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Andrey
01-25-2008, 04:10 PM
I found a medium that I like.
I have the equipment which I like.

I don't know what to shoot.

I don't have a purpose to trip that shutter.

Subjects and themes turn me away for different reasons... starting from "it's been done" to "this will only excite me"

So, I would like to make a curriculum for myself.

I wanna know what kinds of assignments are given out to photography students. What kinds of courses and what books they read.

Do you have any information on the subject?

Neanderman
01-25-2008, 04:40 PM
I wanna know what kinds of assignments are given out to photography students. What kinds of courses and what books they read.

Well, let's see.

One was to team up with a partner. One would be blindfolded, the other not. The blindfolded one was to take pictures, the other one was to keep the blindfolded one from stepping out into traffic.

Another was an assignment to pick a spot somewhere and take a photo. Then you were to take 5 steps and shoot another one. Repeat until you run out of film.

Yes, these sound ridiculously absurd, but you'd be amazed at what you can learn about photographs from doing them, especially the first one.

As for books, we only had one: Swedlund, Photography: a handbook of history, materials and processes. A great book. We didn't do much reading as my professors weren't much into theory. The idea was, you looked at a LOT of photographs and then went out, made some on your own, brought them back to class and talked about them as a group.

I still think you'll learn a lot more about photography by looking at and making pictures than you'll ever learn by reading about it. I also recommend seeing lots of films and reading other things -- for me, it was literature.

Learn to think in pictures.

Ed

Gary Holliday
01-25-2008, 04:57 PM
The assignments are very broad which give you scope to take whatever you want, there's always a category for it! You must be interested in something....photograph what you know.

Think of a project; mine at the moment are all the photos I see on my way to work each day. I'm just planning how to bind them together into a body of work and how they will be printed. Ideas flow together once you get started.

Robert Hall
01-25-2008, 05:27 PM
Do you consider yourself a conceptual artist or perceptual?

If you need a concept, find something that is important to you, or something that could educate others through your photography and go to work on images and perhaps text and sound bytes.

If it is perceptual, go find things to photograph that you can make beautiful through your eye and the camera.

wheelygirl
01-25-2008, 05:45 PM
O.k., Andrey, here is what my instructors assigned:
In my b & w course last semester, we were to go out with our cameras, sit for 5 minutes. Using all 5 senses, take photos to represent each sense. For me, the sense of taste was rather easy: a photo of a near-by restaurant.
Another assignment entailed each of us acting as a "typical" tourist, with all of their usual photographic goofs, for 1/2 the roll; the other 1/2 we were to act as though we were "professional" photographers. This, was the most fun.
This semester, in my Color Photography, so far, has been to get better acquainted with our cameras 'normal' f/stop, by bracketing. This week, the assignment is of warm & cool images--warm tone image and cool tone image using local color & warm tone image and cool tone image using optical color.

jovo
01-25-2008, 06:11 PM
I don't know what to shoot.

I don't have a purpose to trip that shutter.

Subjects and themes turn me away for different reasons... starting from "it's been done" to "this will only excite me"

So, I would like to make a curriculum for myself.


Wow....your quandary is an unusual one. It kinda sounds like you're afraid to shoot because someone might find your photograph limited or boring. OTOH, "this will only excite me" is even more perplexing since it suggests you want to be bored by your own work????? I'm baffled by that statement!

In any case, making exposures, developing film, and printing as well as you can ought to excite your appreciation for the objects you've created... prints...let alone the personal expression that they may reveal. Just do it! A lot!! Worry about the "value" of what you've created later (or not at all). If you're comfortable in your own skin, you'll soon realize that whatever others may think, what you've created is worthwhile to you. Unless you're a two dimensional cipher, someone else will almost certainly be excited by what you've made. Start there...see what follows... best wishes and good luck!

Andrey
01-25-2008, 06:37 PM
Do you consider yourself a conceptual artist or perceptual?
Me? Artist?

I'm a guy with a camera.

Seriously I didn't know the difference between them :)

If you need a concept, find something that is important to you, or something that could educate others through your photography and go to work on images and perhaps text and sound bytes.

If it is perceptual, go find things to photograph that you can make beautiful through your eye and the camera.
It's too broad of a goal.

There's got to be a tried and tested way of doing "photography". Starting with an assignment that's easier, and then evolving from there... some guidelines?

rbergeman
01-25-2008, 06:49 PM
i like what robert hall said --
you say you found a medium you like --- what do you like about it? the way it can elevate an ordinary thing into something expressive? if so, don't worry about the fact that others have photographed similar things--there's no way around that ..... thing is, they haven't done it with your eyes...... if you just follow your eyes, photography will teach you things about yourself ...... if you're an 'arranger' rather than a 'reactor' when it comes to image making, perhaps a beginning assignment might be to create a photograph that is a metaphor of yourself .... in any event, good luck!
rich

Andrey
01-25-2008, 06:51 PM
Wow....your quandary is an unusual one.
I guess what I'm saying is that I don't want to shoot for the sake of shooting. :)

I want to set out on a project, which has a message, a defined audience and in the end, if that audience is satisfied, I know I've done a good job.

I have been shooting for myself for the last 2 years... mainly. To try out a new technique, just to see what something looks like on film... etc. It helped me control the medium I'm using, but it has no message. It is useless by itself. And I don't want that.



It kinda sounds like you're afraid to shoot because someone might find your photograph limited or boring. OTOH, "this will only excite me" is even more perplexing since it suggests you want to be bored by your own work????? I'm baffled by that statement!
Nah. Just that wouldn't stop me. It's just that I know, that nobody else, but me is going to find it interesting. If it pleases just me, it's not enough. I want it to please an audience of some kind.



In any case, making exposures, developing film, and printing as well as you can ought to excite your appreciation for the objects you've created... prints...let alone the personal expression that they may reveal. Just do it! A lot!! Worry about the "value" of what you've created later (or not at all).
I don't know. Maybe you're right, but it almost sound like you're saying to keep throwing paint on the canvas in the hopes that something worthwhile might come out.

There's got to be a scale to measure success. If I just shoot for the sake of shooting, how do I know when if/when I'm doing good or bad? How do I know if I succeed or fail?

SuzanneR
01-25-2008, 06:57 PM
One of my first assignments in high school... photograph a vegetable. I found this dying, wilted head of lettuce in the back of the fridge, and proceeded to shoot an entire roll. I flopped it all over the house, on an outdoor spigot, hanging over a desk lamp, on a paper towel with the rug behind them both. What a study in textures that was!!

Fun assignment... try it.

And don't ever let "it's been done before" stop you. After all, it hasn't been done by you. And so what if it only excites you? Do you really believe that you can't make a good photograph of something that excites you? You might find other's share your excitement when you've made a good picture.

Stop thinking about, and go shoot.

rbergeman
01-25-2008, 06:59 PM
okay, here are some basic beginning photo assignments
-- pick a single subject (scene, place, object) that promises to look good from a distance as well as up real close ..... take one or two rolls of film and begin shooting it from a scene-setting distance thru middle distances to extreme closeups, and along the way try to find as many different angles of view as you can
-- experiment with depth of field or with motion (or both) -- for dof, find subjects that you think would look best with sharpness from foreground to background, then seek out subjects that would look good isolated against a softly focused background or foreground-- shoot the former with small apertures and shoot the latter with larger apertures and close distances (or longer lenses) ..... for motion, pick a subject that's moving in a repeating fashion and experiment with slow and fast shutter speeds
-- experiment with composition by loading up some film and going hunting for contrasts, or for lines, or for boundaries, or for rhythm/pattern, or for formal vs assymetrical balance, or for texture, etc.

smieglitz
01-25-2008, 09:20 PM
Hip
Tip
Slip
Trip
Strip

Think of it as a visual scavenger hunt. Find them. Post them. You now have an audience.

DBP
01-25-2008, 09:25 PM
Here's a link to the manuals for training US Navy photographers http://www.tpub.com/content/photography/. You may find some useful ideas.

ajmiller
01-25-2008, 11:08 PM
To answer your question - What do the photography programs teach?
I've just finished first semester:
Foundation Studies - Camera skills ( angle of view, DoF, exposure), darkroom skills,
Photographic Practise - Choose two from Still Life, Landscape or Portrait, research, produce set of images.
Historical Studies - from Fox Talbot to 1960's.

reading list: Bruce Warren - Photography, Sontag - On Photography, Liz Wells - Photo Reader & Critical Introduction

When i was stuck for ideas for my assignments the advice the lecturers gave was - Just start photographing. And it works, the ideas develop as you go along.

Good luck

Tony

JBrunner
01-25-2008, 11:55 PM
I can't tell you what the photography programs teach.

I can offer you this advice about the rest.

Stop big braining it. Just shoot. The rest will follow.

Your creative mind is at least four years ahead of your cognitive mind.

Stop second guessing it.

Phillip P. Dimor
01-26-2008, 12:26 AM
I remember a few of my assignments; Landscape, Macro or Close up, Abstract, Pick a photographer and emulate, find an image that distorts an image and leads you to believe it's something else, portrait, self-portrait. I remember only really putting 100% into the assignments that I was interested in. Otherwise, I taught myself maybe 65%, the rest I picked up through APUG, photo.net, the internet and books.

Classes are cool to show off in, or even to make friends with. It's fun sometimes to shoot with people, but no one likes 'that guy'.
There was one, he wasn't really very good, didn't care about photography. Or taking pictures. Or even his camera but it was a minty Canon F1. Jerk. Wanted to sell it for a 'new' one. The teacher and I kept telling him to sell it to us, but then we'd tell him to keep it. Argh.

David William White
01-26-2008, 12:32 AM
Here are some we had to do:

1) Day in the life of your town/city (on one roll): dawn to dusk, rush hour, lunch time, garbage trucks, etc. Purpose: pacing, planning, endurance.

2) Cover a public demonstration: act like a reporter, get the 'decisive moments'. Purpose: sizing up an event, anticipation, engagement of bystanders, feeling comfortable snapping strangers.

3) Asking: Go someplace public, 24 frames, ask and get 24 people pictures, complete strangers. No covertness. Hint: tell them you are a photography student. Works best with obvious 'student' camera. May take you all day. Purpose: Grow balls, capture interesting people, engaging them, etc.

4) Seeing Things: Capture light and shadow in interesting ways or from different perspective. Window reflections, sunlight on streetcar tracks, nighttime cityscapes, mirror reflections, ripples, shooting straight up or down, or from ground level, shadows, etc. Purpose: learning to see what light does.

5) Motion and zoom: Freezing motion with fast shutter, blurring with slow shutter, panning with moving cars, people -- blurring background, zoom out on objects moving toward/away. Purpose: basic mechanics to adding drama.

6) Self-Documentary: Photo-document your hobbies and chores. Make a story-board. Purpose: telling a personal story.

We generally struggled, procrastinated, pushed and stretched, and then mostly surprised ourselves.

D.

Richard Boutwell
01-26-2008, 12:56 AM
This got to be longer than I intended, but there was much to cover.

I basically did the same thing you are trying to do, but I took two community college courses to get me started. Taking those two classes might not have taught me much more than how to expose and develop film and make less than acceptable prints, but it did put me in an environment where there were a few other serious students and we were all energized by our interactions.

So your question was, "what do they teach in school?" It depends on the school, and your interests—something you neglected to mention.

Maybe the most important thing school teaches you to be able to talk about (or defend) your work.

Another important aspect is that it enables you to think in different directions based on all you see going on around you. It might not have a direct influence on what you are doing, but indirectly, it is all important—either by planting the seeds for growth or solidifying your convictions about your work.

If you know how your camera works, there is no need for "assignments." If you want to learn about lighting, buy some lights and book on the basics and go to town (one definite benefit of school is having the tools at your disposal that you might not be able to afford on your own). If you want to learn non-silver then buy a kit and get to it. It isn't that hard—As someone else said, you learn by doing and looking. So do and look all you can.

As for what you should read? Not having at least a basic understanding of what brought about the world of photography as we now know it is inexcusable.

The short list:
1: Beaumont Newhall's History of photography. Yes, it is biased, but it covers everything you need to know up until the 50's. Then you can get into the Gersheim's or the Rosenblume's books.

2: Vickey Goldberg's Photography in Print.

3: As Tony mentioned, Liz Wells - Photo Reader & Critical Introduction are decent choices.

4: Robert Adams Why People Photograph and Beauty in Photography (those two books may help you solve all your problems immediately)

5: The introductions to any Photographer's books who's work you respond to. Go to the library if you can't afford to buy the books.

Then, if you are really courageous, you should read Sontag's books (I think reading that in the first term/year is just dumb and would have made me throw my camera into the ocean).


I found a medium that I like.
I have the equipment which I like.

I don't know what to shoot.

I don't have a purpose to trip that shutter.

Subjects and themes turn me away for different reasons... starting from "it's been done" to "this will only excite me"

Wow, are you sure you haven't been to art school?

I'll address your last comment first. Exciting you is the absolutely most important thing you can do. If you worry about not exciting the viewer, whatever you do will not be true. And if it isn't the truth, then what is the point? In actuality, the more you work for/from your own excitement the more it will touch other people.

The ubiquitous "it's all been done before" comment is useless. There haven't been any real innovations since the 70's—everything has been repackaged. The sooner you move away from that preoccupation of making something "fresh" the better off you will be. Again, the only thing you can do is present the truth— whatever that might mean for you.

Just go out and see what is there. "Throwing paint at the canvas" is exactly what you are doing. But you aren't "hoping something sticks" you are discovering what sticks. There is no reason to think you should have it down after photographing for two years. That is what the formative years are for.

You don't know what to shoot? And you don't have a reason to press the shutter?

If you are really meant to be a photographer, then you will be driven to photograph, the world will provide that for you.

Richard Boutwell
01-26-2008, 01:03 AM
Here are some we had to do:

1) Day in the life of your town/city (on one roll): dawn to dusk, rush hour, lunch time, garbage trucks, etc. Purpose: pacing, planning, endurance.

2) Cover a public demonstration: act like a reporter, get the 'decisive moments'. Purpose: sizing up an event, anticipation, engagement of bystanders, feeling comfortable snapping strangers.

3) Asking: Go someplace public, 24 frames, ask and get 24 people pictures, complete strangers. No covertness. Hint: tell them you are a photography student. Works best with obvious 'student' camera. May take you all day. Purpose: Grow balls, capture interesting people, engaging them, etc.

4) Seeing Things: Capture light and shadow in interesting ways or from different perspective. Window reflections, sunlight on streetcar tracks, nighttime cityscapes, mirror reflections, ripples, shooting straight up or down, or from ground level, shadows, etc. Purpose: learning to see what light does.

5) Motion and zoom: Freezing motion with fast shutter, blurring with slow shutter, panning with moving cars, people -- blurring background, zoom out on objects moving toward/away. Purpose: basic mechanics to adding drama.

6) Self-Documentary: Photo-document your hobbies and chores. Make a story-board. Purpose: telling a personal story.

We generally struggled, procrastinated, pushed and stretched, and then mostly surprised ourselves.

D.

I really feel the point the assignments teach is to be aware. Aware of what the camera is capable of, and being aware of what is around you. The former can be learned from a book. The latter . . . well, some people never get it. That is why there is the rule of thirds, and why they tell you not to cut off the top of the steeple.

Andrey
01-26-2008, 10:51 AM
Then, if you are really courageous, you should read Sontag's books (I think reading that in the first term/year is just dumb and would have made me throw my camera into the ocean).
:D

Funny. It's the first book on philosophy of art/photography I picked up by chance. Before that it was either elements of graphic design or just technical cameraworks/posing/light placements.


Wow, are you sure you haven't been to art school?
Nah, it's more of an engineering approach. Message, audience, medium in finite timeframes and on a certain budget.

Thanks for the advice. It's really helpful.