Photography for Artists & Designers

Art & Design 265: Project


Project: Theme & Variation

Week: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | Schedule


Goals & Concept

Throughout the arts are examples of the compositional strategy of theme and variation being employed in creative works. Whether music, literature, flim, dance, sculpture or painting, the strategy of theme and variation offers a way of conceptualizing the artist's approach to form and to theme.

Subject:  Many similiar things, photographed one way. 

(ala Bernd and Hilla Becher’s work, e.g. Industrial Facades )

Pick a type of object. 
You might, for instance, pick steering wheels — there are hundreds of variations of steering wheels on campus that vary in size, in proportions, in color, and in other details.  You might pick doorknobs, eyeglasses, writing pens, hubcaps, windows, etc.  Each one of these is a type of object that you can find many different examples of.

Your Theme:  Similarities and Differences
Develop a set of images that makes use of the similarities of your subjects, but emphasizes the differences.  How might you make these images interesting to the viewer? 
How would you arrange them for viewing?  How would you place them... in a row? a grid? a random, scattered arrangement? a sort of puzzle of interlocking images? one huge image made up of many smaller, sub-images?
How do the images need to be shot in order for them to visually work together?  Is there a particular kind of lighting you want to use?   ...soft?  ...harsh?   ...predominantly dark?   ...colored illumination?    Is there a particular use of depth of field that might help?  What sort of scale do you want to use?  should the entire object be inside the frame or is close cropping useful?


The Short Version

Shoot a series of images (7+) that draws attention to both the similarities and the differences among a thematically and formally similar collection of subject.

Post to G+ album: 019 Theme & Variation.

Develop an expressive point of view through the series.

Develop a consistent and evokative graphic concept.

Lay out a composite image representing how you might present the entire series.


Expressive Theme: 

What might you be able to say through your images about the characters or subject?

Explore what you might want to say through your image.
Develop a concept statement about the message you'd like to convey.
Explore reasons for including the particular objects, settings or actions in your series of images.



— Review the basic operations of a digital SLR.
— Have a memory card prepped.
— Reset defaults on any borrowed camera.
— Image Format: RAW

What shooting mode will you use?
If I am concerned with depth of field, I'll likely prefer Aperture Priority Mode.
If I want to produce motion blur, or be sure to avoid it, I may prefer Shutter Speed Priority Mode.
You could shoot this set on full auto (P) or manual (M).

You might turn on Auto-ISO Sensitivity.

Focussing: Auto or Manual?
If the images you concieve involve a very narrow DOF, you may want direct control over focus and so use Manual focus. You might also use the Focus Lock technique to tell the camera what forms to auto-focus on. This is easier if you're shooting hand-held rather than on tripod.
Camera Manual PDFs:          D7000 Manual — p. 97      |        D90 Manual — p. 57


Conceive and plan the shots you will take.

Shoot roughly 50+ images.  



— The general steps will likely be the same you've followed in other sets. The particulars will vary according to your concept for this series.

— Upload to Google+ into “019 Theme & Variation” folder.  Drag those into your Art 265 circle.

— Describe the formal and thematic traits that unify this set of images.  
Describe the formal and thematic traits the offer variety within this set of images.
Write a (50-100 words) concept statement that describes the content that you are aiming to express about, or through your collection.

— Review and comment* on the photos uploaded by at least 7 other students before class.
* Provide relevant comments (25+ more words) discussing what you see in the photos presented — comment particularly on what impresses you or what catches your eye.  Comment on what you think might improve the power and clarity of the narrative of the presented photos.


By Tuesday, 8am

Shoot at least 50 images.
Select (at least) 20 of those for editing.
Select 7+ of those for G+ presentation as a theme-unified series.

Downsize images to 2Mpix JPGs before upload.

Post to G+ :
Project Photo Album: 019 Theme & Variation (7+ image plus composite)

Write an artists statement for the final series.
— Discuss whatever theme or emphases you discovered. You might describe what you found as you surveyed your images in Bridge. What surprised you? How did your direction change as you went?

Write critical comments about the final series images:
— Discuss the strengths of the final images in relation to that theme.


Thursday, before Class

Crit your Peers:
Go to G+ and review what your classmates have uploaded.

For each classmate, go to their 019 Theme & Variation album.

Add comments to at least one image, or to the series as a whole.
Discuss ways in which the series is formally unified — what traits tie the separate images together?
How compositionally successful are the images?
What is interesting about them?



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Greg Clayton
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