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Still Feeling the Glow: Photo Guessing Game at the National Book Festival

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The author signing lines have long disappeared and the tents have come down, but we are still reveling in the pleasures of sharing photos and  ideas about photos at the National Book Festival last month (Sept. 24-25).  We had hundreds of people stop by our table in the Library of Congress Pavilion to try our photo “guessing game.”  Maybe you’d like to try it, too!

Prints & Photographs Division table at the National Book Festival, Sept. 25, 2011
Prints & Photographs Division table at the National Book Festival, Sept. 25, 2011

We laid out a selection of photos reproduced from Library of Congress collections, some magnifying glasses, and a worksheet that offered three prompts:

1. What do you see in the picture?

2. Are there any details people might miss at first glance?

3.  What do you think that the photographer was trying to show?


Tell us a story based on this picture.

Conversing with visitors at the National Book Festival, Sept. 25, 2011
Conversing with visitors at the National Book Festival, Sept. 25, 2011

We had wonderful conversations with individuals of all ages about the photographs.   People pointed out interesting details in the pictures, offered intriguing speculations about the who, what, where, when and why of what was shown, and engaged in conversations with each other about the places and times the photos documented.  One of our staff who volunteered at the table, Karen Chittenden, commented afterwards, “It was fascinating to see people’s reactions to the photos!”

Here is one of the photos that excited a fair amount of speculation.  Most people correctly deduced that the individuals were sitting down to a meal.  In looking for clues about which meal it might be, several people turned up an interesting mystery in the photo.  Do you see it?  (Hint: Click on the photo to look at larger versions for more detailed looking)


Washington, D.C. Elderly couple eating dinner at their home on Lamont Street, N.W.
Elderly couple eating... Photo by Gordon Parks, 1942.

If you’d like to try the guessing game with the rest of the photos we displayed, see the links below.  (Spoiler Alert: look only at the picture, or you may get too many clues from the information that accompanies them!).

Many people who filled out our worksheet agreed to let us share their comments in the blog, so look for future posts that offer their “words about pictures.”

Learn More:

  • Here are links to the other pictures we brought to the National Book Festival:
  • For other activities that took place at this year’s National Book Festival, see the National Book Festival pages.

Comments (3)

  1. The three clocks in the meal photo all show different times 🙂

    Thanks for an interesting blog, btw!

  2. You spotted it! Kudos on good, careful looking — not everyone saw all three clocks.

    We’re glad you’re enjoying the blog.

  3. You actually make it seem really easy together with your presentation but I to find this topic to be actually one thing that I feel I’d never understand. It sort of feels too complicated and very large for me. I’m taking a look forward in your subsequent post, I will try to get the hang of it!

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