Virtual gallery

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Choose 2 of the below 4 questions and write TWO separate essays.  When planning your compositions, you can refer to our lecture slideshows, readings, and course site as well as your class notes.  Be sure to write in complete sentences and have an introduction and conclusion.  Add your name above, then “save as” and add your last name before the document name.  Then, type your answers in this Word document after your particular selected questions (please keep the prompts for your selections and delete the rest) and email it back to me (do not convert the file to a PDF) by the end of the day Tuesday, October 27th (i.e., before midnight).


For each essay, choose 6 photographs (note artist, title, date) by several different photographers (at least four, ideally six) to engage and weave into your discussion and construct a cohesive argument.  You may choose works from the Study/Review Images document on Blackboard or from any lecture (you can also discuss non-photographic objects, but those images/items do not count towards your total).  It is important to situate each image, series, and photographer within their specific historical and cultural contexts as well as discuss relevant ideas and issues.  Reflect upon the intentions and intended audiences of your images, along with their motifs and messages.


A few logistical notes (clarified beyond what I emailed in response to questions): When citing your selected readings, you can use shortened parenthetical citations or footnotes; do not worry too much about formatting.  There is no need to include the actual image files themselves in your document or at the end; I will know to what you are referring.  Do not use the same image for both essays.  You can, however, use the same photographer for both of your essays or in one essay, as long as they are different images.  That said, it is best to cover and address a variety of images, photographers, eras, and areas.  As far as length for each essay, aim for at least 8-10 paragraphs (one paragraph per image, ideally one to two to discuss the theme/s, plus an intro and conclusion); the page length will depend on how your structure it and what you discuss.





1.) Discuss the meaning and role of IDENTITY in the documentary photography we’ve studied to date by selecting six images by several different photographers and bring in relevant readings where applicable.


In your essay, engage both the photographer as well as those who were photographed, including subjects who used photography and portraits (broadly defined) in unique ways.  Consider a variety of examples that address the creation and presentation of identity and character — possibly including those that speak to issues of representation and racism as well as humanity and evidence of human activity — including strategies and ideologies involved.  Be sure to bring in at least one article or chapter (ideally two) into your discussion.

Here are some questions to consider when crafting your approach and essay: What different approaches and attitudes did the photographers ─ and/or those who commissioned them ─ take toward their subjects and why?  In what formats were these images presented and how did that affect their meaning, reception, and transmission?  How do these portraits reflect or react to their specific eras and cultural contexts?  What might the sitters communicate via their aesthetic depictions and how were they used in history, then and now?




2.) Discuss how themes of TRUTH and PROOF run through documentary photographic work by selecting six images by several different photographers and bring in relevant readings where appropriate.  You should include examples from different areas and eras, individuals and groups, and refer to at least one applicable reading, ideally more.  Closely connected to these themes are photographic manipulation, selective editing of the image or series, and issues of inclusion/exclusion (who or what is pictured or not depicted in the frame), in both the literal and metaphorical sense.  Consider too the role of documentary photography and documents in the display and creation of truth.


Here are some questions to consider when crafting your approach and essay: How do your images engage these ideas as well as those related to the roles of documentary, authorship, and meaning?  Where, why, and under what conditions did each photographer capture these images, along with similar subjects and how might each have departed from or bolstered “reality”?




3.) Discuss the purpose and function of the LARGE BODY OF WORK and/or LONG-TERM PROJECT by selecting six images by several different documentary photographers and bring in readings where relevant.  You should include examples from different areas and eras by both individuals and groups, and refer to at least one applicable reading, ideally more, in your discussion.  Choose a variety types (albums, books, expeditions, etc.) and address the reasons for and philosophical implications of each.  Be sure to bring in at least one reading (ideally two) and carefully consider their format, sequence, and technology.

Here are some questions to consider when crafting your approach and essay: What are the aesthetic and social approaches in these works and how do technical considerations (processes and types of the photographs as well as later printing and presentations) reflect or affect the intended meanings?  Under what auspices were these undertaken and how do the individual works fit into these larger projects?  How might selection and sequence affect their meanings?  Who commissioned the work/s or project/s: the government, a certain agency, a corporation, or an individual?  What are the photographers’ and/or the commissioners’ larger goals and do they complement or contradict each other?  What questions and issues do the ideas of an archive and an extended series raise?  How do these images reaffirm or rewrite the goals of those organizers and/or series?

4.) Discuss the intertwined roles of NARRATIVE and HISTORY in documentary work by selecting six images by several different photographers and bring in relevant readings where pertinent.


History is more complicated than it first appears and the writing and making of histories helps us to unpack ideologies underpinning photographic work.  Who gets to document and tell stories matters — including who/what gets included as well as who/what is not — and their emphases and our understandings change over time.  At the same time, counter-narratives and other authors often operate against the grain.  Refer to the contexts, formats, and functions of your chosen images and discuss their geographical, historical, cultural, and conceptual frameworks.  You can also address closely related matters of myths, tropes, and legends.  Because of the historiography-related nature of this question, it would be well worth selecting a wide range of images and discussing two or more readings/authors.

Here are some questions to consider when crafting your approach and essay: How do the works reflect or repudiate prevailing attitudes, approaches, and critics and where do they fit into history?   Have our understandings of these photographs, photographers changed over time and, if so, how?  What photographers, types of work, and stories are included and excluded from these histories and/or frameworks?  What prevailing theories underline the photographs and projects and/or how do these either conform to or push back on established beliefs?  Do some works epitomiz

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