Some Artist to Look At

Thomas Barrow

Hilla and Bernd Becher

John Pfahl

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Project 1

The Photographic Image: Shifting Meanings

One of the common ways of understanding photographs is that they portray some kind of truth about the world. Because a camera is a machine, its images seem more objective than those created by human hands. The “truth” that the camera shows can be more complicated than that, however, in several ways:

1. The photographer always chooses what to take a photograph of, when to take it, and how to compose it. Framing, aperture, shutter speed, and other factors all heavily influence the final image and what it shows.

2. The scene can be staged 3. The photograph can be manipulated; this is particularly true with digital images 4. The “truth” that the photograph represents may be what Roland Barthes calls “cultural myths”: ideas, values, and

beliefs that we take for granted as both true and obvious but which are actually culturally constructed assumptions.

Many photographs involve all of the above. An image of a fashion model in an advertisement would be framed and composed by the photographer; is usually staged; is almost always heavily digitally manipulated (sometimes with horrifying and funny accidental results); and works with a mythology of ideal beauty and a mythology that buying things helps you achieve it.

For this project, you will explore the ability of photographs to show a certain kind of “truth,” but also the ability to contradict that truth with another image.

Create 4 image pairs, one for each of the kinds of ‘truth construction’ above. Pair 1:

An image that suggests a ‘truth’ about a subject through composition and framing. An image that tells you something very different about the subject through different composition and framing.

Pair 2:

Stage a scene and photograph it to make it look natural Take a second photograph that reveals that the scene is staged

Pair 3:

A photograph of any subject A digitally manipulated version of the same subject which changes it in an important way, but is still completely believable

Pair 4:

A photograph that conveys a cultural myth (use any of the above techniques if you want, to reinforce the image) An image on the same topic (does not need to be the same subject) which questions the truth of that myth. REMEMBER, the word “myth” often suggests things like Roman mythology, superstitions, and urban legends. Barthes uses “myth” much more broadly, so it could include things like ideal beauty, democracy, free-market capitalism, altruism, comsumerism, etc.

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Short Study 2: Using the Elements and Principles in your photos

Please post some of your most successful images to the Flickr group.

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David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge

Part 1/8

Part 2/8

Part 3/8

Part 4/8

Part 5/8 (blocked)

Part 6/8



Part 7/8

Part 8/8

Also here is are links to James Elkins take on Secret Knowledge.   On the 2001 Hockney Conference.   Optics, Skill and the Fear of Death and More General Questions.

Showing this video because it contains some excellent examples of the camera obscura.  There has been some controversy about Hockney’s theory, but what’s interesting is not necessarily whether it’s correct or not but what the discussion says about the power of images and our relationship to image-making and image-making technologies throughout history.  It also shows the power that the camera has to cause us to want recontextualize previous images through our understanding of camera technology.


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Thurs. Feb. 2

Happy Groundhog’s Day!

Today we will go over camera basics.

Also we will take a little detour and watch David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge which looks at the use of optical devices in painting.

Our next short study  (short study 3) will be experiments with aperture and exposure.  This short study will be due 2/16.  Short Study 2 will be due 2/9.

For next week please be prepared to discuss the two chapters of Practice of Looking.  This means that you will bring the readings, notes and questions to class.




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Short Study 2

Elements and Principles of Art

Intermediate Digital Imaging Short Study 2:

Due: 2/9

This exercise is an exploration of different formal elements and compositional principles.  For each of the elements and principles in the list below, shoot at least 3 images that demonstrate that element.  This will give you a total of at least 42 images.  Any image will, of course, contain many of these elements: categorize each image based on what the strongest element is.

You can construct scenarios to shoot if you want.

Use different subjects, and different times.  Get in the habit of carrying your camera with you at all times.

Take lots of pictures of people, places, plants, animals, things, textures, anything you see.  You can always go back and delete the ones you don’t like.

Experiment with different points of view or perspectives, different ways of framing the image, and different shutter and aperture settings.

Upload your images to an image hosting site, such as Flickr or Picassa, or to your own website or blog. Please email me a link to your images.

List of formal elements and compositional principles:

1.     Line

2.     Shape

3.     Form

4.     Color

5.     Space

6.     Texture

7.     Value

8.     Movement

9.     Symmetrical Balance

10.   Asymmetrical Balance

11.   Proportion

12.   Rhythm

13.   Emphasis

14.   Unity

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Readings for Week 2 & 3

Practices of Looking, Chapter 1

Practices of Looking, Chapter 2


Please be prepared to discuss these readings.

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Spring 2012

Welcome to Intermediate Digital Imaging!

Our first class will be on Thursday – Monday’s class meeting is cancelled.  For Thursday, create a Flickr account and post three of your best images of previous work.  Email me your Flickr ID so that I can invite you to the Flickr group for our class.

Looking forward to meeting everyone!

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