A picture says a thousand words and the camera does not lie - or does it?


In this activity people identify images that illustrate Articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

Related rights

• All


• To raise awareness about the relevance of human rights to everyday life
• To develop "visual literacy" skills, listening and communication skills
• To promote empathy and respect for human dignity


•  A collection of 20 - 30 photographs, numbered
• A large table
• A wall chart listing the Articles of the UDHR (copied from the abridged version)

Key Date
  • 25 OctoberInternational Artists Day


1. Lay the pictures out on a large table.
2. Tell participants to work individually.
3. Read out one of the articles from the UDHR and write it up on the board / flip chart.
4. Ask participants to look at the photographs and to choose the one that, in their opinion, best represents the article.
5. Then ask each person in turn to say which picture they chose and why.
6. Make a note of which pictures were chosen; write the numbers on the board.
7. Do four or five more rounds, naming different articles from the UDHR. (Choose a mixture of the civil and political and social and economic rights.)

Debriefing and evaluationGoto top

Start with a review of the activity itself and then go on to talk about what participants learned.

  • Did individuals choose different pictures in the different rounds, or did they think that one or two pictures said it all?
  • Did different people choose the same pictures in the different rounds, or did people have very different ideas about what represented the different rights? What does this tell us about how each of us sees the world?
  • Review the list on the flipchart. Which photographs were chosen most often? What was special about these images? Why were they chosen often? Did the size or colour make a difference, or was it what was in the picture that was significant?
  • Was any individual picture chosen to represent several different rights?
  • Did anyone disagree with anyone else's interpretation of a particular picture?
  • Were there any photos that were never chosen? Could they nonetheless be interpreted to represent a human right? Which?

Tips for facilitatorsGoto top

There is no limit on the number of times a particular photograph can be chosen. One particular image may be chosen several times in one round, or it may be chosen in different rounds. In other words, it may represent one of the articles to several people, or it may represent different articles to different people.

Refer to chapter 1 "Basic methods" for more information about making your own set of photos. The pictures for this activity should show a wide variety of aspects of "life on earth"; they should include images of individuals and groups, people of different ages, cultures and abilities. There should be pictures in rural and urban settings, of industry and agriculture, and people doing different sorts of work and leisure activities. Don't try to put the pictures in any sort of order when you number them.  The purpose of the numbers is just so the pictures can easily be identified.
Always bear in mind to check if there is any copyright on the pictures and photos that you wish to use. 

It will depend on the group and their general skills of "visual literacy" how much you need to guide the participants to analyse the pictures. You may consider starting the activity with a joint analysis of one or two of the pictures. The questions presented in the "further information" section below can be used as a guide.

VariationsGoto top

You could also ask participants to pick the one that for them best represents the general concept of human rights. When everyone has chosen, ask them to give their reasons.
You can make copies of Pancho's cartoons in Chapter 5 and ask participants to say which human rights they reflect.

If you want to use video instead of pictures, then consider doing the activity "Act it out", which uses drama to explore the concept of human rights, and get the group to video the scenes and post them on youtube.com.

Suggestions for follow-upGoto top

Borrow cameras, or look out for some of the disposable ones when they are on sale, and make a project to photograph "Views on human rights" in your locality.

The activity "Change your glasses"  gets people to explore and photograph their locality from a human rights perspective. 

Images do not only come from pictures; they also come from situations and events. Let the group "see" discrimination through the activity "Take a step forward".

Ideas for actionGoto top

Make an exhibition of photographs from the "Views on human rights" project. Alternatively, develop some of the ideas for posters from the other suggestions below, and use them for an exhibition.


More ways to play with pictures