vrmcs12 photo essay assignment

Assignment Overview

View from the Window at Le Gras by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce
Color digital print reproduction of Joseph Nicéphore Niépce’s
View from the Window at Le Gras (c1826)
June 2002

“The DAGUERREOTYPE is not merely an instrument which serves to draw Nature; on the contrary it is a chemical and physical process which gives her the power to reproduce herself.”
Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre (c1839)

Daguerreotype_Daguerre_Atelier_1837
L’Atelier de l’artiste (1837)
Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre

“Our chief object at present is to investigate the connexion of photography with art—to decide how far the sun may be considered an artist, and to what brand of imitation his powers are best adapted.”
Lady Elizabeth Eastlake (1857)

Alfred Stieglitz, The Hand of Man
The Hand of Man (1902)
Alfred Stieglitz

“Now in all of this it should be well understood, that the machine is a passive and innocent party, The control of its mechanism and materials, the fineness and sensitivity of its accomplishment are those of man.”
Paul Strand (1922)

Phan Thị Kim Phúc running down a road near Trảng Bàng, Vietnam,
Phan Thị Kim Phúc running down a road near Trảng Bàng, Vietnam
Nick Ut (1968)

“The intelligibility of a photograph is no simple thing; photographs are texts inscribed in terms of what we may call ‘photographic discourse,’ but this discourse, like any other, engages discourses beyond itself, the ‘photographic text,’ like any other is the site of a complex ‘intertextuality,’ an overlapping series of previous texts ‘taken for granted’ at a particular cultural and historical juncture.”
Victor Burgin (1977)

“What I am saying is: memories evoked by a photo do not simply spring out of the image itself, but are generated in an intertext of discourses that shift between past and present, spectatator and image, and between all these and cultural contexts, historical moments.”
Annette Kuhn (1991)

“The digital image tears apart the net of semiotic codes, modes of display, and patterns of spectatorship in modern visual culture—and, at the same time, weaves this net even stronger. The digital image annihilates photography while solidifying, glorifying and immortalizing the photographic. In short, this logic is that of photography after photography.”
Lev Manovich (1995)

Rhien II by Andreas Gursky
Rhien II (1999)
Andreas Gursky

Assignment Details

For this assignment, you have three options from which to choose:

Option One: Photographs
Create a photo essay consisting of 12 – 15 photographs on a particular theme or subject. The photographs can be of any style (landscape, portrait, urban decay, and so on) as long as there is a unifying theme or subject. The media you use to record the photos should relate in some way to the subject matter. Do not simply use a digital camera because you have one or a cell phone because it is convenient. Rather, think about how the media used to record the image complements the subject itself. Amazing, award-winning photographs can be made using disposable cameras, for example.

Along with the photos I would like you to compose a 250 – 350-word introduction to the images in the vein of those composed by Joseph Rodriguez for Where Children Sleep and Yves Marchand and Romain Mefre in The Ruins of Detroit. In addition, compose a 500 – 750 word analysis of the photos where you discuss your reasons (rhetorical and aesthetic) for choosing the images and the medium/technology chosen to record the images (film, digital camera, cell phone camera, specific app, and so on). Also, choose 1 image and do a more in-depth discussion in terms of the theories on photography that we have read and the so-called “rules of composition” that are discussed via the links in Additional Materials section below.

Your images do not have to have titles or captions, though you are welcome to use either or both. If you do, be sure to address them in your analysis (especially in terms of Barthes discussions on anchorage). If your subject requires some research, be sure to incorporate (however briefly) what you find in the Introduction or analysis.

Option Two: Vintage Family Photo
Locate an older/vintage family-style portrait photo of you and compose a 1500-2000-word essay in the same vein as Annette Kuhn’s “Remembrance: The Child I Never Was” and Angela Kelly’s “Self Image: Personal is Political.” In your essay, be sure to also analyze the image in terms of the semiotic and other theories on photography that we are reading, as well as the materiality of the photograph itself. That is, consider how the print itself as a print made in a certain year using certain paper affects meaning when viewed through your contemporary vision.

Option Three: Vintage Found Photo(s)
Locate an older/vintage photo or group of photos of a stranger (and perhaps their family and their activities, if you find a photo album) that you find at a garage sale, thrift shop, or antique shop and compose a 1500-2000-word essay informed by Annette Kuhn’s “Remembrance: The Child I Never Was,” Angela Kelly’s “Self Image: Personal is Political,” and/or what Jody Shipka is doing with her blog project based on a found collection of images, In Six Boxes. In your essay, be sure to also analyze the image(s) in terms of the semiotic and other theories on photography that we are reading, as well as the materiality of the photograph itself. That is, consider how the print itself as a print made in a certain year using certain paper affects meaning when viewed through your contemporary vision.

Each of these options have afford wonderful opportunities and challenges, which I encourage us to discuss via Twitter using the #vrmsc12 hashtag.

Additional Materials

Here are the Rules of Composition links I tweeted:

Assessing the Work

Option One will be assessed by the overall statement your series of photos is making about a certain topic or theme, by the strength of the connection between the medium chosen to record the images and the images themselves, and by how well you apply the photography and semiotic theories we have read in class to the photos you have made and selected. I will also be considering how well you have applied the Rules of Composition to the 1 photograph you choose analyze in more depth. In terms of the course strands, I will be looking specifically at Multimodality, Rhetoric, Technology (for the media used to record the images), and Critical Thinking, Writing, and Reading.

Options Two and Three will be assessed by how well you apply the photography and semiotic theories we have read in class, as well as your assessment of the medium of the photograph(s) itself, to the photo (option two) or photo(s) (option three) that you have selected. In terms of the course strands, I will be looking specifically at Multimodality, Rhetoric, Technology (for the discussion of the medium), and Critical Thinking, Writing, and Reading.

Due Dates

no later than 2/23
Know which option you are going to do and tweet it using the #vrmcs12 and #pe hashtags (pe = photo essay). If Option One, also tweet the theme or subject of and genre of photos you’ll be making and the medium used to record them. The sooner you make your decision the better off you will be.

3/1 and 3/8: In-class photo assessment
Bring to class photographs that will be work-shopped and discussion with Jody Shipka. If doing Option One, bring 8 – 10 images that you think represent the body of work you would like to include in your essay. If doing Options Two or Three, bring 5 potential images upon which you could base your essay. Rank them in order of preference and for each write down  3 – 5 strengths in terms of its potential to be analyzed. No other writing is required for this stage.

3/22: Rough Draft of Photo Essay due
Bring to class a full rough draft of your photo essay in digital format. Do not post it to the course blog yet.

3/29: Final Photo Essay Due by 11:00pm
Final photo essay assignment due on the course blog and in Issuu. Post specifics to be added later.

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