A Photo Teacher |

The Documentary Photography Project

Posted in PHOT 267 by Paul Turounet on April 2, 2008


© Ken Light, To The Promised Land, book published by Aperture and limited-edition portfolio



© Alec Soth, from the project Niagara

  1. Melissa, 2005
  2. View of exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2006
  3. Monograph published by Steidl, 2006
  4. Magnum Photos In Motion Niagara podcast, 2006
  5. Falls 26, 2005


When is the documentary photography project complete? How many pictures should there be?

As many documentary photographers spend a considerable amount of time, in most cases years, they are continuously refining their ideas about their subject as they immerse themselves into their project. While it is essential to avoid having a preconceived idea that is scripted of what the project will be about and what kind of photographs are necessary to reveal a narrative or what the work is about, a working process of continuous shooting dictates the need to shoot, edit, shoot, edit and so forth in order to refine the project so as to suggest a sense of clarity of what the photographers intentions and conceptual concerns. This clarity of intentions and vision is realized with a body of photographs that speaks of visual, intellectual and emotional complexity through a presentation strategy that has been taken into consideration, including a photographic print portfolio, exhibitions, photographic books, and multi-media presentations.



Using the feedback and discussion from the previous critiques, continue to shoot images that reflect more-focused attention on your documentary project in preparation for creating a print portfolio or photographic book that demonstrates a cohesive conceptual concern through your sense of photographic vision and technical craftsmanship. At this stage of your conceptual development, it is essential and necessary that your idea(s) reflect a sense of considered thought, active visual exploration and is articulated with a cohesive vision and voice.

Give particular attention to the following:

  • Edit and sequencing of work in the portfolio. Avoid duplication of similar types of imagery unless it is a function of your conceptual concern.
  • Consistent image sizing, material sizing and use of materials.
  • Refined sense of technical craftsmanship, including correct image density and contrast, color balance and print finishing (retouching and matting considerations).



Shooting Assignment (see Calendar for Due Date), 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.

Any additional materials, including page layouts as well as prints scaled for portfolio.

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


Final Project Presentation, please present one of the following:

Print Portfolio

Minimum of 15 and no more than 20 finished photographic prints that reflect focused attention on a conceptual concern/interest/curiosity through your photographic vision and sense of technical execution and craftsmanship.

Photographs from the previous shooting assignment and/or work made from the various shooting assignments completed during the course may be included in the Final Portfolio so long as all of the photographs reflect a cohesive conceptual exploration.

Each finished photographic print is required to be retouched, window-matted / mounted (depending on print size) and presented in a portfolio box or custom-portfolio book.

Artist statement (submitted online via comment link below or typed) that discusses the work presented in the final portfolio, including why you were inspired to develop the subject matter, how you utilized your photographic vision and use of materials to reveal and articulate your conceptual concern(s) and intentions, as well as the interpretive possibilities you want the viewer to consider.  For review materials, click on Writing About Your Photographs.

For more information about on preparing a photographic portfolio, click on The Photographic Portfolio.




Photographic Book and Limited-Edition Print Portfolio

Click on The Photographic Book Maquette and The Photographic Book

Minimum of 15 finished photographic images in a self-published photographic book that reflects focused attention on a conceptual concern/interest/curiosity through your photographic vision and sense of technical execution and craftsmanship.

In addition to making contact sheets and edited contact sheets of your idea and concept, you’ll need to utilize the Planning The Book worksheet, including page templates, to guide you in your planning and execution of a maquette and the final book with an on-demand book publishing service, such as that offered by Apple iPhoto, Blurb, SharedInk, and A & I Books.  Consider the use of text (written by the subject and/or photographer as well as correspondence between the subject and photographer), found objects and documents.

For more information about on-demand book publishing services, click on The Photo Book – Self-Publishing with On-Demand Printing.


The photographic book is also required to be printed a minimum size of 8½” x 11″, hardbound or softbound and include the following:

  • Title and name of author
  • Introduction and/or afterword
  • Colophon, which is a brief description usually located at the end of a book, describing production notes relevant to the edition. The colophon includes such details as how the book was printed/published as well as copyright and edition information.


The limited-edition print portfolio is required to include the following:

  • 2 – 3 photographs
  • Each finished photographic print is required to be retouched, window-matted / mounted (depending on size) and presented in a sized limited-edition portfolio.
  • Smaller prints, including 8″ x 10″ photographs are required to be matted, while works of a larger size, including 11″ x 14″, 13″ x 19″, 16″ x 20″, 17″ x 22″ or larger, can be presented without matting.




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