Week 17 Course Update

A short week this week. Monday was MLK Day, so no crit or digital imaging.

Tuesday: History of the Book this week focused on the early history of the photo book from Talbot’s book The Pencil of Nature and Anna Atkins’ beautiful publication Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (which I guess isn’t really considered a book but more of a portfolio) to Edward Curtis’ epic The North American Indian. If you are interested in the history of photo books, you really should buy these two books:

Badger and Parr, The Photo Book, A History. Vol 1. Phaidon, 2004
Badger and Parr, The Photo Book, A History. Vol 2. Phaidon, 2004

Each chapter has a well written essay that focuses on a certain topic and then includes photographs of the books mentioned along with additional descriptive text.

The Pencil of Nature, William Henry Fox Talbot 1844.
Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, Anna Atkins 1843

A lot of controversy surrounds Curtis’ book which JP Morgan financed for $75,000 in 1906 (roughly 1.75 million dollars today). Supposed to be a document of fading Native American culture, Curtis staged many of the photographs and manipulated images to depict a romanticized  depiction of a way of life that had already been heavily affected for the worse by industrial development in the US West.

Here are two versions of a Curtis image. The first is the toned final image and the second is the original unretouched. Note the clock between the two men in the original.

Edward Curtis
Edward Curtis


Wednesday starts with Visible, Invisible. We are starting to explore the notion of truth and point of view in images. We looked at work by:

George Rousse, who paints the color fields onto the real surfaces so that the only place they appear as a regular geometric shape is from the point of view of the camera. Were you to move the camera slightly to the right or left, the edges of the colors on the various surfaces would not line up.

George Rousse

Here is a great trailer to a movie about Rousse:

Barbara Probst, who sets up multiple cameras to take simultaneous photographs of the same subjects from multiple positions. Each image offers a different truth from a different point of view and tells a different story:

Barbara Probst

Duane Michals. I added the numbers to order the frames in the images below. Click on it to view larger. With each frame, we are presented new information that changes the reality presented in the series.

Duane Michals

Homework for next week is to watch Akira Kurosawa’s film Rashomon. Buy it HERE. Trailer:


In Right Here, Right Now, we talked about John Szarkowski’s book Looking at Photographs. While a great book, the general discussion was how a great deal of photography today can’t really be understood through the sort of analysis that J.S. employs in the book. We still have more to discuss and no matter where the conversation ends up, the book is still an important book well worth reading.

That’s it. Week two of the semester is done. Next week is a full week again.

Give to Haiti. Go HERE and spend $50 on an 8×10 print. 100% of the proceeds go to Yele Haiti Foundation. Don’t want a print? Then just give.


This entry was posted in 2010 Spring Courses, Contemporary Art, Homework, Readings, Week In Review. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Week 17 Course Update

  1. fr. says:

    Rousse’s work is incredible isn’t it? I stumbled upon it a couple of years ago and it was certainly eyeopening in terms of judgement of objectivity of a photograph. I think i never saw photography as i did before.

    Btw. I just zapped through the pdn’s 30 list, and saw you featured there. Your quote there comes veryvery close to the experience i made when travelling my homecountry last year. I was really fed up with the fact that i wasn’t “seeing” it (which has a new meaning after avatar). You are also right, it is way easier to find interesting things in exotic countries. It goes hand in hand with the phenomenon that you see common things through other eyes when coming home from an elongated stay abroad.

    Sorry for calling you Jason at the end of 2009.

    All the best,


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