Photo Class Blog


ART1011 Final Crit • Photo Essay

Print out this assignment (PDF)

As your final assignment for ART1011, you will tell a story using sequential images. A minimum of five images must be used, and no more than seven are allowed. Images must be mounted and presented at Final Crit.

Working With Photography Themes
Working with themes is a great way to practice your photographic skills. When choosing a theme you can choose:

  • Similar subject matter (war, poverty, sports, doors etc)
  • Similar technical composition (all black and white photographs, all negative space photographs)
  • Similar mood or feeling (representation of love, anger, fear etc).

It’s good to learn how to work within themes because if you ever want to create a photography portfolio, most art directors and curators want to see them organized by a particular theme. Likewise, if you’ll ever have your work shown in a gallery a theme is a must. Galleries will never just place a mishmash of photos up on their walls. They need to be organized in some type of thematic grouping.

Random Ideas:

Urban Exploration; Street Portraits; Letters or Numbers; Vintage Signs; Set-up Scenes; Social Issues; Abstraction/Conceptual; Textures; Music; Emotions; Reflections; Shadows; Self Portraits; Perspective; Night; Specific Objects (tattoos, couches, whatever!)

Making Photo Essays

Taking a thematic approach in photography is like writing an essay. You want it to tell a story, take a stand, give examples, allow for debate and have your work organized in such a way that it’s understandable to the general public.

Like a writer, a photographer is a story teller. However, instead of using words you’ll use pictures. Although a series of pictures that make up a photo essay can be taken in a single day, they more often are taken over a longer period of time as photographers spend more time with his or her subjects. When telling stories about a specific neighborhood, for example, the photographer may return to the neighborhood for months or even years.

Photographers gain a special understanding of their photo essay subject because they are around the subject for a period of time. As a result, the photographer learns where and when he or she is most likely to capture the best pictures as the photo essay develops.

Final critique date is Thursday Dec 15 at 10AM – (NOTE THE TIME!)

Attendance is required – no excuses accepted. If you are late or leave early, you will receive an “F” for the final critique (150 points). If you miss the final critique entirely, you will receive an “F” for the course.

Bring your final assignment, any past assignments overdue, and your binder of negatives, contacts and prints.

The grade you earn is based on the following point accumulation: Critiques 1, 2, 3a, 3b (50 points each) Critique 4 (100 points); quizzes and essays (150 points total); term paper (100 points); your final critique (150 points); your binder (50 points); your class participation (250 points).

Click here for a website with some great examples of Photo Stories.


ART 1011 Term Paper Assignment

Image on right taken on December 21, 2011

Image on right taken on December 21, 2011

PRINT THIS OUT if you lose your copy:

Writing this Research Paper

ART 1011


As your assignment for a term paper in ART 1011, you have been assigned a photographer whose work is important in the history of photography. You will write a term paper about the artist, exploring the relevance of the artist’s life and times to his or her art making, using examples of the artist’s works to underscore the thesis you will develop about the artist.

Begin a working bibliography of references that deal with the work of the artist. Before you narrow how you will approach your research, start reading. Look for material about the artist’s specific works, as well as material about the artist. Your working bibliography should contain the information of the texts you read to help you keep your research organized. Your research sources are critical for this assignment. Use the library and the internet for your primary research. Here are some sites to get you going.

Google search for Master Photographers

Aston, Gabrielle: RUTH BERNHARD



Davey, Andrew: W. EUGENE SMITH

Dodson, Jacquelyn: IMOGEN CUNNINGHAM



Hocker, Mikayla: MARY ELLEN MARK

Lakin, Kevin: ROBERT FRANK

Newman, Hannah: HELEN LEVITT

Parrilla Jr, Juan: LEWIS HINE

Rodriguez, Isaac: MAN RAY





Summern, Adrienne: SALLY MANN

Vorachith, Ponepila: VIVIEN MAIER

DUE DATE IS: Sunday, Dec 11th at MIDNIGHT.


Papers MUST be submitted to

Turn it In dot com link



WITNESS • James Nachtwey, Photographer

“Every minute I was there, I wanted to flee.
I did not want to see this.
Would I cut and run, or would I deal with
the responsibility of being there with a camera?”

James Nachtwey grew up in Massachusetts and graduated from Dartmouth College, where he studied Art History and Political Science (1966-70). Images from the Vietnam War and the American Civil Rights movement had a powerful effect on him and were instrumental in his decision to become a photographer. He has worked aboard ships in the Merchant Marine, and while teaching himself photography, he was an apprentice news film editor and a truck driver.

In 1976 he started work as a newspaper photographer in New Mexico, and in 1980, he moved to New York to begin a career as a freelance magazine photographer. His first foreign assignment was to cover civil strife in Northern Ireland in 1981 during the IRA hunger strike. Since then, Nachtwey has devoted himself to documenting wars, conflicts and critical social issues. He has worked on extensive photographic essays in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, Israel, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, South Africa, Russia, Bosnia, Chechnya, Kosovo, Romania, Brazil and the United States.

Nachtwey has been a contract photographer with Time Magazine since 1984. He was associated with Black Star from 1980 – 1985 and was a member of Magnum from 1986 until 2001. In 2001, he became one of the founding members of the photo agency, VII. He has had solo exhibitions at the International Center of Photography in New York, the Bibliotheque nationale de France in Paris, the Palazzo Esposizione in Rome, the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, Culturgest in Lisbon, El Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid, Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles, the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, the Canon Gallery and the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, the Carolinum in Prague,and the Hasselblad Center in Sweden, among others.

He has received numerous honours such as the Common Wealth Award, Martin Luther King Award, Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award, Henry Luce Award, Robert Capa Gold Medal (five times), the World Press Photo Award (twice), Magazine Photographer of the Year (seven times), the International Center of Photography Infinity Award (three times), the Leica Award (twice), the Bayeaux Award for War Correspondents (twice), the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award, the Canon Photo essayist Award and the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Grant in Humanistic Photography. He is a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and has an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Massachusetts College of Arts.

Photography and War, PBS’ American Photographers

Google Image search for “War Photographs”

Watch a preview trailer of “War Photographer”.

Click here to listen to Nachtwey’s 2007 presentation at TedTalks


The 19th Century in Photography, Pt. III

 Bichonnade Leaping, Jacques-Henri Lartigue © Jacques-Henri Lartigue Foundation

Bichonnade Leaping, Jacques-Henri Lartigue
© Jacques-Henri Lartigue

Gelatine Poem
“Onward still, and onward still it runs its sticky way
And Gelatine you’re bound to use if you mean to pay your way
Collodion – slow old fogey! – your palmy days have been,
You must give place in the future to plates of Gelatine.” Anonymous, 1879

In 1878, in the midst of an era marked by both opulence and abject poverty known as the Victorian Age, a British scientist named Charles Bennett mixed a syrupy silver halide/ gelatin solution. He allowed it to ripen at 90 degrees F for a few days. Afterword, he was delighted to discover that the solution was remarkably light sensitive – exposures in full sun that used to take up to ten seconds were now reduced to fractions of a second. Falling water drops, people jumping, a baseball game – a new age in capturing images was about to get underway.

The ability of gelatin to hold silver halide crystals in an emulsion is still in virtually all photographic films and photographic papers. Despite some efforts, no suitable substitutes with the stability and low cost of gelatin have been found.

Imagine what this breakthrough meant to Victorian era photographers. First off, because of the speed of the exposures made possible by gelatin emulsions, trustworthy shutters would need to be perfected in order to control the light hitting the negative. No more using the lens cap and a timer to measure out the seconds. Also tripods are no longer required, as faster exposures meant that portable cameras could be used in a hand-held fashion.

This ushered in an era of unprecedented popularity for photography. Up to this time, photography had established itself as a viable commercial venture, if one could master the burdensome details of making images. It demanded some serious technical acumen, and required a budget that was out of reach for nearly everyone. Now, photographers could buy dry glass plates that were coated at the factory with silver gelatin emulsions. Plate holders could be pre-loaded before a photographic journey, and developed days later – at the photographer’s convenience.

Alas – it was still out of reach for the Everyman. The glass plates used were still unwieldy… but never underestimate America’s ability to mass produce an idea that would appeal to popular culture! Everything would soon change, thanks to an upstate New Yorker named George Eastman and the introduction of nitrocellulose roll film.


Originally, Kodak camera images were circular.

By the end of the 19th century, the three most interesting developments in photography were:

  • The Rise of Amateurism (see JR Lartigue)
  • Pictorialism, whose practitioners wanted to elevate photography as an art form. Pictorialists seemed ashamed of the camera’s ability to render detail, and chafed at the ease of which amateur photographers photographed the world.
  • Photography as a vehicle for social change (Jacob Riis, Lewis Wickes Hine)

Next week, we will take a look at this third development, as we usher in the 20th century, replete with its elevated highs and horrors that would ensue.



NEXT ASSIGNMENT: Composition in Photography


“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” Dorothea Lange

You should strive to compose images that get attention and deliver your message. In general, good pictures result from careful attention to some basic elements of composition, together with appropriate lighting and an interesting subject.

There is, however, no “right” way to take a picture. Three photographers recording the same scene may create equally appealing photographs with entirely different compositions. By understanding the basic rules of composition, you can incorporate them into the way you ‘see’ with your camera.

COMPOSITION in the visual arts is: the arrangement of elements and their relationship to the background of an image.

Click here for the PDF of this assignment.


Four (minimum) mounted 8×10” NEW photographs that each adhere to at least three of the Rule of Composition. At the critique, you will be asked to explain which ones you used (or abused!).

Here are some guidelines:

  1. If you want to break any of these rules, go ahead. Just be prepared to explain how and why at the critique.
  2. Every element in a photograph should be present, and where it is, for a reason.
  3. The eye is attracted to the largest, brightest, more favorably placed visual element in a photograph.
  4. Use any or all elements to unify the picture.

Remember, while a novice can achieve quality images with these guidelines, artists who really know them often find creative ways to break them with excellent results.

Assignment due date:  Thursday Nov 10


The 19th Century in Photography, Part II

The Nineteenth Century in Photography, Part II – The Need for Speed

Personally, I find it fascinating that, as a species, we’re always trying to do things faster – even if it means less efficiently. Thus was certainly the case for mid-19th century photography, as the desire for more and more light sensitive emulsion was a natural impulse.

Faster emulsions meant faster exposures – photographs that were taking minutes and even hours were being shortened to seconds, enabling photographers to dream of the day that they would ARREST MOTION completely.

As beautiful and popular as Daguerre’s process was/is, the process was doomed because of its eventual lack of marketability. It was expensive, cumbersome and laborious, and required alot of practice. Talbot’s method of a paper negative, though not nearly as ‘pleasing,’ was much more salable, mainly because of its ability to make multiples.

Around 1850, the collodion process was introduced after its invention by Frederick Scott Archer. The collodion process is said to have been invented, almost simultaneously, by Frederick Scott Archer and Gustave Le Gray – yet another example of synchronicity in a discovery! By the end of that decade, wet plate collodion process had pretty much replaced both Daguerre’s and Talbot’s process. The process was portable, allowing photography to go out into the world.

Timothy O'Sullivan's darkroom wagon, pulled by four mules, entered the frame at the right side of the photograph, reached the center of the image, and abruptly U-turned, heading back out of the frame. Footprints leading from the wagon toward the camera reveal the photographer's path. Made at the Carson Sink in Nevada

Timothy O’Sullivan’s darkroom wagon, pulled by four mules, entered the frame at the right side of the photograph, reached the center of the image, and abruptly U-turned, heading back out of the frame. Footprints leading from the wagon toward the camera reveal the photographer’s path. Made at the Carson Sink in Nevada

Like every process thus far used by 19th century photogs, the size of the photograph was dictated by the size of the camera. Imagine wielding a mammoth 20×24 camera, complete with glass plates and a dark tent, on horseback! WPC yielded images in three ways – a glass negative, from which albumen (egg whites!) prints were made; a glass negative with an opaque backing (known as an ambrotype); and finally a direct print onto metal, known as the tintype.

Nordic Man. (c)Quinn Jacobson

Nordic Man. (c)Quinn Jacobson

Of course, the timing of the introduction of the WPC conincided in America with the Civil War, so we associate it with that era. But the fact remains that the process has it’s own special quality, including it’s uncanny ability to record the eyes.

The demise of Wet Plate Collodion process in photography was inevitable. It’s a difficult process that demands both sensitizing the plate and processing it while the photograph is being made. Not exactly a recipe for the spontaneity of the process we know today!

During the 1880s the collodion process, in turn, was largely replaced by gelatin dry plates—glass plates with a photographic emulsion of silver halides suspended in gelatin. The dry gelatin emulsion was not only more convenient but could be made much more sensitive, greatly reducing exposure times.

The conquering of time, photographically speaking, was inadvertently funded by none other that California gazillionaire Leland Stanford, who bet one of his cronies that a galloping horse’s feet simultaneously left the ground at some juncture. He funded Eadweard Muybridge‘s seminal “Motion Studies” to prove his point. The_Horse_in_Motion

American bison cantering – set to motion in 2006 using photos by Eadweard Muybridge

American bison cantering – set to motion in 2006 using photos by Eadweard Muybridge

Eadweard Muybridge is often credited with inventing the first movie projector – known as the zoopraxiscope. The modern era of Kodak soon followed – more on that in the next class!

The wet plate collodion process has undergone a revival as a historical technique over the past few decades. There are several practicing ambrotypists and tintypists who regularly set up and do images at Civil War re-enactments. Many fine art photographers also use the process and its handcrafted individuality for gallery showings and personal work. There are several makers of reproduction equipment for the contemporary practitioner. The process is taught in workshops around the world and several workbooks and manuals are currently in print.

Maybe we have succeeded in speeding things up to such an extent that we need to slow things back down. Why else would we have a slow-food movement? Many people feel a need to respond in kind to the industrial and technological ‘advances’ that seem to further separate us from understanding ourselves. Quinn Jacobson demonstrates the WPC process:

Chris McCaw’s Crazy DIY Large-Format Cameras | PDN Pulse.

Plus, here’s Ian Ruhter, WPC Addict:

SILVER & LIGHT from Ian Ruhter on Vimeo.

Print out a PDF of this lecture.

Sources: Wikipedia; The Getty Institute;


The Invention of Photography: The Daguerreotype

The Invention of Photography: The Daguerreotype

Note to ART1011 Students: You will need this information for your notes. Please print out the attached .PDF

The year 1839 was a critical one, when an accumulation of efforts both modern and ancient reached a fevered pitch SIMULTANEOUSLY in France and England – resulting the end of a centuries-long  quest to ‘fix’ an image to a surface.

In France, Louis Daguerre took an idea that had been introduced to him by Nicéphore Niépce (who is considered the “Father of Photography,”) and perfected it:

Getty Video

Daguerreotypes are images that sit on top of a mirror (hence, the popular term a mirror with a memory). The process is still considered by many as the benchmark of photographic quality. Unfortunately, much like a Polaroid, the daguerreotype is difficult to reproduce in duplicate, which limited its marketability. Still, what’s interesting to many collectors and historians is that the artifact was present at the time of the photo.


Louis Daguerre, Paris Boulevard, 1839, Daguerreotype

 An early example of a “daguerreotype.” Paris Boulevard is a significant step in the development of photography. Taken in 1839 by Louis-Jacques Mande Daguerre, the photograph depicts a seemingly empty street in Paris. The elevated viewpoint emphasizes the wide avenues, tree-lined sidewalks, and charming buildings of the French capital. However, the obvious day light of the photograph begs the question – where are all the people in this normally busy city?

Enhanced version of Joseph Nicephore Niépce, View from the Window at Gras, 1826 or 1827

The answer to this question lies in the daguerreotype technique. The first photographs, such as Joseph Nicephore Niépce’s famous View from the Window at Gras, took about 8 hours to expose, creating indistinct, grainy images. Daguerre was intrigued by these experiments and formed a partnership with Niépce from 1828 until the latter’s death in 1833. Daguerre continued to refine the photographic method until he developed his new process.

His technique consisted of exposing a copper plate coated in silver and sensitized with iodine to light in a camera, and then developed it in darkness by holding it over a pan of heated vaporizing mercury. He also developed a method of creating a permanent image by using a solution of ordinary table salt. Daguerre’s technique significantly reduced exposure time and created a lasting result that would not dim with further exposure to light, but only produced a single image. It would be up to others to produce the negatives that allowed for the production of multiple copies of an image.


Louis Daguerre, detail Paris Boulevard, 1839, Daguerreotype

A Shoe Shine

Daguerre’s Paris Boulevard shows the advantages of the new technique. There is far more detail than in earlier photographs. We can clearly see the panes in the windows and the sharp corners of the building in the front of the image. The objects are no longer blurry masses of light and dark, but defined and separate structures. In fact, the only thing missing are the people, except for the small figure of a man having his shoes shined at a sidewalk stand.

The remaining problem of the daguerreotype, at least by modern standards, was the long exposure time, between 10 and 15 minutes. This meant that the people hurrying along those spacious sidewalks did not register on the photograph. The man having his shoes shined, possibly the first photographic image of a person, obviously stayed still long enough to register on the image. The haunting empty, yet evocative, image of Paris Boulevard shows both how far photography had come in a short time and how much farther the technology still had to advance.

Thomas Easterly video


Man Ray: Prophet of the Avant-Garde

Today we’ll be watching “Man Ray: Prophet of the Avant-Garde.”

Man Ray, Neck, ca. 1931“As part of the PBS American Masters series, Man Ray: Prophet of the Avant-Garde covers the life and artwork of this innovative modern artist with both clips of interviews and archival footage of the times he lived in.

Born in Brooklyn as Emanuel Radnitsky, he grew discouraged by the New York art world of the early 1900s, changed his name to Man Ray, and moved to Paris.

Although painting was his main love, he took up photography, making portraits of famous people such as Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Henri Matisse. He developed a new technique, the rayograph, in which he placed objects directly onto paper and exposed them to light. He even made an avant-garde film with this technique.

Whether creating innovative photographs, films, or sculptures, Man Ray always managed to surprise. In order to earn a living, he turned fashion photography into art.

Go to our class site on Etudes and find the Discussion area for this assignment. Post an argument as to who should get attribution for the photograph called “The Neck” mentioned in the Man Ray film.

Please use a minimum 150 words. Tell us why you think this is an important issue, or why it shouldn’t be, or both.

Due Date is Thursday Oct 13 BEFORE class starts.
This assignment is worth 25 points – same as your last quiz.


Long Exposure Photography

Low Light Photography Guide