The University of Arizona Museum of Art and Archive of Visual Arts

Resources for REALITY is a good likeness


Patricia Carr Morgan’s work focuses on construction of reality and cultural myth. REALITY is a good likeness highlights some of the perceptions that fuel the American psyche. The photographs in the exhibition can be used to ask students to think critically about how our sense of reality, memory, and narratives are constructed, influenced or altered.

The exhibition includes three series. Out of the Past uses classic film noir as backdrop, while the new images trace the history of photographic process from the beginning to the digital age. Morgan combines the old (film stills) with the new (staged still life displays) using a pinhole camera to re-photograph the scene. united states (title purposely in lower case) looks at iconic Western films that have shaped the myth of our American past. Morgan combines film stills from these Western films with her own contemporary photographs, confronting the viewer with the reality of the American West versus the romanticized versions displayed in film. In Alligator Balls and Cotton Candy, unmediated county fair images from across the country illuminate the great breadth and diversity of interests and aspirations of people from different regions, who nevertheless all represent what it means to be American. Included in this series are diptychs (whole image made from two images set side by side). With the addition of each new image, a new perception or narrative is created.


Looking, really looking, is a learned skill. Without the ability to look, students will not be able to interpret. Take time at the start of the tour to practice this skill with your students with a fun and non-threatening activity.

Instruct students to sit down in one of the galleries as a group. Ask them to look at one work for three minutes without saying anything- just look at it. Have them write a four line poem that describes the work. Students can read them aloud and have their peers try to guess what image they wrote about. “What do you see in the image that relates to their poem/word choice?”

Line One- Short phrase or a title for the image

Line Two- Action phrase (ex. falling down a hill)

Line Three- Simile (phrase with the construction “as” or “like”)

Line Four- Another title or short phrase

LESSON: Visual Literacy

Objective: Students will understand that images are versions of reality constructed through choices made by the photographer.

  • ANGLE– Did the artist choose a vantage point above her subjects, at eye level, or below? The angle a photographer chose brings the viewer into the scene. What effect does this have on the way you feel about the subjects?
  • FRAMING– Photographers choose what to include and what to omit when taking a photograph. Look at the edges. How does the artist’s choice of framing draw attention to the subject of the photograph? How does it shape our perception of the scene?
  • EMPHASIS– What is your eye drawn to first when you look at this photograph? Why do you think you noticed this first? Where does your eye travel next?
  • FOCUS– Are subjects in the photograph sharply focused or soft or both? What about in the background? What effect does the choice of focus have on the way you view the subject?


  • What do you think this photograph is about? What makes you say that? Why do you think the artist made this photograph?


  • The artist lost personal memorabilia from her youth, which led to pursuing the construction of memory in her photographs. What objects from your past would you include in a scene about a personal memory and why would you choose them?
  • Think about how your memory of the past may differ from another’s memory of that same time or incident. What might cause these differences of opinion? Have television media or film influenced these differences?
  • What image causes you to think about your own personal memories?


  • Become familiar with the idea that objects and images have associated meanings
  • Also become aware that these meanings are not fixed


  • What kinds of objects do people save?
  • Why do they save them?
  • Why is it important to preserve a memory?
  • Do we form associations with objects/images and memories?
  • Are these associations the same for each individual?
  • Why might these associations be different for each individual?


Shoeboxes, small wooden boxes

Photos, memorabilia (students)



  1. Ask students to think of a significant event or memory that they can recall. Have them close their eyes and try to picture what happened. Who was there? Where did it occur? What were some of the sounds, colors, smells from this experience?
  2. Have them draw this memory for 3 minutes. Share drawings with a peer or whole class.
  3. What images and objects did you include in this drawing? Why did you include them?
  4. Remind students that one of the inspirations for Patricia Carr Morgan’s photographs was the loss of family   memorabilia from a house fire when she was a child. Her arrangement of objects and images within her photographs suggest a memory, but not one that is exact since they are contemporary reconstructions.
  5. How accurate do you think your memory is to the actual time period or event? Do you have photos from this experience? If so, can you picture them in your mind now? What does the photograph look like? How do the photos help you remember the time period?
  6. Instruct students to choose an event to create a Memory Box for (may choose the one from above exercise).  Ask them to list 15-25 objects (including photographs) associated with the event that they might include in a Memory Box. (NOTE: Students do not need this many objects, but brainstorming many ideas is a good way to come up with good ideas).
  7. Students should bring in items and photographs from home and put together his or her own Memory Box.


  • Each student should share and explain reasons why the objects, items, photographs were chosen. What is the meaning of each object? What story is told through these objects?
  • Think about how your memory of the past may differ from another’s memory of that same time or incident. What might cause these differences of opinion?


Educational materials adapted from the interpretative strategies written by Cass Fey http://reality-is-a-good-likeness.com/exguide.html