The Photographer's Playbook

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*George Georgiou / Stop and Return

With the world becoming more homogenous through globalization and places becoming similar in appearance, I am constantly having to remind myself of the significance in the ordinary and familiar that is right in front of my nose.  I give myself a small assignment that helps me to slowly understand a little of what is in front of me. I find a public space or space and go back to it day after day, allowing myself to see what I didn't value the previous day.  Slowly I get excited as I start to see the social and cultural nuances of that space and the interaction and rhythms between the private and public. Layers of meaning unfold, and suddenly ideas open up.

*KayLynn Deveney / A Guide to the Neighborhood

For this assignment, you will meet someone new. You will find through a referral from a church, a community center, or a social club. Or you might meet them when walking in their neighborhood.  You will interview the person about the place where he or she lives and make notes about his or her impressions. You might ask questions they would expect, regarding how long they have lived there, what they know about the history of the place, and whether they see themselves staying there for a long or short time. But you might also ask them questions about the feel and experience of the neighborhood. For instance, what is the most beautiful spot in the neighborhood? Are there places of tension? What is the noisiest thing that happens in the neighborhood? What is it like at night - is it dark enough to see the stars? If this person had to go somewhere several blocks away, would he or she walk or take the car, and why? In which season or weather is the neighborhood the calmest? Which neighbors are outdoors the most? Who is their closest friend in the neighborhood? What neighbor is the least known to them? What is the most beautiful time of day on their block? What do they see out of their windows? You will then take this information and use it as a guide to make a piece of work that is rooted in someone else's vision of a place. However, you will not photograph the person you interviewed. You are photographing what they see, not how they look. Finally, you will take the images back to your "guide" for captioning and discussion. By taking on a coauthor for this project, you will engage with a more pointedly collaborative model for making subjective documentary work, one that can perhaps present people in more inclusive, complex and empowering ways.

Frank Stella + Chris Johanson *by Dave Schubert

Frank Stella + Chris Johanson *by Dave Schubert

*James Benning / An Assignment

Go for a walk. Before leaving your home, look at the clock.  Cover your ears and only look. When you see something interesting, sit down and keep looking for at least an hour. Then close your eyes and just listen. Keep listening until you have heard enough. Then go home and see what time it is.


*Ricardo Cases / Spanish Recipe <Adapted> 

Ingredients - Four cups of coffee, a camera, comfortable shoes, a music device with headphones and the complete works of Manuel de Falla, eight hours, a sunny day, public art

Directions - Step into your shoes. Place the headphones on your head. Take the first coffee. Once in the street, turn on the audio device and start walking without any direction and with no interruption except for those strictly necessary for the proper performance of the exercise - meaning, the second, third, and fourth coffee. Take pictures of everything that suggests to you the term <ART>. Do not talk to anyone, do not stop walking, do not look at the time (set your alarm on your phone to alert you that the exercise is over). At the end of the day select ten photos.

**Based on the original recipe of Mario Rey's series American Insider and on the Jose Ortega y Gasset quote, "Only the imaginary can be exact" that appears in the book An Imaginary Spaniard by Cristobal (SP) Hara.


*Garry Winograd by way of Daniel Gordon / Three Assignments

1) Photograph someone doing something to someone else. 2) Make a photograph with more than three people in the frame.  3) Approach and photograph a complete stranger.

*Andrew Lampert / Shoot Me

Your assignment is to take a good photo of me. It's hard. Facing a camera makes me feel instantly uneasy. I can't put on a fake smile or feign a serious look.  When asked to be loose and spontaneous, I almost always freeze up. Begin by texting to check my availability (+1 718 916 6697). Invite me to a pleasing destination, a place where I will fill comfortable. This might involve a good meal (for example, dim sum) or a couple of drinks (whiskey, maybe tequila). Let's talk for a while, come to understand one another.  Do your best to get me in the right mood.  Break down my defenses.  Show me some of your work to offer reassurance.  Talk me through our shoot.  Give me direction.  Help me figure out if I have a good side, a better angle.  When it is over, ask me to help you decide which is the best shot. Trash all the rejects.  Don't let the whole thing take too long. I get difficult.


*Leanne Shapton / Doing Laps

Photograph a subject 250 subject times over the course of two hours, once a day for a week.


*Eva Sutton / Synesthesia

Take a photograph. Then, add time. Make it into a video. Include other photographs, sound, text, or video. Then make it into a sound. Turn it into a poem. Turn the video/sound/poem back into a photograph. Use any technique, analog or digital, to carry out these transformations.

Barry McGee + Chris Johanson *by Dave Schubert

Barry McGee + Chris Johanson *by Dave Schubert

*Bob Thall / Pictures Within Pictures

This exercise is meant to focus the photographer's attention on the frame of the photograph, price choice of camera position, and the interesting ways that the camera can translate three dimensions into two.  Find a rich, complex environment and make photographs that incorporate reflections, other images (like posters, signs and video displays), and design elements such as poles, doorways, and windows. The goal is to produce photographs that have pictures within the picture and which, at first glance, look like diptychs, triptychs, or even collages. Sophisticated photographers know that we must carefully control how elements close to use relate to further objects in the photograph if the image is to render space clearly. Three tree or pole that appears to come out of a subject's head in a portrait is a common mistake.  In this exercise, it's useful to take that awareness and violate normal rules- to deliberately flatten space in a confusing way.  To prepare for this assignment, good images to reference include Gilles Peress's Telex Iran, the early work of Lee Friedlander, and work by the Chicago photographer Gary Stochl, among others.


*Antonio M. Xoubanova / Manual to Make a Good Photographic Project

Look at as many photo books as you can for the next four weeks. Go to as many exhibitions as you can. Take a few days to intoxicate yourself. Don't think about what interests you the most. Don't try to think back over that again. Go out to take photos. The more, the better. Edit your photos. Look at them. Think about them. Download them / develop them. Empty the card / buy more film.  Go out again to take more pictures. Look for luck with insistence. Be guided by chaos without resistance.  Work more.