Sunday, October 7, 2012


As photographers, the frame is perhaps our most important tool. With the camera, we "frame" our subjects, including what we feel is important for the picture, and excluding what isn't. Essentially, we are editing from the visual world with our frame. A common goal in photography is to try and get it all in one frame—to create a singular image that conveys our full expression, sharp, clear, with a single point of view. 

Further, we capture single points in time,  often orphaned from the longer story. They float, untethered without a telling of what came before or after, or for that matter, what else was going on at that time. 

There's value in all this—but it can also be limiting! 

How can we extend the story of a photograph? What happened before the decisive moment? What came next? What did the other person see? What about the fly on the wall? Sometimes we need multiple images, multiple frames to convey the breadth and richness of our visual story.


Duane Michals used extended sequence of images to convey complex and (often amusing) narratives. Some of these visual story lines went in a straight line, sometimes they made bizarre spirals.

Directorial Mode

Kelly c. Tate and Kelli Connell are both artists that explore the dynamics of human relationships and interpersonal communication. In Tate's work, the artist plays the roles of the subjects depicted, while Connell uses a friend. The final images are staged digital composites that suggest narrative while engaging social questions. When images are staged for the camera, this is referred to as directorial mode... the photographer directs the scene like a director would do on a movie set. This of course all began with Cindy Sherman...

Multiples (diptych, triptych, etc.)

Uta Barth is a photographer of place. Instead of creating visual descriptions of places, like a traditional landscape photographer would do, she is more interested in evoking or suggesting how we experience places. Often working with multiple frames, she changes the scale, plane of focus (in some she focuses on the "space between" foreground and background), in an attempt to more closely mimic the process of human perception, as well as the passage of time.

Susan Bowen implies what we might see over the course of a long walk...the visual wanderings of our curious eye. She uses plastic cameras, only partially advancing the film between exposures to create one long, continuous flow of visual stimulation. 

On more of a documentary, story-telling mode, Lucia Ganieva, creates rich biographical portraits of people relating their persona to their vocation, past, workplace, etc. using diptychs and triptychs. Notice how the frames work together to build meaning.

The congruence/incongruence exercise is also a good example of this kind of work


Andrew Moore captures how time and economic forces, seemingly beyond our control, can change a city. He depicts decaying structures related to the auto industry in Detroit, to tell a sad story of a city that was once a vibrant and thriving place. Each photograph carries an echo of the past.

Jeff Brouws (and numerous others going back to Bernd and Hilla Becher) are obsessed with cataloging and "collecting" with their camera. For instance, Brouws isn't interested in singular train cars, but the almost endless variations between numerous cars. Working with a mode called typology, he creates grids that simultaneously show similarity and contrast.

Idis Khan quite literally quotes Bernd and Hilla Becher's work with industrial architecture, but layers the multiple variations of structures within a single frame instead of a grid.

There is a long history in photography of objectification based on race, gender, stereotypes and notions of the "other". African Americans have been notably objectified in this way. Photographer Myra Greene turns the tables on this history with her clever and effective series: "My White Friends".

Jeffrey Milstein creates a typology of aircraft.


Sparky Campanella makes non-tradition portraits of people by mapping the textures of their skin and displaying them as large grids. What are the implications of this work—portraits that are literally "skin deep"?

Keith Johnson works now works almost exclusively with grids, exploring the hidden language of forms found in the natural and human landscape.

Joiners, many-make-one, panoramas

Robert Richfield has an interesting take on the panorama. Instead of stitching together a seamless expanse, he presents it with the frame divisions. How does this affect the meaning of his work and how we "read" it?

For examples of Contact Sheet Sequences, look at Thomas Kellner.

Essentially these are a form of what the book author terms joiners, or many-make-one, extended images that functions like fragmented panoramas both vertically and horizontally. David Hockney is well known for working this way. The following images, by Hockney, show some variations of this approach. How do they differ?

This last Hockney image begins to imply the passage of time—in particular, the time it takes to shift one's gaze, looking around a room, or having a conversation. Uta Barth, mentioned above, also references the time we take to experience and perceive reality, often working with diptychs that reveal a few minutes' difference in time.

Atta Kim compresses different moments of time within a singular frame, using extended exposures. Something similar can be accomplished with multiple exposures and layers.
Margaret Hiden is explores how family histories can be told through narratives that blend the past and present to form richer tapestry of telling. Here, images function much like memory... where our present is continually colored by the echos of the past.

Michael Taylor explores how light and time relate, creatine some very interesting abstracted imagery.

There are others. Check out those from the reading, this blog, and other sources:

Project Description

Prelim critique: October 15th
Project Due: October 24

For this project, create imagery in an extended format that situates some kind of visual narrative within a larger context that you control. In general, there will be some kind of subject, situated in some kind of context. The discussions about time from chapter 7 in the textbook can be especially helpful, as photography is fundamentally a time-based medium. 

The subject can be anything... a story, an object, an action, an idea, a concept

This context may be related to the format you choose: digital books, sequences, series, grids, diptychs, triptychs, etc. Choose one format for the whole project to best explore your subject and what else you are trying to convey about the subject. Use examples presented above as well as ideas from the book, or even use the class exercise exploring congruency/incongruency to help you get started. This is a fun one—the more adventurous you can be with your subject matter, the more exciting it will be.

Turn in:
  • For series and sequence, a digital book can be a nice format. Digital books from blurb or Apple would represent your final prints
  • For grids and multiple images, generate large prints from one file that includes all the supporting images. If you are doing a grid, this would mean one file depicting the grid. For diptychs, this would mean one file per diptych, etc. 
  • Jpeg versions: jpeg, quality 10+, sRGB, no longer than 1500 pixels in one direction (use image processor to set this up)
  • How much to do? If you are doing diptychs or triptychs, turn in at least 3 separate ones. If you are doing a large grid, one would be fine. It depends on your project—discuss with instructor. If you are doing a series, aim for 8-12 images.
  • All of your individual photos that go into this project should be edited appropriately in photoshop. This includes the skills covered so far in class: WP/BP, global tone adjustments (brightness and contrast using curves and/or camera raw), color adjustments, local adjustments (dodge and burn, blending mode curves with masks), sharpening. All Raw conversions must be smart objects.
Now remember that when you are assembling your multiples (grids, diptychs or otherwise), save out flattened versions of your work files just to keep things manageable. But make sure you are not losing your layers; after flattening, always "Save As," rather than "Save"

Some Student Work:

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