A Photo Teacher |

Four by Five Inches (or more) of Wisdom

Posted in PHOT 152 by Paul Turounet on September 1, 2011


Your own photography is never enough. Every photographer who has lasted has depended on other people’s pictures too – photographs that may be public or private, serious or funny, but that carry with them a reminder of community.

If I like many photographer, and I do, I account for this by noting a quality they share – animation. They may or may not make a living by photography, but they are alive by it.

– from Why People Photograph by Robert Adams


This sense of a photographic community is vital and imperative to continued development and nurturing of both a photographers’ vision as well as photography itself.  I would propose students of photography embrace it all, the photoblogs, Flickr, websites, galleries, museums, as well as fellow photographers engaged with the medium in a manner similar to your own aspirations, including conceptual concerns, aesthetic approaches and thoughts on the possibilities of photography.



With this in mind, select and consider the work of a large-format photographer to discuss the following questions.  As a starting point in selecting a photographer of interest, it may be helpful to review the following presentations on large-format photographers working in the following genres of photography.


Large – Format and the Photographic Portrait

Large – Format and the Photographic Landscape

Large – Format and the Photographic Document


In addition to looking at the work, it will be necessary to do research online for interviews and/or articles about the photographer to complete your discussion.  The critical inquiry | analysis should include the following discussion:


Brief Introduction

Introduce the photographer, including the photographer’s name and any other appropriate background information.

Discuss the photographers work in general as well as mention significant aspects of the historical and cultural context in which the photographer worked.

Discuss important technical aspects, such as equipment and/or processes used, that contribute to an understanding of the photographer from a descriptive and interpretive context..

Content | Subject Matter

What is photographed, genre of photography, the circumstances in which the photograph was made and the particular details that inform the nature of the thing itself (keep in mind that the thing itself and the subject matter are two different considerations).

How the Photographs Look

Aesthetic considerations (use of frame | compositional balance | use of line, shapes, volume | description of texture) | vantage point and point of view | moment of exposure).

Visual considerations (color, grayscale (black and white) and/or an alternative visual sensibility such as a collage or montage | light or dark | flat or contrasty).

Use of light (type of lighting | quality of lighting).

Scale and presentation considerations.



Discuss what concerns, ideas, and/or curiosities the photographers work reveals, suggests and/or implies to you, including emotional, psychological, historical, sociological, cultural implications and considerations, so as to begin to understand its meaning.

What are the photographs about?

What do they represent or express?

How did they come to be?

Within what tradition / movement do they belong?

Are there references that inform how the photographs were made and what they are about?

How has psychological, historical, sociological and/or cultural contexts shaped their creation and your reading of the photographs?

Does it reinforce or disrupt preconceptions?

What purpose do they serve?

What is satisfying and dissatisfying about the photographers work?

Are there moral, ethical, gender, identity and/or cultural issues and concerns to consider?

What does it mean to you?

Does it change your view of something?



Evaluate the photographers work in terms of its’ effectiveness in communicating the intended idea and meaning, including the conceptual framework of the photographs and the visual language used (use of aesthetic considerations as well as level of technical execution and/or presentation).  It is important to develop persuasive support and argument for your critical judgments.

What criteria will be used to evaluate the work?  (art theories including realism, expressionism, formalism or instrumentalism)

Realism – to accurately portray the thing itself that affirms a means of discovery and proposing new ways to see the world.

Expressionism – individuality of the artist to portray the intensity of their feelings, experience and/or emotions.

Formalism – upholds the importance of formal considerations and not the judgment of narrative content, psychological associations or the imitation of objects.

Instrumentalism – art is in the service of causes that reflects social content and insists that art is subservient to, rather than independent of, social concerns.

Does the photographers’ aesthetic considerations, presentation and technical execution support the intended meaning?

If the work seeks to inform and influence social awareness and change, is it effective?

Does it unwittingly or intentionally cause social harm?

Is this a good use of photography to communicate the intended meaning?

How does the photographers work compare and/or contrast with similar images in other media?

What do others have to say about the photographer’s work in general?



Write a brief critical response of a photographer using a large-format camera  (4×5, 8×10, or larger) with discussion of the following. The questions above are to serve as a practical guide in how you may want to consider your assessment of the photographer (it is not necessary to address each question in your response).

Brief Introduction




Your 2 – 3 paragraph response is required to be submitted in the Comment section below, on the Course Canvas Page or the Instagram site (@a_phototeacher).

See Course Calendar for Due Dates and Times



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