In the spring semester of 2017, I was fortunate to be able to enroll in Photography II, a course taught by Ron Tarver,, faculty member in the Art Department at Swarthmore College. As an alum of the College, I was allowed to formally register for this course, and I joined the “official” eight students in the course for two classes/week of discussion, projects, and field trips. It was a remarkable experience that taught me to think about my own photography very differently, and in many ways it “compensated” for the fact that studio art courses like this were not part of the College curriculum when I was a student at Swarthmore.
Two of the projects that we did in the course were particularly thought-provoking for me, and the results are shown here. In addition, on one of our field trips, to the Chester (PA) waterfront, I was fortunate to capture an image that later received recognition in the 2018 Photo Review competition.
Still life: this was a whole new territory for me to explore. We had several demonstrations in class that gave us ideas about technique and themes, but initially I was clueless about how to do something original. At the time I had just finished Simon Winchester’s book “The Men who United the States” (podcast) an account of the ways in which the continental US was “united” by technological advances such as the telegraph and the trans-continental railroad. Winchester organizes his book around the “five elements” – earth, wood, water, fire, metal – explaining how each of these elements dominated different phases of US history in the 1800’s. My still life, then, represents each of these elements: the jewelry box is made from driftwood collected on the shore of the Hudson River; the turquoise equals earth, the shells equal water; the metamorphic rock equals both earth and fire, and the silver bracelet represents metal.
How to photograph an egg: this is an assignment that many art classes include, and it is a wonderful way to challenge us to think about different approaches to viewing such a simple object. Some results are below, including images involving snow, floating eggs, and mirrors: