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Friday, July 11, 2003

CDF Week 2 Wrap-Up

The photography portion of the Communication Design Fundamentals class has ended. I learned a lot in a week, and I think my eye is definately sharper than it was before. We spent most of today looking at photographs: Charlee's, ours, and previous students'. A wealth of images.

The two pieces of wisdom we were left with:

  • The question when looking at an image shouldn't be: is it good or bad? but rather, what does it say?
  • How you choose to compose a photograph reveals a lot about you.

Next week: expressive typography and, in software bootcamp, Flash!

posted at 03:32 PM in big ideas, photography | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Thursday, July 10, 2003

Text and Image

Our final assignment for this week of photography is an image that either incorporates or resides alongside a piece of text. I've spent a good portion of the last two days trying to find words attached to images: graffiti, signs, bumper stickers, t-shirts, posters, you name it. I could have taken a picture and written a caption, but after looking at Lee Friedlander's Letters From the People in class yesterday, I was interested to see what I could find in the world. If I could find text that provides a commentary or perspective on the image it resided in. So I've been hunting.

I found several very cool signs ("We will not wash laundry with vomit on it") but it was tricky to get the picture to work with the text. All in all, I took about 100 pictures (thank god for digital cameras) and then played around with about 10 of those until deciding on the one I'm most happy with (pdf 344k).

We've talked a lot in class about photographic intent: what the photographer wants to convey via the photograph. Sometimes, like in advertising, this means selling product, or presenting product in a desireable way. Sometimes it is to convey a feeling or a message. It helps to have what Charlee calls "formal skills" (ie. a command of the medium and techniques) so that you know the best ways to approach a subject, how to best present it. (Then again, when doesn't it help to have a command of your medium in doing just about anything?) Some other notes:

  • The real world is often dull, visually. Photographers need to find ways to make the dull exciting.
  • It's hard to make a composed picture look random.
  • It's hard to show relationships between objects in a picture.
  • Repeating texture by itself isn't very interesting.

posted at 08:40 PM in photography, projects, techniques | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Wednesday, July 9, 2003

What Makes a Good Image

We've been having a debate/discussion, both in and out of class, about what constitutes a good photograph. Or if this is a false question entirely: it can't be determined because the medium, since it contains an element of artistry, is too subjective and that context (how the picture was made, under what circumstances, and how the elements of composition work in that particular picture) is too important.

Since most of us in class are novice photographers, it is often hard to tell if a photograph "works" or not, and if so, why or why not. It's difficult for many of us (me included) to critique work, so unfamiliar are we with the language of photography. But critique we did, spending most of class today going through our last assignment of photographing objects, first in representational/documentary style, then in abstract style.

One thing became apparent quickly: there are a lot of talented people here. Some of the images were stunning: beautiful, grotesque, intriguing. I wish I could present some of the work here, other than just my own attempt (112k).

Our next assignment is a combination of image and text: text as part of the image, or as a caption, or as commentary.

My comment on learning Illustrator in software bootcamp: it's hard. It makes InDesign look like a picnic in comparison.

posted at 05:04 PM in photography, projects | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Using a Camera

Today's class was a fairly detailed examination of the various components that go into making a good exposure. An exposure is a combination of the correct amount of time (shutter speed) and the correct intensity of light (aperture).

Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second: 1000, 500, 250, 125, 60, 30, 15, etc. Shutter speed determines how time is shown. Aperture (f-stop) depends on your lens and is measured thusly: 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22, 32, 64. Higher the number, the smaller the lens. ěSpeedî of the lens is its highest aperture. Smaller the number, bigger the lens. Higher stop is useful for low light and fast, action shots.

Another component is film speed. Film speed (ISO or ASA) comes in 1600, 800, 400, 200, 100, 50. The higher the number, the faster the film. 400 is a good all-around film. Slow film requires more light.

When creating photographs, one must always determine which has priority, shutter or aperture. Or to put it another way, time vs. space.

We discussed the concept of Depth of Field: how much of your picture is going to be in focus. The higher the aperture, the greater depth of field. The lower the aperture, the tighter the focus.

We discussed the merits of film vs. digital photography and the ethics of intent: what does the photographer owe the subject?

We looked at our portraiture from yesterday and at a few other photography books: Five Decades by Arnold Newman, Stranger Passing by Joel Sternfeld, Like a One-Eyed Cat by Lee Friedlander, Jump by Philippe Halsman, and Dirty Windows by Merry Alpern.

Our next project (due tomorrow of course) is a series of photos representing an object concretely and abstractly.

posted at 07:39 PM in photography | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Monday, July 7, 2003

Introduction to Photography

Week Two of CDF began with a new instructor (Charlee Brodsky) and a new topic: photography. It's reportedly the first time photography has been included as part of this course and it should be an interesting subject to explore.

Photography, Charlee explained, is in one sense easy to study because photographs are a part of our culture. They are used to sell things, to document news, and to document personal history. Photography is "the mind and they eye working together, with some heart thrown in." Photographs "stop time and are a sliver of space," and provide a frame through which to view what is important. A photograph shouldn't show everything however. If it does, Charlee contents, the viewer doesn't ask himself the important questions.

Photography is all about light. Light reveals the subject, lets us make an image, record something.

There are two main ways of representing subject matter: documentary images (which Charlee likened to nouns) and abstract images, which use surface qualities of subjects to make another kind of image. They can be likened to music in that they are more easily described as feelings.

Similar subject matter can be presented in a miriad of different ways. We looked at two views of suburbia, Mark Rader's Scanscape and Bill Owens' Suburbia as an example of this. We also viewed The Best Part of Me by Wendy Ewald and Shopping by Merry Alpern for different styles in portraiture.

And indeed, our first project is in portraiture, where we pair up with a partner to photograph and, in turn, be photographed. First-year CPID grad student Jenni Miehle was my partner and got to endure not only taking photos of yours truly but also my bad Austen Powers impression ("Work it baby, work it! Yeah!") as I took her picture. Here's an outtake (155k) that I'm not using as part of my "best-of" selection for class critique tomorrow.

In software bootcamp, CPID alumnus Matt Mowczko is taking us through the ins and outs of Illustrator this week.

posted at 10:50 PM in classmates, faculty, photography, projects | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


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All straight lines circle sometimes. - The Weakerthans