Activity: Our City

  • Grades: All Ages
  • Subjects: Art Activities

Snap! Photographs tell a story. Think about the last photograph you captured. Where were you standing compared to the location of the subject? Maybe you were on the ground or capturing the image from up high while looking down.

Margaret Bourke-White was a documentary photographer and one of the first American female war photojournalists. Bourke-White’s black and white photos tell powerful stories of people and places. Pittsburgh: Aerial View, Downtown, captures the city from a bird’s eye view. Today, let’s see like a bird who is flying high, and write a description of the world around us. First, imagine a location. Where are you flying high?

A black-and-white aerial photograph of the city of Pittsburgh looks down on a cluster of skyscrapers.
Margaret Bourke-White, (Pittsburgh: Aerial View, Downtown), 1956, Carnegie Museum of Art, © Margaret Bourke-White Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

See & Think

  1. Do you see anything familiar?
  2. Is there anything that tells you the world below you is quiet or loud?
  3. Bourke-White took her pictures in black and white. What color would you add to the view you are seeing in your imagination?
  4. What would you explain to the people below?
  5. Do: Describe Your Bird’s Eye View

    Materials Needed: paper, pencil, colored pencil

    • On a sheet of paper write your name in pencil.
    • Fold your paper in half (like a card).
    • On the outside of the paper use words to describe what you like about your city, neighborhood, or a place you can imagine. Think of some details you can see in your mind’s eye.
    • On the inside of the paper, write 2-3 sentences imagining what you would see if you were a bird flying over this place.
    • Now try sketching a detail or two. See if your family or friends can guess where you are!