Sunday, March 11, 2007

if you teach...

here is a overly stream of conscious guide i made to get my kids to think about their final projects...i'd love to hear other things to consider to add to this list!

Project strategies in photography

Here are some things to think about when embarking on a photographic project:

Oftentimes, beginning photographers hit you in the head…they forget their audience is visually sophisticated. Subtlety can be your best friend…it takes discipline but reaps big rewards.

Don’t be afraid to photograph your own backyard. Said another way, you have amazing access to things you live close to that nobody else does. What is the photographic potential of your environment?

How can you organize your story? Think about subject matter, color temperature, saturation, print density, compositional strategy, the symbolic power of objects…

Does your story/idea have only one or multiple points of view? 1st person, 3rd person…Multiple points of view may need distinct visual ‘treatments’ in order to be understood by the viewer.

Is your project about one or multiple subjects? Don’t be afraid to make an image about a person or idea without that person or idea in the image. An environmental portrait without a sitter. If your project is about a single person, we may not need them specifically in many of the images.

Should the audience be omnipotent? Do we know things your characters may not know?

Does it have a beginning, middle, and end? Should it be organized in chapter-like sections?
Is it even linear?

When image editing, are certain images redundant? Less is often more. Live with your images in order to understand them and know them corner-to-corner. Editing will be much easier this way.

I have always liked Mitch Epstein’s project ‘Family Business’ (about his fathers business empire and health decaying). In book form has over 200 pages of mostly images and some text divided into four chapters: store, property, town, and home. These divisions are general enough to maintain flexibility in image editing, yet help organize a mass of images on a general level for the viewer

Sequence, whether your story is linear or not, always matters. Pictures set up ideas, visually, emotionally, conceptually.

Anything that reappears in your images will take on significance to the viewer as important. Robert Frank’s The Americans uses the United States flag effectively as a symbol that resonates very differently depending on the picture, sequence, and context of where you encounter it.

Remember, you have beautiful negatives that you can print and reprint at varying temperatures, degrees of cropping. You may choose to reiterate an element of an image later in a project by printing it again, but with a different ‘treatment’. You also have strips of negatives and contact sheets that can be manipulated into your project. Larry Clark’s project Tulsa includes images that repeat in contact sheet/filmstrip style, breaking up pages of uniform images. Sometimes images can be used in a more graphic sense to reiterate a point…look at Warhol…he used single images and used it over and over.

How does time advance in your project? Like in a movie where the distance between scenes may be seconds or decades apart, how will you manipulate time? Edweard Muybridge’s images were fractions of a second apart in order to analyze things such as the form of a horse’s gallop. How could you show a leap of 10 years forward between images? 50 years?

Should it have a prologue or epilogue? Should these be visual or text-based?

Compositionally, are there rules that will help your images build meaning? Should the horizon line ever tilt? Are you shooting frontally? From the hip? What are your vantage points? How are bodies rendered? Structures? Will you ever shoot up or down on your subject? What is just outside of the frame of the image? Your subject will give you clues…

Text is as important to a photograher as anybody. Are there titles? Are they on the image? Accompanying the image? At the beginning, middle, or end of your project? Whose words are they? Is the font designy? Typewritten? Hand scrawled? Are capital letters used? What is the leading and kerning? Does the text need to be at 100% opacity? Should it be a color other than black?

If you are doing a book, would you like to use blank pages? They can set up a pause, or screenplay writing lingo is called, ‘a beat’. How do you build up tension for your viewer? When do you relieve it?

Should your project be prints in a special box instead? Matted, framed, or both? Pinned to the wall? Should it be shown with a slide projector instead? Should the images be backlit? Should your images also be objects?

What kind of paper are you using? What are the implications of matte, luster, glossy? Oftentimes, projects critical of something will emulate their physical properties. Should your images even have borders? Remember, colors are either excited or dull depending on their visual surroundings being black, white, or otherwise. Should your paper have straight edges? Should it be burned? Crumpled? Think about the photo as the object that it can be.

Should your images be big or small? Intimate? Confrontational? Grand? Detailed beyond reality? Smaller, matching, or bigger than real life? Should your book be bound western style or eastern? Calendar style? What will the binding say about the meaning of your images? Should be pay attention to it or no?

Should your images be full bleed? Should they be within significant white space? Can they jump the gutter in a book without losing visual potency?


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