Looking at Color Photography

Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals

Here is a assortment of some of my favorite contemporary photographers working in color, and web links to their work.

ASSIGNMENT: Visit all the photographer’s websites. Pick three photos from three different websites that interest or excite you. Create a google doc. Write a short paragraph (minimum 5, maximum 7) sentences describing what you see in the photo. For each, be sure to comment on what you see (what’s happening in the photo? Is it really happening, staged or fantasy? What’s the subject or idea? Where are we? Why is it important?), AND how composition and color are used by the photographer to enhance the image. Add the image to your description, so I can see what you are talking about. 

Add a fourth photographer–one you find yourself. Your teacher can point you in the right direction if you like, but I recommend finding an area of interest and doing a web search to find photography you are interested in. Copy or screenshot an image for your google doc, and write about it. Be sure to write the name of the photographer and include a link to their website. 

Barbara Bosworth, (“Natural Histories” “Birds and other Angels” and other projects) https://www.barbarabosworth.com/the-heavens

Christopher Payne  (“Asylum”)  http://www.chrispaynephoto.com/asylum/

Cig Harvey (“You Look At Me Like an Emergency”  “Gardening at Night” “You an Orchestra, You a Bomb” or “Pavlovas at Midnight”) http://www.cigharvey.com

Rania Matar http://www.raniamatar.com/portfolio/girl-and-her-room.php


Richard Renaldi (focus on the color images/projects) http://renaldi.com/projects/

Kahn and Selesnick http://kahnselesnick.biz/

Edward Burtynski  http://www.edwardburtynsky.com

and http://ideas.ted.com/2006/10/31/gallery-edward-burtynskys-extraordinary-images-of-manufactured-landscapes/

Alec Soth (“Sleeping by the Mississippi”) http://alecsoth.com/photography/?page_id=14


Laura McPhee  http://www.lauramcphee.com

Alex and Rebecca Norris Webb http://www.burnmagazine.org/essays/2009/10/alex-webb-rebecca-norris-webb-violet-isle/

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Photography Book Reviews

Two Books of Astronomy, 1996. Abelardo Morell


  • Look at photography books in the classroom. You can look at any of the photography books.
  • Find books that are compelling, share with classmates, or ask your teacher for recommendations based on genre (type of photos). Explore a variety of photographers and image making techniques, based on student interest.
  • Write a one paragraph review of each book with, highlighting one or more images that you found particularly compelling.
  • Share your google document with your teacher.


  1. You will look at many images, but are required to write a review of three images of your choice, from four different books.
  2. Use your laptop while browsing books. A google doc has been provided to get you started on the Classroom post.
  3. Explore books. Take several off the shelf that interest you. Feel free to share with friends in the class (recommend books to each other).
  4. Review the book and photographer. For each image:
    1. Take note of the photographer. Also, take note of the page number if there is one.
    2. Why are you drawn to this photo (Like it, or can’t stop looking at it?)
    3. Who, what and where? (What is happening in the image? Who is the subject? Where are we? Also, where is the photographer in relation to the subject?)
    4. How does the photo speak to you? (Ideas? Emotions?)
    5. Think of one word that sums up this photo to you.
  5. Plan to share your favorite images with the class.

Pinhole Photography Reflection

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Stefan Killian, NY Carousel

The following questions should test your understanding of photography based on our Pinhole Camera unit:

  1. How does your pinhole camera see the world differently than your own eyes?
  2. Come up with three adjectives to describe pinhole images and what makes them different than images on, say, your cell phone camera.
  3. Describe the experience of working with a pinhole camera. What was your favorite part of the process? What did you find most challenging?
  4. What are the differences between a pinhole camera and a 35mm film camera?
  5. Would you consider a pinhole camera a technology? Why or why not?
  6. What do you understand about exposure based on making pinholes? Describe.
  7. What did you learn about time and motion based on making pinhole images? Describe.
  8. What did you learn about photography from making your own pinhole camera? List three things:
  9. Describe three things you learned about using the darkroom during this unit:
  10. What was your most successful pinhole image, and why?

The Short Film project

Still from the 1981 film, “Raiders of the Lost Arc” (Dir: Steven Speilberg)

Your assignment: Write, Direct and Edit a narrative (fiction) short film with dialog and action in class (or on location, with teacher’s permission). This builds off of the documentary we just watched, “The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing”


  1. Form a crew of 3 or 4; come up with a “Production Company Name”
  2. Come up with an idea for your action sequence with your crew
  3. Write a 1-2 paragraph treatment (description) of your short film
  4. Write a script (in screenplay format) for the dialog scenes
  5. Draw a storyboard for each shot in the action sequence. (The storyboard form is at the bottom of this post, and is handed out in class)
  6. Scout locations, find props as needed, and cast actors from class (pre production)
  7. Shoot your film during class time, somewhere on campus; OR, with permission, shoot outside of class.
  8. Edit

Skills (we will learn)

  1. How to shoot a dialog scene
  2. How to use a boom microphone
  3. How to shoot with one or two cameras, with a clapboard
  4. How to script (screenplay format)
  5. How to storyboard
  6. How to keep continuity between shots (match action)
  7. How to control the pacing of the film
  8. How to edit (includes creating a project, inserting and moving shots, the “L-Cut” for dialog, cutting to music, basic sound mixing, titles and credits, and transitions / color correction where needed)
  9. How to watch, compare and critique each other’s final work.


  • Length: 3-5 minutes total
  • No weapons, sexual references, drug references or profanity. No violent fight scenes. No blood.
  • Characters: Two characters. You may have students in your crew to act in your film.
  • Plot: The film should start with an “instigating event”–some situation that starts the action. The chase ensues. The chase must resolve or end in some way with a final short scene
  • Dialog: You must have a short dialog scene (at least three lines each character) at somewhere in the film (often it works well at the beginning or the end)
  • Shots: At each moment in the film, the editor should have at least 2 shots to cut to (this is called coverage).
  • One random prop: You will be assigned one random prop that you must incorporate into your film, in a major or minor way
  • One random line of dialog: You will choose a line of dialog at random that you must use in your film.
  • Style: The dialog scenes need to follow a traditional shot-reaction shot structure (2 singles and a two shot). The action sequence must be shot two different ways–for example, all in close ups and all hand held.
  • Edit: Each crew member edits their own version, with an alternate ending! 
  • Music: Edit the chase to music
  • Finishing: Titles and credits


A storyboard form is here:

Identity Project / Studio Portraits

“Steve” by Matt Hoyle, from his book “Comic Genius”
“Tina” by Matt Hoyle, from the book “Comic Genius”

Essential Questions:

  • What defines you as a person? Is it: Culture? Personality? History? Gender? Your interests or activities?
  • How can the visual medium of photography be used to represent these aspects of identity?
  • What do you wish to share about yourself? What do you wish to keep private? How much can a photographic portrait show about a person?

Directions for Shooting this Assignment:

  • With a partner, shoot one portrait in the studio (our classroom). You will photograph them, and they will photograph you. Others can join in and help, but you and your partner will have a plan and will direct the crew.
  • For this image, think about one specific theme in your life (rather than every aspect of your life–that might be impossible to capture in one image!) You need to bring one prop or clothing item that shows a theme in your life. The quality of the light (direction, intensity, hardness or softness, color) can also help express your personality.
  • You are trying to get one great shot to print large that defines you (or apart of your life). Work until you get it!
  • You will spend 15 or 20 minutes setting up, 20 or so minutes shooting, and the remaining time in class putting the equipment (lights, backdrop, camera, tripod) away.

Directions for your Identity blog post:

  1. Include three images from your photo shoot. You may have a main image and two alternates… 
  2. Write about your identity, and how you expressed it through these images. One 5-7 sentence paragraph minimum. Look back at the essential questions, at the top of this assignment. In your paragraph, answer the following:
    1. What are you showing about yourself in this image?
    2. Why did you make the decisions you did as a photographer for these images?
    3. What was the experience of making these images like for you?
    4. What did you learn about photography and yourself through this project?
    5. Do you like studio portraiture? If so why?
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    Zach by Matt Hoyle, from the book “Comic Genius” (130 portraits of comedians)

Production Packet

Greta Gerwig directs Timothee Chalamet and Saoirse Ronan on the set of “Ladybird”

For your production to be successful, you need to plan the whole production, as well as each shoot. The more questions you answer before you start, the more organized and efficient you will be. For example, do you know exactly what equipment you need? Can all of your crew members and actors make it to your shoot dates? Do you have all important props or costume items with you for each shoot? Which scenes and which shots do you need to get on which days? By writing it all down, you, your crew, and your teacher will be confident that your production will go as well as it possibly can. 

Writer/Director Greta Gerwig working with her cinematographer on the set of “Ladybird”

The film’s Producer turns in bulk of the the information listed below, and is in charge of gathering and writing up all the production information in it. The Writer/Director turns in the treatment and screenplay. The Director of Photography turns in the shot list (written in collaboration with the Director) and storyboard. All of these elements are combined to create the production packet. 

The packet must be bound in a binder or organized in a folder. The production packet itself needs to be typed, clean and professional. 

Your production packet should include:

  • Treatment: a paragraph or two describing your film from start to end. Your treatment should describe the theme, subjects (and their motivations), the story (place, time frame, events), and style. *

  • The most current draft of your screenplay. *
  • List of locations (with any relevant information: transportation to and from, hours you can shoot there, permissions needed or granted, and so on)

  • List of actors (cast, and to be cast)

  • List of props and costumes (be as specific as possible)

  • Equipment list (be as specific as possible–camera, sound, camera mounts, special rigs)

  • Shooting schedule (which scenes are you shooting when; start by breaking down your script into scenes–each new location is a scene)

  • Contact information for all cast and crew; also include their availability (ie “Abby, Director of Photography, available all weekends except first weekend in March, no after school”)

  • Complete shot list for each scene. *

  • Storyboards for at least three scenes (choose the scenes that are the most complex visually and show the style of the film).*

* The writer can add the treatment and current draft of the screenplay to the packet on the due date. The DP  can add the shot list and storyboard to the packet on the due date.

Wes Anderson directing Moonage Kingdom
Writer / Director Wes Anderson shooting a scene from “Moonrise Kingdom”


Film Analysis



Essential Question: What makes a movie “good?” What are the pieces of a “good” movie?


  1. Choose one or two 3-5 minute clips from a movie, TV show, or short film –something you feel the class needs to see. Think carefully about which film and which clip(s) you choose to show. Th clip(s) should represent the film you are showing (ie give us a good idea of the style of the film, and what the filmmaker is doing. You will be encouraged to choose something the majority of the students in class have not seen. Look for something classic or independent.
  2. Write a short paragraph (3-5 sentences) about each of the elements of cinema, below. This is one of two parts to this assignment, which you will turn in on our Google Classroom.
  3. You have two options as to how you want to present your analysis:
    • Create a montage explaining your clip. You may make this in Adobe Premiere or a google slideshow (see example). Put your clip in context of the longer movie (etc) that it comes from–where does it fit? Overall, tell us why you chose this piece of media and why WE should see it too. OR…
    • Present the film clip to class. Plan, rehearse and deliver your thoughts on the clip. Delivering your presentation, you have some choices:
      1. You may choose to introduce the film to put the clip into context for the class, then let the clip show in it’s entirely before delivering your analysis.
      2. You can talk while your clip is playing, starting and stopping at times to point things out to us.
      3. After your introduction, you can play the clip through once, then play it through a second time, pointing out elements of the film you want us to notice (this works better with a shorter clip, say 3 minutes).

Analyze the following elements of cinema in your presentation:

  • Storytelling (The Script / Writing: Plot, Beginning / middle/end – structure; Dialog; Characters; the IDEA)
  • Acting & Directing
  • Mise En Scene (‘What you see’ – Locations; props, costumes; makeup)
  • Cinematography (Shots: Composition, Lighting, Viewpoint / Perspective / Angle; Movement)
  • Soundtrack (Music score; Mix; Compliments visuals and story;
  • Editing (Tells the story; special effects; continuity; pacing)

The PSA (Public Service Announcement)



  • Communicate a message that’s important to you: First, identify problems in the school and give students the opportunity to come up with their own issues to tackle. In class, we will brainstorm areas of concern (no matter how big or small). Some suggestions:
    • ‘Don’t text and drive”
    • “Eat healthy”
    • “Get enough sleep”
    • “Get more exercise”
    • “Stand up to bullies; cyberbullying – see something, say something”
    • “Stand up to sexism/racism/etc”
    • “Help a student who needs it (ie suicide or drug addiction)”
    • “Get involved in politics/protest — speak your mind”
    • “Protect freedom of speech”
    • “Positive body image – Eating Disorders (raise awareness)”
  • Identify audience. Is it fellow students? Teachers? The community? The world that needs to know?
  • Find a visual way to convey this message, that is creative—think outside the box—don’t just stand there and say it. Show it! Tell us a story or create a scenario that cleverly relays this message.
  • During pre-production, you will storyboard this project and get more creative with camerawork (shots, angles) and editing (cuts, transitions, effects and graphics)

Creating a Photo Blog

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Every student in Digital Photography class will post work to personalized photo blog they make themselves. The blogs are free and easy to create through WordPress.com. Follow these steps:

  1. Sign into http://www.wordpress.com (create a free account). You must  remember which email you use and your password–write it down somewhere!
  2. Create a free blog. Title your blog (something other than your name), that has to do with photography (think hard about this–once you choose it, you will be using it for the rest of the semester and beyond!)
  3. Choose a template for your blog. A template controls the design–how the images and words appear. Choose one from the Subject category “Art.” Make sure it’s free. https://wordpress.com/themes/free/filter/art OR filter for “photography”  https://wordpress.com/themes/free/filter/photography Here are some that would work well for photography, but you can choose others. :
    1. https://wordpress.com/theme/pictorico
    2. https://wordpress.com/theme/visual
    3. https://wordpress.com/theme/dyad-2
    4. https://wordpress.com/theme/cubic
    5. https://wordpress.com/theme/altofocus
    6. https://wordpress.com/theme/snaps
    7. https://wordpress.com/theme/orvis
    8. https://wordpress.com/theme/baskerville-2
  4. Customize your site (we will demonstrate / work through this in class).
    1. Give your site a “Site Title”
    2. Edit your “Primary Menu” to add or subtract menus. You need to add a “About the Photographer”
    3. Add one of your photos as a “Header Image” (if applicable to your site template)
    4. …and so on! Note that you may alter your site after adding posts / content–that shouldn’t change or erase your content, but it may move things around. You can even apply a NEW template after you’ve started your blog, if you decide later that the template isn’t working for you.
  5. Create your first post. Click “Write” in the upper left side of the screen to get started.

First Assignment: On Campus Interviews

0823-ron-burgundy-1For your first shooting and editing assignment, your crew will film interviews with ten people in the hallways and common spaces around the school! Half can be fellow students; the rest must be staff members (adults).

We will shoot for two or three days. You will need a camera, handheld microphone, XLR cable, and headphones. You will rotate positions (interviewer, camera operator, and if you have three crew members, producer). You need to get steady, well-framed medium shots of interviewer and interviewee, and record your subjects names and positions. All shooting will take place during class time. You will learn a bit of digital editing to import and cut your shots together, and add lower thirds and titles to your piece.

Before you go out to shoot you and your crew needs to plan (or “pre-produce”), by researching and writing questions. The planning is a graded part of your assignment. Download the planning sheet here as a Word Doc, so you can type right into it: Street Interview Assignment.