Steps of the Castillo, Chichen Itza
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13 15/16 x 10 1/2 in.
Sheet: 13 15/16 x 11 in.
Old overmat, recto:
signed and dated l.r.: Laura Gilpin \ 1932
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas
© 1979 Amon Carter Museum of American Art
How does a building relate to its surroundings? What story does it tell about an area’s geography, history, and culture?
What makes a building a source of inspiration to an artist? To a community?
Why might an artist choose to create architectural photographs?
What makes a building iconic? Why are iconic buildings repeatedly photographed?
What qualifies a work of art as fine art?
Describe the building. What types of lines do you see? Do you see any patterns? What is the building material? Does the building appear old or new? What is your evidence? Do you recognize this building?
What is the source of light? What do you notice about the sky? How do the lines and shapes of the clouds contrast with those of the building?
Where is the photographer standing? Is she close or far? Is she showing us the whole building or part of the building? Why do you think she selected this particular angle? How might the artist’s decision to show this cropped portion of this structure, which highlights line and form, differ from how someone for whom this structure held greater significance?
Have you or someone you know ever taken a photograph of a building or part of a building? Why? What choices did you make in creating your photograph?
Have students walk around their school or another building with premade paper viewfinders. While looking through their paper viewfinders, ask students to think about a part of the building they find interesting. Then have students create a sketch of that part of the building and whatever else might appear within the viewfinder.
Students will research and view photographs of El Castillo (known as the Temple of Kukulcán) at Chichen Itza or other world heritage sites. How is Gilpin’s photograph of this space similar or different from the other images you find? What choices did these photographers make in photographing these world heritage sites? Which photographs do you find the most appealing? Which sites do you find the most interesting and why?
Students with their cameras or cell phones will take a series of photographs of a building in their community or a place they are visiting. Using these photographs, they can create a slide presentation to share with their class.
Have students research Laura Gilpin and other female photographers of the early 20th century. How did they learn the art of photography? What and who inspired these photographers? What challenges did they face? Who were their advocates and allies? What impact did they and their body of work have on the story of American photography?
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