Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lesson: Sandwich Negatives... Plus Handcoloring!

By February, my students were having a hard time "shooting" outside as it was dark when they arrived at school, and dark when they left. Luckily, my counterpart at West (thanks Melissa!) had suggested in the beginning of the year to 'hold on' to the students' film (a field trip the the Morton Arboretum) to use just at this tricky time. We also brainstormed how we could fit in the handcoloring portion of the class. That's when we thought of using the sandwich prints to handcolor!

In this project, I scaffolded with a few "stop" points to make sure students knew exactly what they were learning. We started by talking about what a dense negative looks like and how it affects our prints. This was easy because it was the second semester by now, and students had some really great examples from the beginning of the year... overexposed negatives! I would ask students, "How many of you have had really dark negatives in the past?" And many would raise their hands. Then I would ask, "And when you tried to make prints from these negatives, what happened... what did you need to adjust to make good prints?" The answers rang in- we need a contrast filter, we need more light, we need more time... etc. This brought us in to the discussion, then, of what happens when we take two negatives and sandwich them together- what happens when you use two equal exposure negatives, and what happens when you use two unequal exposure negatives. I had them use a negative from their Friends and Family assignment (shot over Thanksgiving time) or from the Window Portraits Assignment (shot in the late winter/early spring), and one from their textures assignment (in the beginning of the year) to pair together.

From there, we talked about making a good exposure for what we want our outcome to look like. I had them then make 2 5x7 prints, one print of one pairing, and one print of a different pairing. The students then had to show me the prints and choose one of those
prints to make what I like to call, "creative crops." They chose that one image, and zoomed up the enlarger to make 2 different creatively cropped images (from that same on image). And of course, we reviewed what you need to do to get good exposures now that we moved the enlarger up... (more light, more time, refocus... etc.).

Once they did that, and showed me the two creatively cropped photos and we chose, from three images (the one original sandwich print that they chose, and the two cropped variations) in which to enlarge to an 8x10 on satin paper, which they would then handcolor.

When handcoloring, we reviewed how the element of color can be used to emphasize

something in our piece, and add variety. We had already created a digital handcolor pieceiece using a scanned in print from just one negative (not sandwich), so this was really a review. The difference in this piece, however, was describing how we could look at this sandwich print as abstract, emphasizing the shapes and spaces that are created from the varying values and textures. This was tricky as many students still saw their piece literally- a tree and a person, etc.

This process really worked great because students could work at their own pace. I was surprised, that even though we learned how to crop earlier, students just didn't seem to quite catch how to crop using an enlarger and their easel. I had to demonstrate this one on one many times. The students also somehow kept thinking that I was going to MAKE them use a creative crop for their 8x10, even though we talked about the process of having OPTIONS to choose from. I thought this worked great, even though they had choices, they still had to go through the same process.

Here are a few results: (I know I have even more examples somewhere... )

This student took the empty space and used it to add in her favorite lyrics.

This was one of my special education students who had difficulty with some of our more complex concepts. I had her make the best straight print she could (with my help), and then handcolor that print. I think she did a great job!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lesson: Photo Portfolio Ideas

Wasn't it just yesterday that I posted to say HI again after such a long hiatus? Okay, I suppose it has been longer than I thought... once again. Now that my first year teaching is completely complete, it is time to show you all the really cool stuff we (my students) did this past year. I plan on going a little out of order, so I hope you don't mind. This post is all about the portfolio, well, mostly.

I need to take a moment and get all schmaltzy for those teachers out there and reflect on my year.... and boy, what a year it has been. At the beginning of the year, I found out that my "mentor" was due with her 2nd in December. As happy as I was for her, I certainly was freaking out about the idea of not having her around to really guide me through this first year. Most of my learning had to happen right away while I could pick her brain as her belly grew larger by the day (sorry mlm, but it was a really cute belly!). Negotiating the first year teaching, what works, what was a flop, how to truly balance the scaffolded learning of photography, and grow eyes in the back of my head and ears like a hawk as I gracefully zoomed from darkroom to classroom to film changing room to developing stations. Yes, I said gracefully. Let me have my own memories, please.

Regardless, the really sappy part is that I really did enjoy each and every one of my students. Sure, sometimes they knew exactly how to test those limits (specifically push my buttons, thank you 9th period), but truthfully they are all such great kids that I fell for each one of them. By the end of the year, I got to know each student more deeply than I anticipated, and I saw those kids create photographs and artwork that I know they did not think they could create.

(Now back to the real post...)

That has been the glory of the portfolio. Each semester, I held on to the students' artwork along the way, and then had them create 3 additional knock my socks off photos. The first semester, as they were still learning to create excellent photographs, they had to show me that they could, indeed, do that. The second semester was geared more towards individual aesthetic and creativity. The students had a choice to create pieces from a list of options. Some options were "worth" more than others as they were more labor intensive, but students could choose any combination from the sheet that piqued their fancy, plus one amazingly perfect, creatively composed, knock my socks off, straight up photograph. Giving the students the choice of which projects to attempt really gave them the option to choose what they were interested in personally, but also to choose a project that was challenging to them- which the students really know their own readiness levels, and these projects still allowed them to be creative with a new technique without any being easy. At the very end, we were able to look at where they started (yikes!) and where they ended. Even the students were blown away with their progress.

Here are a few examples of what the students came up with for their 2nd semester 'artistic' portfolio pieces (thank you for the suggestions and advice, Mary Lee and Melissa!):

Straight print

Painting with Developer

Scratch Print (or scratch negative)

3D Pop-Out

Burnt Negative

Zoom the Enlarger

Photo Collage