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The photographer's project: in the manner of....

Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Annie Liebovitz and Edward Weston are just a few of the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century photographers whose work inspired Moravian Academy high school students to emulate their style.

After viewing slides on 100 years of photographic styles and discussing the characteristics of an individual artist's work, students selected their favorite photographer to research. The objective of the project was to produce a photograph in the manner of their chosen artist and write a paper on their understanding of the artist's approach to her or his work.

Through the Photographer's Eyes

I guided the development of the paper by asking questions such as "How did the photographer get started?", "How does she or he approach a project?" and "What is the focus of her or his work?". I urged the students to understand what motivated their photographer and to determine what qualities she or he looked for in a finished print. The purpose of the paper was to get inside the head of the photographer and see through her or his eyes.

Producing the photograph was an enthusiastic venture. In the style of Weston, a student shot a vegetable close-up in great detail. An off-beat portrait of a fellow classmate emulated the style of Liebovitz. Students discovered that Ansel Adams' panoramic nature shots were not easy to imitate in the mid-Atlantic corridor. Henri Cartier-Bresson's quest for the decisive moment appealed to many students.

After the students made oral presentations, the class critiqued the photographs on how successfully they duplicated the style. A recent hit with the students was an interpretation of the work of William Wegman, famous for his portraitstyle photographs of weimaraners.

Philosophical and Aesthetic Issues

Perhaps it was because he had the same kind of dog that John Olszewski was inspired to create this series. The resulting presentation raised questions of artistic intent, artistic license, and about the difference between dressing up your pet and taking snapshots, and using dogs as models for making an artistic social statement. The beauty of this unit was that students learned to identify philosophical and aesthetic issues. They got in touch with their sense of aesthetics, got to know the work of a photographer in depth, looked through the lens with a fresh eye and found an enthusiastic audience in their classmates.
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Title Annotation:high school photography unit in which students imitate the styles of famous photographers
Author:Frankenfield, Nancy
Publication:School Arts
Date:Oct 1, 1994
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