workshop, woo hoo!

Monday will be an evening of workshop.

First we’ll have three whole class workshops with photo essay drafts to talk about together as a class –thank you to Cydney, Jinyu and Dylan for sharing their drafts with us early!

*note: all three drafts are ready to view for workshop and you can reach them with the links in the next paragraph.

Cydney’s will be ready to view now, Jinyu’s draft is ready, and Dylan’s draft The Nature of Tech is ready to view now. Bring a page of notes to give to each photo essay maker in workshop (Cydney, Jinyu, and Dylan). Ok to be hand written.  Ok to be bullet points, sentences, or fragments.  You’ll use the notes during workshop itself, and then hand them to each writer after.

After these three workshops, we will work in small groups for peer review of everyone’s project drafts.  Bring your full draft of your photo essay.  You can post it as a draft on your photo blog OR you can bring it on your own laptop or in a file to open up on the classroom computer.

So, all in all, we should have an evening of big ideas and useful feedback!

See you tomorrow.

*Note: if you’d like to talk about your photo essay this week, we can find a time to meet.



Class on Monday & your pitch for final project

By class on Monday, please have your exercise #2 uploaded onto a page on your wordpress photo blog site.  Can’t wait to see these imovie photo essays!

Good news: We don’t have any new readings for class this meeting.

We do have some exciting stuff on deck, however.  We’ll be using part of class time to talk about your ideas for your final photo essay project.  To bring to class: draft a < one-page typed project pitch that describes your idea (or ideas, if you have multiple) for what you want to do for your final photo essay in our class. Also, bring 10 print photographs that may figure into your final photo essay project.

In the project pitch:

(1) Describe the photo essay project and your goals.  Be specific, as possible.  Do not leave things broad or general. (It’s ok if things change and transform  in your project as you go!!)  Then consider: What’s at stake in this photo essay?  What are you exploring?  What do you want the viewer to experience/question/understand after viewing your photo essay?  Why does this project interest you?  Why do you think it will engage others, your audience?

(2) After describing the project,  please add a paragraph about questions you have within your photo essay that you are still mulling over, present concerns, and/or possible gaps to fill.

(3) Then sketch out a rough production plan, outlining the steps in your process.  What do  you need to accomplish by when?     Note: Everyone will share two of the same dates on their plans: full rough draft for workshop: June 12th –and final delivery due date: June 19th.

After class, you’ll have time to revise your project pitch, if necessary.  Email T the revised version by Wednesday night (6/7).   For this, include any ideas that emerge from your group pitch in class. *If you were between ideas, make sure to pick one now, and narrow the focus of your project.

Email with any questions or clarifications.  See you tomorrow evening!

see you tomorrow!

dear all –

keep going with your “seeing” photo posts.  a photo a day!  what do you see?  what catches your eye?  what image will you choose to post and title and caption? it’s not too late to get these photographs posted.  for inspiration, check out yunshan’s photo posts so far!

during the second half of Monday’s class, we will practice making a photo essay using iMovie as a structural tool.  To this end, choose 7 digital photos (photos that you’ve taken) that you’d like to bring to class and practice using iMovie with.  these photos can be the photographs you have posted to your site this week, or other photographs that could represent a regular week in your life somehow; throw the photographs on your google drive or bring them on a flashdrive or email them to yourself — whatever way is easiest so you can access them in class.

Photo essays to read:   Read Hony and The Old Oak and A Day in the Life of a Crufts Dog   Lauren Greenfield’s site seems to be temporarily down for two of our photo essay readings.  Not to worry, if it doesn’t come back in time for class. We still have a lot to talk about together.

email me with questions!

see you tomorrow–

HONY – Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York

Brandon Stanton’s HONY project is not like a conventional photo essay, but I thought we could take a look at it and find elements that could apply to our own photo essay projects.

Take a look at his Humans of New York website, seeing which photographs or series stand out to you.

Also, here are a couple of resources to learn the backstory of this photographer, his ideas and his project:

1 – Short video about Brandon Stanton the creator of Humans of New York by Mashable.  He is looking for the story!

2 – an audio interview with Brandon Stanton on National Public Radio, “A Photographic Census of the City.”

What do you think you might apply from Stanton’s approach to taking your own photographs of people? Why?


photo credit: courtesy of St Martin’s Press (via NPR’s website)

Tips from Brandon on taking street portraits (from the CityLab link on his “about” page):

First of all, accept that some people will say “no.” A few people may even act offended that you asked. This has nothing to do with you, or what you are doing. Do not let these people make you feel rude. Do not let these people make you feel weird. There is nothing wrong with politely asking another person for their photograph. Most people will be honored.

Accept that you are going to be nervous when you first begin stopping people. This is completely natural. You must keep asking until you are no longer nervous. This takes time. But it’s the most important step.

Because the most important part of asking for a stranger’s portrait is remaining completely calm. People tend to reflect each other’s emotions– so if you are nervous, your subject will be nervous….

Street photography is unpredictable. Your subjects will do unexpected things. Let these things happen. Don’t try to “control” every part of the photo. If a subject has an “idea” for a pose, I always jump on board. Let go. Some of my favorite portraits have come from the unexpected. Let chaos work for you….

Finally— talk to the person, but be natural. Don’t act like Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes. Act like a human. Take a quick interest. Joke with them. Adding even the simplest quote to a photo can lend so much humanity to an image.

Looking ahead: If you like taking photos of people and talking with them, you may want to create a photo essay around this material.  Start taking photographs for your daily posts!  For exercise #2, you may choose to do People Of Michigan (POM) for your photo essay exercise.  (More on exercise #2 later! There will be a exercise #2 “page” posted soon to our site.)  Also, for your final photo essay project, you might be interested in doing a portrait series. Models of portrait photo essays include ones we looked at in our first class like the gun-carrying women of Texas, for example–or “What the World Eats.”

To prepare for Monday’s class

Hallo all –

Looking forward to seeing everybody on Monday evening!  There are four things to do to prepare for our class meeting.

1 – Read through the blog posts here on our class site, taking a look at the photo essays included.  We’ll talk about Richard Misrach and some Detroit photo essays in class.  Come with questions you have and note particular photos that you’d like to talk about or series of photos.

2 – For exercise #1, choose a photo essay online (or it can be one from our resources page that you’d like to draw our attention to).  Create a page on your photo blog, introduce the photo essay (see our class site’s page exercise #1 for more details) and write about why it interests you and how it’s built/its structure.  Looking forward to talking about these together!

3 – Please choose three of your own photographs to post on your photo blog.  See the class blog post “Pelican Diving Board” as an example.  It includes a title and also a caption. It makes a little story about what is happening within the frame.

Play with a photo of your own and see what you come up with!  This will give us some practice thinking about the interplay of text and image.

Notice how even adding a title to a particular photograph changes it, or begins to transform how we see it.  For example, in the pelican photograph the birds are sitting on a short dock in a marina somewhere.  By calling it a diving board, it changes the photo into something that asks the viewer to see the birds lining up to perhaps take a dive into the water.  So, it becomes a bit different–just by adding a title.  Then if a caption is added, in this case “time to dive in!” the text continues the story, the narrative.  It adds some action–and maybe some humor: the pelican is being told what to do.

To think even more about this one photograph (& why not?  this may be the longest you’ve ever contemplated a pelican yet!), why do you think this photo and text is placed as the first blog post: “welcome to the art of the photo essay!”  What work is it doing?

Have fun with choosing these three photo posts! See what you come up with! It’s just a way to start thinking about layers of meaning while playing with words and pictures.

4 – Print 10 photographs (photos that you’ve taken) and bring these to class.  You can print them at CVS etc or print them out on a copy machine/printer (if you do this, make sure to print one-sided only and cut them up so that you have a separate photo on each piece of paper; you will need to be able to move the photos around, order them in different ways, etc in class)

If you have any questions or comments or clarifications, send me an email!

Office Hours:

On Monday May 15th, I’ll be in the office at Sweetland Center for Writing (once inside the writing center lobby, head down the hall to 1323NQ, on your left) from 3-5pm.  Please come by if you would like to talk about photo essays– or if you would like to work on wordpress together– or if you have questions at all!  I will also be available after class for questions or help with wordpress too.

Campus Resource Note:  ScholarSpace in Hatcher Graduate Library is open Mon-Fri 10-5pm and it is a great resource.  Folks there can help with wordpress or you are welcome to work in the space and ask questions as they arise.  Our class contact in ScholarSpace is Breanna Hamm.

Some Detroit Photo Essays

Here are several photo essays on the city of Detroit that use different approaches to the photo essay.

Note how they are built, what is the structure and design?

Also note the structure within each photo essay itself.  What photograph begins the sequence?  What photograph ends the photo essay?  Why?

An early photo essay published by Time Magazine – these photos by two French photographers Marchand and Meffre came to stand for part of the newly coined term and fascination with “Ruin Porn” in Detroit:  Detroit’s Beautiful, Horrible Decline

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Here is another Time Mag photo essay, this one  by Scott Hemmerle called:

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For this photo essay, let’s consider the title and the brief intro text of the first slide.  What expectations do you have of the images to come?  What pattern does he set up within the order of the photos?  How effective are the captions?  Where do we start? Where end?
Next here is another kind of photo essay – this one by Whitney Shefte and published by the Washington Post called Rebirth of Detroit? 
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What are similarities to the previous photo essays; what are the departures?  What unifies this piece?  Is it effective at conveying a message?  How so?  What techniques are used?
And finally, an unusual angle of perspective  –
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Consider first image and last image.  How do these create a narrative arc?  Look at the opening block of text.  This frames the project in what way?  Consider the images chosen.  How are they placed?  How does the ordering create an experience for the viewer?

project-based photo essay model: leaping into photo essays!

One of my favorite visually-wonderful photo essays of all time:

(please click the link below)

Not Just a Jump, But Levitation   a project by Natsumi Hayashi

From Lens in The New York Times:

Ms. Hayashi took her first levitation photo in September 2010. She had been drawn to colors in the scene — the yellow of the sunflower in her friend’s hand, the blue of the toilet paper packaging and the pink of his socks. “I asked him to bend over in order to put everything in good composition,” she wrote in Japanese via e-mail. “But at the moment I released the shutter, he suddenly jumped.”

The image, she thought, had an accidental weightlessness. She decided to keep shooting, calling out orders: “Higher! Relax!”

“In many cases, I never give up and keep jumping until I’m satisfied with my photo,” she said of the self-portraits that make up her oeuvre. From five shoots, each with 200 to 300 frames apiece, she usually uploads only one photo. Because the project is a diary, she focuses on the people and places she sees in daily life, seeking good light and the coveted decisive moment. While she no longer posts every day, she continues to post in the style of an imaginary diary, chronologically, as if no time has passed.

So why does she do it?

“People often ask me, ‘Don’t you tumble?’” she said. “But I have never been asked, ‘Why are you doing this?’”

Ms. Hayashi said she has difficulty thinking “like a grown-up.” She has fantasies of escaping from the confines of gravity. “I wanted to express myself as an honest person ‘whose feet are not firmly planted on the ground’ by shooting myself being free of the gravity of the Earth,” she said.

“When I am free of the gravity inside the picture, I feel free of any obligation to the society and live without being bound to many things.”