bw film photography: on Mirroring self and other


some Psychologists suggest that mirrors encourage individuals to fashion and stabilize an outward sense of social identity, as well as to examine our individual interior sensibilities of a deep and complicated psychological self.


we will use the art of portraiture in black and white film photography as a kind of mirror to explore dynamics of personal identity within each other and ourselves. We’ll explore specifically the ways we can and do use visual cues legible in our society to construct and convey personal identity within our communities and deep within ourselves.

We will learn all aspects of the art and craft of portraiture in film photography as a way to bring together the social routines of self-representation with the artistic conceits of the photographic portrait. Our learning will range from lighting and composition of shots, to film developing, darkroom printing, editing content for portfolio and critique, and producing online and event exhibition galleries.


In fall students will create an online and print portfolio comprised primarily of self-portraits. This will expose and bring our subjective sense of self into tight focus, which is an end in itself, but will also prepare us as photographers to be humane and thoughtful to anyone who may model for us.

In winter we will create portfolios based on portraits of others with this preparation in mind. In spring we will design our own portfolio assignments, as well as organize and present an off campus gallery showing of the best of our work from previous quarters.


We’ll spend Friday afternoons coming and going between our home base in the Library Underground classroom, Library 0406, and the photoland complex, Library 1316.


As scholars, we will contextualize our work with readings and presentations on the past and present of photographic portraiture as an art form, as well as theoretical readings on the psychologies of self, difference and desire as those have varied to match changing historical conditions over time.


Please keep in mind that black & white film photography is itself a deep and complicated craft. It requires many of the same skills we use everyday in the ongoing project of the stabilization and presentation of self – thoughtfulness, planning, imagination, composition, attention to detail, aesthetic appreciation, timeliness, and a commitment to follow through.

How much

Expect to spend $100-$150 per quarter on photo supplies – mostly film and paper. Since our readings will be available to us at no direct cost, we can use money we expected to spend on books for this.


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