Dr. Ya'ara Gil-Glazer is the Head of the Education through Art Program, Department of Education, Tel-Hai Academic College, Israel. She was formerly the Head of the Department of Education and Visual Research at the Shpilman Photography Institute (2013-2016). Gil-Glazer researches and teaches courses in photography, visual culture and art education. Her research interests include modern and contemporary art and visual culture and its educational integration into social contexts; photography books and documentaries; the relationships between image and text; and historiography and the theory of photography. She authored a book on photographic theory, The Documentary Photobook: Social-Cultural Criticism in the U.S. during the Great Depression and the New Deal published in June 2013 by Resling (Hebrew). She received her Ph.D. (summa cum laude) from the University of Haifa, Israel, in 2010. Gil-Glazer regularly presents research papers at international conferences and writes and publishes articles on photography, visual culture and education.

CV on


"Activist Photographic Pedagogy: The Photo League and ActiveVision"

This paper proposes a concept associated with recent efforts to define the social role of photography: activist photographic pedagogy. The concept is clarified through an analysis of a historical example from the US and a contemporary Israeli example of pedagogical activity by social-documentary photography collectives. The first is the New York Photo League in the 1930s and 40s – an early and singular case of engagement in social-documentary photography as a field of pedagogy and practice. The second is the Israeli ActiveVision group, an example of a contemporary NGO whose activism combines the pedagogy and practice of participatory photography.

The Photo League was active in New York between 1936 and 1951. Its members documented life in New York’s inner-city neighborhoods and published their photographs in leftwing journals and public exhibitions. The League’s photography school was the first in the US to focus on the documentary genre. Its members elaborated on the concept of documentary photography in their classes as well as in their magazine Photo-Notes. ActiveVision is a group of photography and video professionals and artists operating in Israel and Palestine since 2006. The group’s methodology and agenda are intertwined: its members urge the photographers they instruct to take an active role in creating a visual language to express their community’s narratives, with a view to changing their lived reality.

Despite the spatial and temporal distance between the Photo League and ActiveVision, both groups represent total dedication to social-documentary photography as a pedagogical and practical discipline, with emphasis on activism. In particular, both have sought to shape an aesthetical-ethical social discourse reflected in their verbal and visual texts, which constitute an alternative to the popular media. The Photo League was part of the social documentation movement that emerged during the 1930s in the US. ActiveVision – a unique phenomenon in the Israeli context – is part of the documentary and social turn of the past two decades.


Given the lack of scholarly attention to the historiography of photographic pedagogy, and activist photographic pedagogy in particular, the discussion of the early example of the Photo League and the contemporary example of ActiveVision provide insights for the theory and practice of this important yet neglected field. Informed by these two case studies, the concept of activist photographic pedagogy is developed in three major aspects: (1) the teachers’ sources of photographic knowledge; (2) pedagogic agenda and practice; and (3) the social-aesthetical discourse developed by each group as manifested in one of its flag community projects. The ensuing discussion ties together these prominent examples of the combination of pedagogy and visual culture with insights borrowed from the progressive education and critical pedagogy literature.