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Experiencing Place Through Photographs: Ricketts’ Cannery Row

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by David Oppenheim, John Dewey High School, Brooklyn, New York, 2007


How can seeing (experiencing) “place” through photos help us increase our understanding of Cannery Row?


Students will be able to:

  • Describe photographs of Cannery Row area.
  • Connect setting to place by viewing photos that inspired Steinbeck while writing Cannery Row.


Has a physical place ever revealed to you the behavior of its inhabitants?


See “Doc’s” Life: Ed Ricketts and You and use as desired as classwork or class project.

Questions for Discussion Following the Activity

  1. What do you see in this photo (or photos)?
  2. How does it relate directly to the book?
  3. Is the photo of the place different/same as your imagination’s “view” of the place? In what way?
  4. What do you “see” now that you didn’t “see” before?
  5. What do you understand better about setting’s relationship to character?
  6. If you had a camera, what scene from Cannery Row would you snap? Describe it as a photographer.
  7. What have you learned about setting (place) from this lesson?
  8. What have you learned about Cannery Row, specifically?


We’ve explored the connections between place, photos, and literature . How does this help you understand the novel in a different way?


Take a photo on your digital camera of a place that means something to you . Freewrite for 15 minutes on that photo and bring the photo and journal in class to discuss with the class tomorrow.