Letter to a Stranger
What if one day you received a letter with a handful of photographs from someone in another city, another state, or maybe even another country - what would you be curious to know about them?
In our age of personal broadcasting, the aim of this project was for the mentees to take a slightly more personal approach to communication and reach out to an unknown individual, using photographs and written word, and share with them whatever they deemed important. We sent out these ‘letters’ (audio recordings laid over a slideshow of their photographs) to a handful of young photographers in New York (part of Slideluck Youth Initiative) as well as to another group of local artists based out of Beacon Center's Sunset Media Wave program. The resulting exchange is what you see here.
How photographs are sequenced and edited alongside other images plays a large role in how we interpret them. We thought it would be fun to explore this concept in tandem with the antique process of Cyanotypes. In preparation for this class each mentee made a negative from one of their images (in the film class we did this in the darkroom printing on litho film, and in the digital class we made digital negatives); the idea was to allow for a cross pollination of imagery from both classes while having some fun in the sun at the same time!
Showing: Work, Family, and the Space In Between
These images were made in conjunction with Apollonia Morrill and the Rising Generation Photography Project. Apollonia paid a visit to First Exposures and introduced us to this very cool project, being undertaken by young photographers in schools all over the state, which asks them to look at the overlap of work and family in their lives. As this overlap looks different for everyone, the mentees were encouraged to look at their own home lives and make a visual representation of how work (whether of their parents, guardians, siblings, or their own…) influences and informs that dynamic.
The portrait is one way that photographers visually explore communication. A portrait of a person can tell you a lot about that individual without ever meeting them. The same goes for the self-portrait, where the photographer uses themselves as subject matter. For this short assignment, the mentees in the digital class considered facial expression, how far or close they were to the camera, props, clothing, camera angle, dramatic poses/gestures, and setting/space. How do all of these contribute to the narrative of the photograph? Is the photographer even in the shot or is there a place, object, or idea that represents who they are?
During the Fall semester we took a field trip to see a retrospective of the renowned portrait photographer Arnold Newman at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. In the show there were several examples of his contact sheets. Through these we learned that Newman was an avid cropper, and would often end up making images that were extreme close-ups created from specific elements within the full frame versions of his photographs. This brings up the interesting concept of how there can be two, if not more, photographs within a singular image. What we choose to look at can create a wholly different meaning if we block out the surrounding information. For this assignment the mentees in the film class printed two images, one being the full frame version of the photograph of their choice, and the second (and sometimes third) image being the novel image that was created based on their zoomed interpretation.
The idea behind an exquisite corpse is simple. Fold a piece of paper into a bunch of sections and start drawing. Someone starts on the first panel, drawing whatever they want, and leaves only a few lines leading onto the next panel before folding it over and giving it to the next person. Each drawer (as these are normally done) doesn’t know what was illustrated on the panel before theirs, and so makes a continuation of the picture that usually has nothing to do with what precedes it. Opening it up at the end and seeing what emerges makes for a really unique graphic (and a good laugh.)
In our case, we took the idea and did it with photos. Each mentee cut one of their photographs in half, and at random pasted it into a 27’ long accordion. We did this as our capstone collaboration on the last class of the semester; our way of going out with a bang. What you see here is the chance encounter of photographs communicating with themselves.