stunning geometric architecture, carefully piled spices for sale, and lines of camels walking among majestic Sahara dunes. But this image, of no great photographic value, turned out to be one of my favorites because it suggests a story.

If you “read,” or understood,  a story from this photo the first time you glanced at it, that’s probably because you’re visually literate. At some point, you developed the skill of analyzing visual clues related to subject, framing, angle, light, focus, composition, and context in order to understand an image’s purpose and perhaps even something about the place or people it represents. You have probably been using this skill long enough that you do it without thinking, but that won’t be true for someone less experienced. And according to Common Core and McRel national standards, having such strategies on hand to interpret the content and style of visual media is a must for today’s students.

So how might you guide students to help them move from a passive viewing of this photo to a well-supported reading of it? One way might be to lead them through this exercise, available from the National Archives. Let’s work through the exercise’s steps together, using the photo featured here.

  • A quick scan of the photo reveals that it’s a candid documentary type image. The caption offers the location, date, and photographer’s name.
  • An observation of the photo’s parts reveals a man dressed in traditional clothing squatting to take an action shot of a man in athletic clothing climbing a rock face. On or near the rock face itself is graffiti and some kind of cable or line.
  • In trying to make sense of the photo, students may look at the caption to see who took the photo, where it was from, and when. With a little bit of research, they would learn that I am not a native of Morocco, that the Dadès Gorges is a dramatic mountainous landscape popular among rock climbers, and that spring is a common time for climbing enthusiasts and tourists alike to visit the area.
  • Based on all of this information, students can make some inferences as to why the photo was taken and what story or stories this photo is telling. To help them make this final leap, you might ask questions like the following:
    • Where would you guess each person in this photo is from? What might their clothing tell you about them?
    • What might their relationship be?
    • Why might the man in blue be taking a photo of the man in orange?
    • Why might the photographer have chosen to frame this image to include both the climber and the man photographing him? What is the effect of giving each figure equal focus and space in the image?
    • What might this photo tell you about tourism and environmental protections in Morocco? What sources could you find that would deepen this knowledge?

Students should now be able to write a paragraph about this photo. And the story they suss out will likely be something similar—at least in broad strokes—to the one I experienced and intended in taking the photo, which might be fun to share at the end of the exercise. And if the paragraph a student wrote is not close, that’s fine too, as long as the student can muster visual and contextual evidence to support their interpretation.

Here’s my story:

The man in blue was a local Moroccan guide who had been hired to lead my small tour group through the Dadès Gorges. The area is quite dependent on tourists, both those that come to climb there and those passing through on their way to the sand dunes of Merzouga. One of the men in our group was an Austrian mountaineer. At one point, after we had passed several foreign climbers, the mountaineer started to scale one of the walls we were walking by. This delighted our tour guide, who grabbed the mountaineer’s camera and excitedly started taking several shots, despite the Austrian’s protests that the climbing he was doing was utterly basic and not worth photographing.

My purpose in taking the photo was to document this unusual moment of a Moroccan photographing a tourist, since it’s nearly always the other way around, and to explore the idea of what people choose to photograph when they are confronted with foreign people or places. All day, we tourists had been taking photos of things that were utterly ordinary to the locals, including food, clothing, and transportation methods that seemed unique compared to our home countries. And now our guide was doing the same—with the difference that his photos were not on his own camera. Delighted though he was by what to him was a rather novel sight, he was still an employee catering to the satisfaction of one of his employers, a mountaineer accustomed to the Swiss Alps, who he assumed would want a photo of himself a couple feet off the ground. So the photo is also meant to turn on its head the usual power relationship between the subject and creator of travel images. 

For more visual literacy resources, see the CultureGrams Teaching Activities and extensive Photo Gallery.

CultureGrams: International Women’s Day (March 8)

Women in Kenya (photo via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery)

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 (this Wednesday) around the world. Learn how it’s observed in various countries from CultureGrams:

  • Burkina Faso: On International Women’s Day, official celebrations are held in cities. Many Burkinabè, especially women, dress up in a fabric designed each year for the event. People also celebrate by going to bars to drink, eat, and dance.
  • Kyrgyzstan: On International Women’s Day, men give gifts to the women in their lives, including grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunts, classmates, co-workers, and wives or girlfriends.
  • Mauritania: International Women’s Day is celebrated in each regional capital with a fair at which women’s cooperatives from the surrounding area display and sell their goods. A ceremony is held and includes speeches by government leaders. Many development organizations present awareness campaigns.
  • Ukraine: On International Women’s Day, everyone gets the day off work. Women receive flowers and gifts, as well as household help from their husbands. Special attention is paid to mothers, and girls are congratulated as future women.
  • Madagascar: International Women’s Day is celebrated across Madagascar, even in small villages. The day’s events typically include a gathering at the mayor’s office, where women’s groups perform traditional dances for the town’s officials in return for a small monetary gift. Women in the northeastern part of the island commonly wear matching blouses and lamba (long cotton wraps). They often make noise using whistles and condensed-milk cans fashioned into rattles.

Women in Voloina, Madagascar, celebrate International Women’s Day (photo via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery)

Learn more about holidays around the world from the Holidays section of World and Kids edition CultureGrams reports!

CultureGrams: Learn about St. Dévote’s Day, January 27

A religious parade passes through the Royal Palace Square in Monte Carlo during the annual celebration for Saint Dévote. Via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery.

CultureGrams is a great way to learn about holidays around the world. Each World and Kids edition report has a Holidays section that discusses the traditions and celebrations associated with a country’s most popular holidays. Not only can learning about a country’s holidays be fun, but it’s also an engaging way to learn about a country’s culture and gain insight into what is important to the people who celebrate the holidays.

Some holidays celebrated in other countries may sound familiar, but others may be new to you. For example, are you familiar with St. Dévote’s Day, celebrated in Monaco on 27 January? That’s this Friday! From the World Edition Monaco report Holidays section, we learn:

On 27 January, Monégasques honor St. Dévote, the patron saint of the principality. Dévote was persecuted and martyred for her faith in the fourth century. Her body was eventually buried in Monaco, and several miracles were associated with Dévote. Years later, a group of thieves tried to steal and sell Dévote’s bones, but Monégasque sailors retrieved the bones and set fire to the thieves’ boats. On this holiday, the prince or a member of the royal family sets fire to an old boat in the port to commemorate the rescue of the bones.

Not only can you read about St. Dévote’s Day on CultureGrams, but you can also find photos of the celebration in our Photo Gallery so you can see what the celebration is like:

On the Feast of Saint Dévote, relics are carried in a procession around Monaco. Via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery.


On the eve of the Feast of Saint Dévote, Monégasques prepare to burn a boat to commemorate the prevented theft of Dévote relics. Via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery.

Find more holidays celebrated around the world in CultureGrams World and Kids editions!

Learning Culture in a Local Market

Hola from Colombia, the country I just arrived in and where I’ll be living with my family for the summer. We are currently in the Caribbean city of Cartagena. It has long been a tourist destination within the country and is increasingly attracting visitors from around the world as well. This is especially true of the walled old city (where we live), which is a UNESCO heritage site, and the nearby Miami-style strip of hotels and shopping centers that make up the Bocagrande neighborhood.

It would be easy to never break out of the tourist bubble that is this area, but, CultureGrams editor that I am, I’m of course interested in local culture and the everyday life patterns of the people who live in the vast and much poorer neighborhoods that make up the rest of the city.

And so it was that one of the first places we went in our new hometown was Bazurto Market, a place so local that the taxi drivers who took us there asked us again and again why exactly we had chosen that destination (especially when there is a nice mall just a few blocks away!).

Markets are a common subject of photos and videos in CultureGrams and for good reason: they contain a wealth of information about a place. They of course reveal what foods and goods people most commonly use and what they pay for them. But they can also illuminate family dynamics (Are children manning the stalls? Are they with their parents? Are they working on homework at the same time?), services rendered (Do people commonly have clothes custom made by tailors? Are construction workers available for hire?), and a population’s resourcefulness (What kinds of used parts are for sale? What commercial goods are replicated and produced by hand?). Even the arrangement of goods often has an artistic pattern that is unique to a place.

So enjoy some images from El Mercado Bazurto before they make their way into the Colombia CultureGrams photo collection and be sure to check out the local market in the next country you visit!


A tailor works on custom orders.


A woman cleans one of the market’s many alleyways with a bucket of soapy water and a broom.


One of the many dominoes games happening among the market stalls.


Shoes of all colors and styles abound.


Many stalls are packed to capacity with goods.


Like many in the market, this woman hand paints figurines for sale.


Judging by the number of birds and cages for sale throughout the market, birds are a popular Colombian pet.


This boy helps his mother at their stall that offers a wide array of goods, new and used, that can be used to fix appliances and other household items.


Fish like these, caught in nearby waters, are brought to the market in the morning and kept there all day without refrigeration.


Plantains, both green and ripe. are a staple here. They are often fried into flat rounds called “patacones.”


Everyone has time to watch the televised Colombian soccer game.


Some of the many kids that can be found in the stalls, usually with at least one parent nearby.


A woman reclines in a market alleyway in a chair she created from ties used to secure bags of goods.

CultureGrams Download: People of the World Screensaver

Bored with your screensaver? Download a new one here for free! This collection of screensaver images highlights the focus on people that CultureGrams reports offer. With 24 carefully selected photos from the Americas, Africa, Asia, Oceania, and Europe, you can go on a world tour from your desk. Scroll down for directions on how to install your screensaver collection.

To install your screensaver:

1. Download the zipped file. Open it and save the images to a new folder.

2. For Windows (XP and Vista), right click on your desktop, select Properties, click on the Screen Saver tab, and select “My Pictures Slideshow” from the drop-down menu there. Then click on the Settings button next to that drop-down menu and use the Browse button to select the folder of screensaver images you saved in step 1. You’re done!

3. For Mac OS X, launch System Preferences, click on Desktop & Screensaver, click on the Screensaver tab, select the + button near the bottom of the screensaver list, Select “Add Folder of Pictures,” navigate to the folder you created in step 1. You’re done!

Have photos of the world you would like to see incorporated into CultureGrams? Email us at cgeditors@proquest.com for details on how to submit them!

–Rachel Ligairi

Memorial Day

On Memorial Day, the last Monday of May, we commemorate the men and women who have paid the ultimate price while engaged in active military service. Originally, the holiday was called Decoration Day. It was intended to honor the soldiers who died during the Civil War. But now on Memorial Day, we remember all the men and women who have given their lives while serving in the U.S. military. However, the United States isn’t the only country to pay tribute to their war dead. Below are examples of war memorials in four other countries.

Children of wedding guests sit at the foot of the Eternal Flame, part of a memorial to all the fallen soldiers from World War II. Newlywed couples traditionally visit the park on their wedding day and leave flowers at the Flame. (Almaty, Kazakhstan, September 2005)

Salaspils Memorial--Latvia

Reminders of Latvia’s suffering during World War II are found throughout the country. The Salaspils Memorial is located on the site of a Nazi concentration camp, just outside of Rīga. The memorial commemorates those who died during the Nazi occupation of Latvia. Nowadays, school children and tourists visit the memorial, and locals pay their respects and leave flowers. (Salaspils, Latvia, June 2008)

One of the most well-known structures in Melbourne is the Shrine of Remembrance. The building was completed in 1934 as a tribute to soldiers who fought in World War I, but its purpose has since been expanded to honor all Australians who served in wartime. The shrine is the site of services on Anzac Day, a major holiday that stems from the nation’s ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) tradition. A dawn service and a march to the shrine by war veterans and their descendants mark the holiday. (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, April 2008)

This memorial honors American soldiers who died in World War II. Two large U.S.-operated air force bases in the United Kingdom are located just outside Cambridge. RAF Lakenheath, the largest U.S. base in England, hosts the air force’s 48th fighter wing. U.S. military planes bound for European destinations stop over in the other base, RAF Mildenhall. (Cambridge, England, United Kingdom, June 2007)

See these and other photos of war memorials in the CultureGrams photo gallery.

Salym Fayad: CultureGrams Contributor

We would not be able to maintain CultureGrams’ focus on daily life across the world without the individual contributors we rely on to provide unique cultural content. And the contributor who has submitted the most multimedia to the site—including over 2,000 photos of some 40 countries—is Salym Fayad.


Salym sits in a home in Gao, Mali, in a photo taken by his host’s young son.

CultureGrams editors work to solicit photos and videos that avoid tourist sites and news events and instead reveal the details that make up the fabric of a culture. Finding such materials for Africa is especially challenging, since, as Salym points out, Western media often portray Africa as a single region plagued by famine and violence instead of the complex, culturally rich continent of over 50 countries that it is.

Having traveled to and photographed nearly half of those countries, Salym is an expert at capturing elements of culture that make each place unique, including the way people dress, their gestures, personalities, interactions, and environments.

Though some formal training and an artistic eye help, his photographic success rests on something more fundamental: he is genuinely interested in people and shows it. Before taking pictures, he tries to create an atmosphere of comfort and trust, which often involves mingling with people for a while before he starts shooting and showing them the photos as he goes. His trips are also well researched ahead of time so that he has an understanding of the places he visits and an idea of what to look for.


Based in South Africa but a nomad by nature, Salym has also traveled extensively in Latin America and Europe and has recently started exploring Asia. The route to his current profession has been nomadic as well. He was educated in literature and philosophy in his native Colombia and worked at jobs like waiting tables and DJing before beginning to cover Sub-Saharan Africa as a freelance journalist.

In addition to his photography work (which also includes CultureGrams video), Salym regularly contributes articles on topics with cultural dimensions to several Latin American publications and facilitates musical exchanges between Colombia and South Africa.

Salym’s work can be consuming, but that’s a good thing because it combines those things he loves most: travelling, music, people, Africa, and—luckily for CultureGrams—taking pictures.

CultureGrams―Where in the world?: Markets

As any world traveler can tell you, outdoor and informal markets can be found in just about every country of the world. Markets provide locals a place to buy, sell, and exchange goods, and they often attract foreign visitors as well. Of course markets vary greatly too, from the type of food sold to the design of product displays to bargaining techniques–each market has its own look, feel, and smells.

The following photos are from the CultureGrams photo gallery.

Can you guess where each photo was taken?


Photo 1


Photo 2













Photo 3


Photo 4


Photo 5














Photo 6


Photo 7







Photo 8

We’ve posted the answers in the comments section of this post. Check them out and tell us how well you did!

Don’t forget that CultureGrams has thousands of pictures gathered from around the globe. Each image in our slideshow gallery and photo gallery is downloadable and available for personal use.

–Rachel Ligairi

CultureGrams—Photo Gallery Search

Have you explored the CultureGrams World and Kids edition photo gallery? The gallery can be accessed via the “Photos” link in the top navigation bar from the region- and country-specific pages, as well as by a link on the right-hand margin of each country report. Did you know that you can search the photo gallery for specific terms?


To search for photos, find the search bar at the top of any page in the photo gallery and enter the search term. For instance, searching for ‘toy‘ will bring up thumbnail pictures of children from a variety of countries playing with their toys. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-sized photo.



Searching through the photo gallery makes cross-cultural comparisons easier, as the results for ‘toy’ shows. Students and teachers can see what toys, or many other terms, are like in different cultures. The photos can then be used to create thematic slideshows for a class presentation, or as part of a class discussion or writing assignment on differences between cultures.

Have you used the search function in our photo gallery? What did you find? Let us know what you have searched for by leaving a comment on this blog post!

Christmas Around the World

As the Christmas season approaches, it’s fun to take a look at how people around the world celebrate the holiday.

In Switzerland, Christmas trees are traditionally set up on Christmas Eve. They must be fresh because they are usually decorated with candles instead of artificial lights. After the tree is decorated, there is often a festive dinner after which the candles are lit.

In Botswana, people attend church and celebrate through eating and drinking and visiting relatives in their home villages. There are also community efforts to share with the underprivileged. Family members do not exchange gifts, but they usually receive new clothes. Urban children enjoy meeting their cousins and learning traditional games from those living in rural areas.

A traditional Christmas dinner in Trinidad and Tobago includes a pastille (minced beef wrapped in cornmeal flour and steamed in a banana leaf), salad, turkey, stewed vegetables, and steamed rice.

In Spain, families get together on Christmas Eve and have a special dinner; traditional dishes vary according to the region. Practicing Catholics go to the Misa del Gallo(Rooster’s Mass) at midnight. Families also have a big lunch together on Christmas Day. The Day of the Three Kings (6 Jan.) is one of the most popular Christmastime celebrations. On the night of the 5th, children put out milk and cookies or sweet wine for the Three Kings and leave their shoes near the window or under the Christmas tree. In urban areas, families then watch a large parade featuring the Three Kings, which takes place after sunset; in some regions, paper lamps are carried to the parade. Children return home or wake up the next morning to find their shoes filled with presents from the Three Kings. Most families also open presents at Christmas so that children can play with their gifts during their school holidays.

On the cold night of 6 January, Orthodox Christmas, monks of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church gather around a fire made from the branches of a holly tree.

In the Philippines, Catholics attend a series of Christmas masses called Simbang Gabi. From 16 December to Christmas Eve, a mass is held at dawn each morning. Many Catholics believe that if one faithfully attends Simbang Gabi, a wish will be granted. From the beginning of Simbang Gabi until Christmas Eve, children in many areas go door to door singing carols and receiving money and sweets. On Christmas Eve, urban families gather to exchange gifts and enjoy a large feast featuring pork, beef stew, casseroles, and traditional desserts like leche flan (caramel custard) and coconut salad. Rural Filipinos also enjoy a large meal, but exchanging gifts is less common. On Christmas, people light fireworks to celebrate. Windows, doors, and drawers are opened to let out the bad spirits and welcome the good. For luck, people hang 13 ripe, round fruits around their doorway, wear clothes with circular (which symbolizes eternity) prints, and carry money in their pockets.

Icelanders traditionally visit cemeteries on Christmas Eve, bearing a green Christmas decoration that will stand up to the winter storm for a while, as well as an outdoor candle, often placed in a lantern. Here you see the decorated cemeteries on Christmas Eve. Two cousins have brought an evergreen bouquet to grace their grandfather’s grave.

What are some of your holiday traditions? Let us know in the Comments!