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[Detail] Suffragettes procession after release from prison.

Historical Comprehension: Using Photographs as Sources

Photographs provide a visual record of historic events. Like written records, photographs are products of human effort and reflect the photographers’ purpose. Examine the newspaper photograph below, showing the release of English suffragettes from Holloway Jail after their imprisonment.

  • What does the photograph show? Where and when was the photograph taken? Divide the photograph into quadrants and note in as much detail as possible objects, people, and actions in each quadrant.
  • Where was the photographer when the picture was taken? How does the photographer’s location affect the way in which the photo is perceived?
  • What does the caption add to your understanding of the image? What does the caption reveal about the purpose of the editors who chose this photograph for publication in their paper?
  • How do you respond to the picture? Does it evoke any feelings? What inferences do you draw from examining the photograph? Does the photograph add to your understanding of the events it depicts? What questions does the photo raise?

Find another photograph in the collection and use the questions above to analyze it. How does using a set of questions like this help you in using photographs as primary sources?