A Photo Teacher |

Deadpan

Posted in PHOT 152 by Paul Turounet on August 30, 2007

© Walker Evans, Allie Mae Burroughs, 1936 (left) and August Sander, Blacksmiths, 1926 (right)

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In contemporary photographic practice, particularly through the use of the large format camera and materials, the deadpan aesthetic has seemingly shifted photography beyond the sentimental and subjective. The deadpan aesthetic implies a cool and detached photographic gaze on its subject, revealing photographs of the highest visual quality, including sharpness, resolution and tonality.

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© Edward Burtynsky, Three Gorges Dam Project, Dam #4, Yangtze River, China, 2002

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Taking their cue from such photographers as Walker Evans and August Sander as well as the New Topographic photographers, including Bernd and Hilla Becher, Robert Adams and Stephen Shore, contemporary photographers began employing the deadpan aesthetic to engage emotive subjects, yet what the photographers’ personal emotions are may or may not necessarily function as a guide to understanding the meaning of the images. For photographers such as Thomas Ruff, Rineke Dijkstra, Edward Burtynsky, Alec Soth, Judith Joy Ross and Anthony Hernandez, the emphasis is on the use of photography as a means heightened description, objective vision while challenging to varying degrees the conventions of the deadpan aesthetic as lacking emotive qualities.

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© Anthony Hernandez, Vermont Avenue & Wishire Boulevard, 1979

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The use of the photographic frame, specifically the large format frame, as well as the photographers’ vantage point and physical relationship to their subject matter, is straightforward and direct. The lighting is even and uniform throughout the photograph, revealing complete description of details. Most often made with large format cameras and materials, these photographs are exceptionally well executed technically, with a commanding presence and rich visual information.

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Assignment

Shoot film utilizing your interpretation of the visual sensibilities of the deadpan aesthetic with the view camera in natural lighting conditions and/or artificial lighting in a studio environment. In an effort to gain a greater understanding of the basic view camera operations, consider your use of the photographic frame and camera-to-subject relationship to reveal your subject in a straightforward and direct manner as well as your use of critical focus and depth of field.

Challenge the conventions of the deadpan aesthetic and its straightforward approach, whether in describing the subject from a sense of cool detachment or the possibilities of revealing a sense of emotional responsiveness that may seem distant on the surface.

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Requirements

For the critique (see Calendar for Due Date) and evaluation, please complete the following:

  • minimum of 3 Digital Contact Sheets (1 contact sheet with minimum of 3 different shots from each of the following genres – Portrait | Landscape | Document)
  • minimum of 6 Grayscale Prints (3 darkroom prints and 3 digital prints) as follows:

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  • Two critique prints reflecting your interpretation of the photographic portrait that suggests a sense of a persons’ identity within the context of their environment, reveals a particular detail of a persons’ identity or an interpretation of self-portraiture.
  • Two critique prints reflecting your interpretation of the photographic landscape, whether it be the natural, urban, suburban and/or the relationship between these contexts of place.
  • Two critique prints reflecting your interpretation of the photograph as document of the everyday experience.

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Each critique print is required to be retouched. It is not necessary to mount the photographs for presentation. Turn-in all edited contact sheets and prints in a manila envelope for evaluation and feedback.

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