what is photography for?

Dieter Appelt.

Dieter Appelt.


This is a studio course that will introduce you to black and white photography.  Over the course of the semester you are likely to discover that photography can be part art, part science, and (perhaps most wonderfully) still part magic.  This class will make you a technically competent photographer, as we will cover a range of important technical information.  My fundamental interest in photography lies in its relationship to the fine arts, and today we will begin a semester-long discussion about several more abstract ideas related to the process of making artwork.  My hope is that by semester’s end we will share a similar enthusiasm for how photographs cut through the world, as well as an appreciation for how photography can be one of the most useful tools for examining experience.

Just as the earliest developers of the photographic process accidentally began their work, we will start by making images without either a camera or a negative.  From there we will begin a careful, several week-long investigation into how the basic 35mm camera works, covering all aspects of picture-making—from exposure to negative development, to printing, to final presentation. At the end of the semester we will collaborate on an editioned portfolio (with each member of the class contributing an image) as a momento of our work.  As we proceed though the semester, we will develop a critical methodology and a vocabulary for looking at and talking about photographs.  We will constantly be viewing the work of other artist-photographers, making visits to museums and galleries, and deepening an ongoing discussion about photographs and their special connection to consciousness.


A word about critiques: each week or at least every other week, we will try to make time to discuss each other’s work.  This will take the form of a discussion where each of us should have an equal footing, with myself serving as something of a moderator.  From the beginning, you should try your best to speak from your hearts and to learn from each other’s comments.   Please respect each other’s voices—often many of the true gems of a workshop experience come from your peers.  Remember from the outset when discussing someone else’s work to keep comments and criticisms as constructively honest and helpful as possible.  This is very important.  Hopefully, when we look at pictures, we will be looking at and talking about art.  So please remember: in matters of art, there are no facts, only opinions.  Please act accordingly.