"The illiterate of the future will be the person ignorant of the use of the camera as well as of the pen." -Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, 1936

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Friday, December 14, 2007

THE BIRTH OF XP (Experimental Photography)

It has been two years going on three now, for the photography class that I teach. It has evolved a couple times up to now. This class was designed firstly for an elective course for the sixth semester students at the Visual Communication Design department of Petra Christian University, Surabaya, Indonesia. It was created to fill the need of a more focused and intensive course for those students who are more interested in photography, especially digital photography.

The name "experimental photography" came up because it serves a more open engagement for the course and how it is going to be taught. It brings up ideas of a more creative approach in learning photography. And it's a catchier name for students, too. So then it was shortened to "XP" which is even easier to say.

Before the 2nd half of each school year or before the elective semester starts, briefs of electives are presented and introduced to students, so they can decide which elective course to register for. The main points I always pointed out are that this class is about experiments --visual experiments mainly-- and not about creating eye-candy. And secondly, it's about concepts --photos that are well thought out conceptually.

Those are the two things that I mainly see in the students here that needs working, apart from technical skills that they are concerned mostly, because those are the things taught on Photography 1 & 2 courses. Therefore, this class (XP or Photography 3) does a lot of exercises each week to learn or relearn and strengthen visual literacy, which is still weak in most students. And then students also learn about analyzing photographs and a set of photographs, taking references from photography artists, to learn about creating a set of works with a concept, instead of just making single works with a different concept each.

I am not a professional photographer, though I've done a lot of photography, have studied it from bottom up, and have used it as an art medium. My background in art, I figured, would be beneficial in the two things I point out, and would give a broader perspective of photography for the design students here, that are mainly surrounded with wedding and commercial photography (they're popping up everywhere here!)

For the second year, after receiving feedback from students, I finally added digital imaging into the mix of the course. It's still applicable, but the class has moved from a normal seating class to a computer lab. Photoshop --can't live without it :) It is no question that going digital is the future, and capturing digitally lends itself of using the computer. So, it is an essential part of experimental photography.

XP started out as a normal class of 16 and grew to about 25 students the second year. Next year it is expected to grow more and it has to develop itself into two groups of classes with assistant profs.

This blog will help me and students, or whoever needs it, to keep and share some of the things concerning photography, including exercises, interesting subjects, references of artists, photographers, books, and sites, among other things.

Please check back often as I'm updating this regularly.
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