A resource exploring ‘play’ as a theme, with simple challenges and tips suggesting ideas and approaches to documenting play through photography.

Part of England’s New Lenses


The things we play with have changed over time, but has the way that we play changed too? Toys, board games, gaming, outdoor play. Many of these things would be unrecognisable to our grandparents’ generation! How many will look different again in the future?

How do you play? Where do you play? Who and what do you play with? What were your favourite games growing up? Did you make up your own games? Use these activities to have a go at presenting your feelings and memories of play through photography.

Where do you play?

Photograph the places where you play. Choose a location and spend time documenting it with your camera. What did you play here? Try creating a series of images, collage them together, or simply choose the image that best represents it.

How do you play?

Every game or playful activity has a process made up of various elements, actions or rules. Experiment with capturing the processes of your own games today in different ways. What is it that might be unique to you and your friends or family?

Capturing Play

When we play we are often very animated. Whether it’s a sports or card game or just messing around with your friends, there’s always movement, physical expression and gesturing. Think about favourite games with family or friends. Who is the most competitive? Who really concentrates on their strategy? Try capturing those animated moments.

Do you always play the same board game with your Grandparents? Or play card games that you and your friends made up? Are they unique to your circle of friends or family, or perhaps played for generations? Capture those special moments of play. Consider your point of view, what’s in the background and composition (how things are arranged).

Playful Triptych

Create a triptych (a set of three images) that capture the different stages of a game that you and your friends or family always play. The challenge is how to choose only three images that tell the story of your game.

Playful Memories

What games did you play when you were young? Have you any strong memories of games you played with friends or family? Create a photograph that portrays this memory. For example, how did it feel playing hide & seek? Create an atmosphere in your photograph with lighting, staging, pose, costume or point of view.

Top Tips
  • Find new angles and points of view. Try lying on your back each time you take a photo.
  • Look for the detail and capture them in close-up.
  • Play with shadow and light – early in the morning or the last hours of sunlight when long shadows are cast.
  • Find new ways of looking at a familiar pastime.
  • Have a go at re-staging games with your friends or family – photograph them!
  • Embrace and experiment with the blur of trying to capture motion.
Inspiring Artists
English Heritage Sites

2,000 Years of Board Games

During this period of isolation, many households in Britain are turning to board games for entertainment. The first known board games originated from Egypt around 5,500 years ago and have evolved across cultures and societies ever since. Read about the games associated with English Heritage sites and try some for yourself.

Viking Games

Enjoy some ancient entertainment by playing a real Viking board game! Hnefatafl (pronounced ‘neva tapl’), means ‘The King’s Table’ in Old Norse and is a game of tactics and skill!

The Monopoly Challenge

Be inspired by the teenager who visited every English Heritage site in the special edition Monopoly game.

Running Wild
Down House, Kent

Down House was the family home of Charles Darwin. The Darwin children loved their childhood in the Kent countryside. Their recollections later in life would describe in detail the joy of swinging from a rope fastened to the ceiling on the first-floor landing, or throwing lead darts at one another along the corridor – dangerous maybe, but Charles and Emma did give them wooden shields with which to defend themselves.

A Life Size Wendy House
Osborne House (Swiss Cottage), Isle of Wight

The Swiss Cottage was the playhouse for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s nine children, built at Prince Albert’s instruction in the grounds of Osborne. The children escaped there as much possible and later most of them brought their own children back to play.

About the Contributors

Annis Joslin’s practice seeks to explore lived experience through a participatory and reflective process. Working in diverse contexts she uses different approaches to generate material, including drawing, animation, photography, video and story-telling to create lens-based digital artwork for galleries, museums, community situations and online.

Her work has exhibited and screened internationally with commissions and projects with organisations including People United, Photoworks, The British Museum, Sussex Partnership NHS Trust, The Royal College of Physicians, The National Trust, The Women’s Library, Project Art Works and The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. Annis is also co-director of Corridor, a social arts organisation that connects artists, people and places through collaborative lens-based visual arts projects.

Alejandra Carles-Tolra is a visual artist and photography facilitator from Barcelona, currently based in London, UK.

She received a BA in Sociology from the University of Barcelona and a Photography MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Alejandra’s work has been published and exhibited internationally, most recently at Vice, The Huffington Post, Gup Magazine, World Photography Organization, The Independent, Circulation(s) Festival in Paris, and Getty Images Gallery in London. She has taught photography at The University of New Hampshire and Massachusetts College of Art and Design, among other institutions. Alejandra currently collaborates with non-profit organizations as an art workshop facilitator using art and education to empower vulnerable communities.

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