About This Class – Spring 2013

This course introduces and consolidates the use of photography as a medium for symbolizing experience. The photograph is considered in terms not only of what it is of, but also what it is about. This approach requires a mannered and well-considered methodology, one that is in keeping with many ‘slow’ movements in gastronomic circles for instance. Thus, students work with film-based, medium to large format cameras, and print with traditional wet-lab materials.

While subject matter is not specified, three core texts together define an approach that will condition the methods and nature of the photographic portfolio resulting from the class. Walker Evans’ landmark “American Photographs” transforms the urban landscape into an unblinking set of images that stare back at the viewer, and in doing so, shifts the photograph as a representation to a symbolization of experience, and in full dialogue with the viewer. Similarly, Paul Strand’s “The Garden at Orgeval” and Stanley Kunitz’ “The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden” consider the garden and the image as deeply reflective phenomena, and ones that are born of the creative and expressive urge but become symbolizations of a broader realm, “the cosmos in miniature” as Kunitz put it. At the core of these three bodies of work is a tacit ackowledgement of porosity between realms of experience: the maker as gardener, the garden as revealer, the revealed as reflection, the mirror as window, and so on.

Throughout, the course uses photography as a primary tool for investigating these ideas. There is a particular stress on how resolution, via the large format negative and highly nuanced tonalities of the print, affects meaning and expression. The course will also refer to a broad range of philosophical, art historical, literary, anthropological and scientific readings along with frequent viewings of photographic works. The course will rely heavily on student-led discussions and there will be supplementary lectures by guest speakers. Other material will be taught by lecture, demonstration and slide shows.