A Photo Teacher |

Sense and Sensibilities

Posted in PHOT 267 by Paul Turounet on March 21, 2008


© Bill Burke, pages from I Want To Take Picture, published by Nexus Press, 1987 and Twin Palms Publishers, 2007


As the documentary photographer continues to immerse themselves further in their exploration of their subject matter, it becomes necessary to develop and produce work that not only challenges this subject matter visually, intellectually and emotionally, but can be sustained over the long haul. Sustaining the long-term documentary project can be challenging and difficult, and it is vital to the documentary photographer’s survival to work through not only the engaging efforts, but more importantly, the obstacles and temporary setbacks, whether they be conceptual, visual and/or technical.

How does one persevere so that the working process can be sustained in such a manner so the work doesn’t become static and repetitive? When do you know or realize that you have exhausted all conceptual possibilities in relationship to their sense of photographic vision?

It seems necessary for the documentary photographer to develop a strong and enduring sense of perseverance and commitment to their idea through continuous and engaged practice over a long period. This requires a determined continuation with conceptual development and visual pursuits in a steady and continued manner, especially in spite difficulties or setbacks.



© Jim Goldberg, from the series Raised By Wolves, a combination of photographs, video stills, found objects and documents, and handwritten texts, documenting the lives of teenage runaways on the streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles between 1987 and 1993.


In addition to their continued photographic efforts, documentary photographers such as Bill Burke (I Want To Take Picture and Mine Fields), Danny Lyon (The Bike Riders and Conversations With The Dead), Jim Goldberg (Rich and Poor and Raised By Wolves), Larry Sultan (Pictures From Home), Mitch Epstein (Family Business) and Lauren Greenfield have developed and utilized strategies that reveal their subject in a more complex manner as a means of trying to make sense of what they’re experiencing. The notion that the “documentary photograph” alone becomes a vehicle of a “universal truth” is challenged and infused with a sense of the photographer’s experience and their relationship to their subject. Such sensibilities and strategies include the use of text (written by the subject and/or photographer as well as correspondence between the subject and photographer), found objects and documents, various aesthetic approaches through the combining of different tools and materials as well as presentation strategies that go beyond just the photograph, including photographic books, multimedia, video and audio recording.



Using the feedback and discussion from first critique, continue to shoot images that reflect more-focused attention on a body of photographs that reflects a conceptually cohesive portfolio of photographs in preparation for the final project and presentation project. At this stage of your conceptual development, it is essential and necessary that your documentary project reflect a sense of considered thought, active visual exploration and is articulated with a cohesive vision and voice.

Despite difficulties and setbacks you may be experiencing in expanding the conceptual possibilities with the work, with your use of the camera and/or technical concerns, it is vitally important to push through these complications in order to fully realize the possibility of your idea.

Explore the possibilities of including alternative conceptual, visual and presentation strategies discussed above as means of layering your project with intellectual, emotional and visual complexity.

In considering your conceptual concerns, I would propose you utilize images from the previous critique to guide you in your conceptual and visual pursuits. It is necessary that you shoot images that reflect focused attention on an idea. It is essential that your idea reflect a sense of considered thought, active visual and intellectual exploration and is articulated with a cohesive vision and voice. As suggested with the previous project assignment, I would encourage you to follow-up with me regarding your ideas, conceptual development and photographic pursuits by emailing me digital contact images of your efforts and/or meeting with me with contact sheets, edited contact sheets and prints in an effort to propose a greater sense of visual clarity and interest. As this critique will be the last opportunity for discussion and feedback on your work prior to the presentation of the final print portfolio, it is recommended that you present a print(s) that reflect a sense of technical execution and scale of how the work will function and be viewed in a portfolio context.



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

Minimum of 3 – edited contact sheets (no more than 4 images per sheet) or 12 Digital Kiosk Machine Prints (minimum size of 6×8 inches in scale) that reflect and begin to suggest the possibilities of focused attention on a conceptual concern/interest/curiosity through your photographic vision and sense of technical execution and craftsmanship.

Minimum of 4 – finished photographic prints made in the Grossmont College Analog | Digital Photography Labs.

Additional materials, including text, found object, documents, etc…

Turn-in all critique materials in a manila envelope for evaluation and feedback.



Comments Off on Sense and Sensibilities

%d bloggers like this: