Week 7 NYT remote learning comes to America 11.03.20
CRITICAL REVIEW OF THE ‘REMOTE LEARNING COMES TO AMERICA AS CORONAVIRUS SHUTS SCHOOLS’ ARTICLE IN NYT.
Yesterday , I was made aware of the above article that was published on the NYTIMES WEBSITE on Tuesday March 10th, in the wake of the spread of Coronavirus across America, and the world. I thought this would be an opportunity to try evaluating the images and the article based around the critical review thinking points we were pointed to by Steph. I wanted to attempt this with this article, as being newspaper based, and very current, not to mention the sensitivity of the article and the fact they are not images in a gallery or book, the images haven’t been reviewed as far as I am aware, so my points I will be raising will be entirely my own.
I know an extremely important part of this module is underpinning our own thoughts and ideas with those of industry critics, authors, and artists, however, I think it is also important to test the waters on your own as well, and to know the value of both.
This article was exceptionally well suited to my photographic theme, and being an ongoing news concern, it is in the forefront of our minds.
Interestingly, I have actually seen on some of the national home education groups lately, parents asking for help for friends whose children are off school with school closures, and how to keep them entertained during the day, and stop them from going mad. I find this quite an amusing concept, as it implies that anyone who home educates, must indeed be staying in the house all the time to the extent of what a quarantine is like , for some families this literally couldn’t be further from the truth, indeed, one could argue a child who is in a school building for seven hours a day, five days a week, thirty nine weeks a year, have a much better understanding of what a quarantine is like, than a family who can come and go as they choose, wake when they choose, sleep when they choose, study what and when they choose, and do as many ‘field trips’ a week as they wish. Indeed, I know some home educators who spend very little time at home at all, to the point of the phrase ‘home-educating’ being as foreign a concept to them, as institutionalised state education is to the community.
The article opens with figure one below . The images shows very clearly what the topic is about with the image/text combination. However, there are undertones of humour in the image with the reference to ‘bingo night cancelled’ and how this is comparable to people loosing their lives, or indeed families having to rework commitments, and work, for children being at home. It shows both the seriousness of the issue, and the disconnect that a lot of people have been feeling across the world. The inclusion of the daffodils, is a tug at the heart strings, for all these children are giving up, one can assume by being ‘in the house’ , that it is the start of spring, and children should be in nature, enjoying the outside. The irony here is that many of these children would be spending only an hour of their school time outside in a day. The use of light and shadows in the background talks of impending doom, like a darkness descending on the light. Whilst the white railings makes us think of the quintessential white picket fence, and the American dream it represents, and how it (the state, THE America) is fighting at ‘keeping out’ this impending doom, or at least attempting too. The inclusion of the zebra crossing, also makes us think of it’s links to safety , and how our safety is currently threatened, or more specifically, how our families , our childrens safety is threatened, both by this virus, and in the larger context, by the economic and social fallout of it. The text is somewhat of a mystery, the use of capital letters bothers me, but I am not an English student, it may well be correct in this instance , but it neither looks nor feels it. It serves as a disconnect for me , it looks like something isn’t right with the way it is placed, and lined up, and the seemingly random use of capital letters, also bringing a sense of ‘something isn’t right here’ . All in all , the image speaks of impending doom from every corner, and this may well be what the photographer/newspaper was trying to convey, as there’s no denying , impending doom drives up sales on newspapers, and clicks online. If this was the case, I believe the image was successful. However, conversely, it could of been trying to drive the narrative that it’s all a joke (the bingo night reference) , that the light in the background is pushing out the dark, and that the plants (that were planted by man) shows mans’ control over nature subconsciously implying we can indeed control this attack by nature), and that the ‘white picket fence’ or ‘American dream/way of life’ is indeed keeping that darkness out. Personally I feel this narrative is much less successful, but that may indeed be severely skewed by my own thoughts on coronavirus, and how threatened I feel by it personally.
The same could be said of the readers of the newspaper, in which case you could say this is an exceptional well executed and implemented photograph for a newspaper article as the people who are worried could take their meaning from it, whilst the people who aren’t could take their own meaning from it, each equally as valid, and each equally as strongly represented in the symbolic nature of the image as the other. Subsequently I am not entirely sure the newspaper even had a dominant reading they wished to express with this image, they instead, wanted to appeal to all and left it as open as possible. Whilst the text is purely factual and leaves no trace of the viewpoint of the paper or authors at all, aside from the capital letters making you think it is an important and pressing matter.
The image very much reminds me of Ed Ruscha’s 26 gasoline stories , Ruscha said “All it is is a device to disarm somebody with my particular message.” (Tate) I certainly think this image certainly disarms with it’s message.
The second image shown here below. Is discussing the fact that the students, and their families, started work at dawn. The blue hue of the image, is melancholy, the fog is menacing like a horror movie.
The main oppositional reading I am taking from this, is that having children at home is like some kind of horror movie playing out, which is further emphasise by the phrase “a new educational reality” . This sounds like it has come from a sci-fi / thriller film about some zombie apocalypse . The houses with no lights at the windows, speak of a desolate world, not that far removed from what a zombie apocalypse would look like in a movie, and is remanicient of Stephen kings ‘the mist’ or Netflix’s stranger things below
The third image in the set , I actually really like from a pedagogical point of view, the lighting and closeness of the family shows connection, and possibility. However, from an aesthetic point of view, I can’t think why the photographer would of chosen to not shoot either slightly further round the the left, to get the (phone?) in, or from the other side of the table. I can see that the they were trying to include the different spaces in the house, and utilise the available light, it’s just a shame that it didn’t include the families point of focus in it. I also like the way that the text includes Ander’s “And a half” , it’s a nice point to the inclusion of the children, and the fact that this is about them, and the acknowledgement that it is their story, and they have given their consent.
The remaining images show a mixed set of the children, the teachers and environment. I actually really like the images, the intimate nature of them, the way the photographer seems to be both within, and without of the story draws you in, the framing in a lot of them is slightly on the voyeristic side, however, like my own project, we have to concede that there is indeed an element of voyerism here in that we are outsiders, looking inside a personal space, but it appears from the images at least to of been done in a sensitive and thoughtful manner, for a community that is already stressed and out of ‘sorts’ enough as it is. The use of text, is slim and factual, like much of the reports we are getting from the governments and scientists, keep it short, stick to the facts, don’t get drawn in to long lengthy, potentially scary discussions. Families will be able to view these images and relate to them, and what they are going through. Families not yet educating remotely, or working remotely, will be able to look at them and be less worried, and see how it is being done, and see it doesn’t look that scary, much as what I am anticipating with my own project. It is all about demystifying at the end of the day, people are apprehensive about what they don’t know, don’t understand. Many of these families are going into new territory here, and these images, I believe, on the whole, will help to make people feel less scared, and more prepared.
Weise, Karen. 10.03.20. Remote learning comes to America as Coronavirus shuts schools. New York times. Available at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/10/us/covid-19-seattle-washington-home-schooling-remote.html (Accessed 12.03.20)
Tate. Edward Ruscha ‘Twentysix Gasoline Stations’ 1963. Available at https://www.tate.org.uk/about-us/projects/transforming-artist-books/summaries/edward-ruscha-twentysix-gasoline-stations-1963 (Accessed 12.03.20)
Pedersen, Erik & Andreeva, Nellie. 27.09.2017. ’The mist cancelled after season one by spike. Available at https://deadline.com/2017/09/the-mist-canceled-spike-stephen-king-adaptation-one-season-1202178401/ (Accessed 12.03.20)
Fuller, Graham. 24.10.2017. Culture trip. 13 Films That Influenced ‘Stranger Things’ Available at https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/articles/13-films-that-influenced-stranger-things/ (Accessed 12.03.20)
Fig 1. Sorensen Hansen, Christian. 10.03.20. Remote learning comes to America as Coronavirus shuts schools. New York times. Available at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/10/us/covid-19-seattle-washington-home-schooling-remote.html (Accessed 12.03.20)
Fig 2. Ruscha, Ed. 1963. gasoline_15. Tate. Available at https://www.tate.org.uk/about-us/projects/transforming-artist-books/summaries/edward-ruscha-twentysix-gasoline-stations-1963 (Accessed 12.03.20)
Fig 3. Sorensen Hansen, Christian. 10.03.20. For the New York times Remote learning comes to America as Coronavirus shuts schools. New York times. Available at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/10/us/covid-19-seattle-washington-home-schooling-remote.html (Accessed 12.03.20)
fig4, stephen king’s the mist. ‘The mist cancelled after season one by spike. Available at https://deadline.com/2017/09/the-mist-canceled-spike-stephen-king-adaptation-one-season-1202178401/ (Accessed 12.03.20)
Fig 5, stranger-things-2. Fuller, Graham. 24.10.2017. Culture trip. 13 Films That Influenced ‘Stranger Things’ Available at https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/articles/13-films-that-influenced-stranger-things/ (Accessed 12.03.20)