Digital Photo Documentary

Digital Photo Documentary Course Objectives FALL 2016
VSAR 314 Tuesday 5:00-8:45 pm, ARTS 239

Office Hours: Tues 2:30-5:00 Arts 331

Deborah Small Blog
Jeri Perez, Teaching Assistant
Chad Huggins
, Technical Director, 
School of Arts
PH: (760) 750-8052

Required : You will create a personal blog, which ultimately is your electronic portfolio for this class, for your writing, your commentary about the artists and photographers we discuss, and your reflections on all of the in-class screenings. You also will upload and reflect upon your photos weekly. The class will use
You also will create an online website at format or 22slides. You will do this part-way into the semester once you have several photos ready to upload.

You will need an external harddrive:
 You can check out your own hard-drive from arts 239 check-out area, but this is no longer a good option! Chances of the drive going down are large . . .

ALWAYS back-up your work. Systems crash when least expected. This is an important habit to develop when working with any digital media.

Equipment Check-out
: Use your own digital cameras, or check out our terrific Canon cameras from ARTS 239, as well as our incredible lenses, tripods, pano tripods, lighting kits, etc.

 Still cameras can be checked out starting the second week of the semester. We will spend the second class working with the cameras to familiarize you with them, but you must also spend time with the manuals that should come with the camera, or read online.

Lab Access
: Arts 239 is open so you can do your homework assignments. Hours are posted on the door. I will also send everyone’s name to public safety, and you can call using the phone outside the lab and they will come to let you in. Labs are open 24/7, except when a class is in session. Please never let anyone in if you don’t recognize them. All software is also available on computers in the library on the 2nd floor.

Class Description:  Digital Photo Documentary investigates a broad range of artistic practices and contemporary artists who use digital media as a tool for social transformation. The course explores a broad range of perspectives to enrich our understanding of current social, cultural, environmental, and political concerns and their interpretation through digital media.

Artists may include contemporary documentary artists and photographers Carole Gallagher, Rick Smolan, John Hoagland, Susan Meiselas, Richard Misrach, An-My Lé, Robert Adams, David Maisel, and Alfredo Jaar, among others. We will screen fiction and non-fiction films about documentary photographers and their work, includingSan Diego Pulitzer Prize -winning photographer Don Bartletti, the film Under Fire, loosely based on the life and death of war photographer (and San Diegan) John Hoagland; War Photographer, an examination of the work of James Nachtway;  Chased by the Light which focuses on the art and nature photography of Jim Brandenburg and how his evocative images were used to set aside prairie land in perpetuity; Manufactured Landscapes, a look at the large-scale photographs of quarries, recycling yard, factories and mines of artist Edward Burtynsky and the images he produced of the massive factories in China; and the work of Sebastiao Salgado, Anna Davidson, Ed Ou, Richard Misrach, among other videos and talks

Students will experiment with different conceptual approaches to art making and develop aesthetic strategies for engaging audiences in particular social, political, and cultural concerns. You will explore ways to combine text and images, and perhaps add audio and video, in a provocative and compelling manner to tell your important stories.

Students will learn to use digital still cameras and editing tools to produce projects that have both a photographic and writing/textual/voice component. Projects may include gallery or alternative space exhibitions of photographs and writing as well as blogs, online exhibitions of the work, or the production on an online published book. The class will combine lectures, screenings, group discussions, research, presentations, and photography/writing projects.

Assessment: This course is conducted as a workshop: all students must participate actively and consistently. Much of the class will be devoted to the work of other artists and to the development and discussion of your projects. Part of your final evaluation will focus on your ability to respond thoughtfully to other students’ artwork and your ability to work collaboratively with each other.

For this reason, it is essential that you attend class regularly. I will take attendance at the beginning and at the end of each class. Class attendance and participation is mandatory! Two unexcused absences will result in lowering your final grade. Classroom Participation in discussions and helpful collaboration with your peers will account for 15% of your final grade.

Students will be assessed through regular responses to the readings, screenings, lectures, midterm project, final project proposal and their final project culmination.

Learning Outcomes
LEARNING OUTCOME A: Learning digital languages:
Cameras: In this class, students will learn to use DSLR cameras, mobile devices and/or throwaway cameras to create create images for print and for viewing online, a mid-term and final project, as well as an on-going blog.

Software: You will become sophisticated users of Adobe Lightroom, photo imaging and organizing software, as well as Adobe Photoshop to edit and enhance your photographs, and you may learn the use of digital imaging tools including scanners and book publishing software at Learning will take place via classroom lectures, demonstrations, online tutorials at, and discussions and critiques of the weekly projects that you will complete for the class.

Printing: You will learn to prepare your images for printing and may use COSTCO, least expensive way to print,  and they do a great job, or use a printer of your choice.

LEARNING OUTCOME B: Critically analyze the artwork of others and your own
Through classroom lectures, discussion, screenings, and web research, you will explore contemporary digital artists and photographers, and their traditional and experimental uses of digital media. By viewing and discussing a broad range of artistic practices, you will learn how art making is a means to discover and develop your ideas about the world and to extend the power, clarity, and range of your voice and vision.

Contemporary Photographers: You will visit the current photography exhibition at MOPA as well as the upcoming exhibition, and write @250 words/one page about each of the two exhibitions. You will post your writing on your blog to help fulfill the CSUSM Writing Requirement.

MOPA, Museum of Photographic Arts, in Balboa Park
1. Exhibition One
Defying Darkness: Photography at Night  4 Jun, 2016 to 2 Oct, 2016 (closes)
Night only suggests things, it doesn’t fully reveal them. Night unnerves us and surprises us with its strangeness; it frees powers within us which were controlled by reason during the day…

Defying Darkness: Photography at Night, drawn exclusively from the museum’s permanent collection, surveys the ways in which photographers have used the camera to explore the visual and symbolic potential of the nocturnal image. Night photography began as an artistic genre more than a century ago and in the ensuing years many of the modern era’s leading photographers have been drawn to the challenge of making images after dark.

Defying Darkness features photographs by Berenice Abbott, Brassaï, Larry Clark, Bill Henson, André Kertész, Chris McCaw, Richard Misrach, Alexander Rodchenko, Sebastiao Salgado, Edward Steichen, Weegee and many others.

2. Exhibition Two
Boundless: A California Invitational  15 Oct, 2016 – 29 Jan, 2017

In October, MOPA will present Boundless: A California Invitational, the third triennial exhibition of contemporary California photographers. The triennial invitational began in 2010 as State of Mind and was followed in 2013 by Staking Claim. These exhibitions showcase the talent and diverse scope of artwork by photographers living within the museum’s home state.

The exhibition features 12 California artists with work created in the past five years. The artists are both established and emerging, and the variety of work is as varied as the state of California itself. Boundless embraces the spirit of the infinite, of having no restrains. The work explores and confronts the subjects and traditions of the past, re-imagining the medium in our time. The result is a dynamic exhibition that highlights the constant evolution of the art form.

Photographers in Boundless: A California Invitational:
Matthew Brandt
John Chiara
Kevin Cooley
Eileen Cowin
Jason Engelund
CJ Heyliger
Mona Kuhn
Michael Light
David Maisel
Alex Prager
Carly Steward
Donna J. Wan

MOPA, Museum of Photographic Arts, in Balboa Park

LEARNING OUTCOME C: Using Digital Language and Tools/Creating Art Projects
You will create several small projects and one final project over the semester:

1. Blog: You will use your blog site for all thoughts, ideas, research, etc, on your project. This is the place for you to develop your ideas throughout the semester and to post your on-going projects and experiments. BLOG, aka an electronic portfolio, of your ideas, research, links drawings, photographs, etc. which will act a source for your creative process. You will write posts on all of the class presentations on your blog. I frequently will ask you to “freewrite” about the images and videos we are looking at in class, and then to share those thoughts with others after posting what you have written. In addition to the blog, you also will upload your photos on a photo-sharing site such as Flickr, and link your blog to Flickr, Facebook, and other social media of your choosing.

2. On-going CSUSM Student Documentary  Project: 1st major work for the semester: Our class will be producing a collaborative photo archive of students, predominantly art students, “performing” their art, dance, shooting photos, videos, and films, theater, fieldwork, etc, and post to your blog and and  the collective CSUSM archive which we will discuss. We may also upload the photos to a CSUSM Box, so others can download them easily. For this reason, we will come up with a way to save our photos, go over using the apply metadata and copyright in Lightroom, etc.

In terms of what you will do, an example might be to accompany David Avalos and his students when they visit the murals in Chicano Park. You might work with Judy Bauerlein’s class as they do their improvisations outdoors, and later document their theater performances, indoors. You might work with Karen Schaffman’s dance students, both in the studio and outside. See list at bottom of this post.

We discussed this project at our first faculty meeting of the Fall semester, but I have not talked to the faculty who were unable to attend the first meeting.

This is the first time CSUSM photo students will be helping to produce an archive, which will be used to promote the School of arts. Your photos may be used for banners, publications, on the web, etc. We have an incredible arts program here at CSUSM, and we will discuss this together for more ideas on how to facilitate what I think will be an incredible project. I am looking forward to your input on this!

We will need the students you photograph to sign permissions, because some of your images will be used for marketing. Everyone needs to shoot in RAW. We are also talking about the feasibility of getting quotations from the students. One of the goals of the CSUSM Student Archive Project is to show the diversity on our campus.

Question: Some of you have already taken great photos of each other and friends on campus. How can we add these to the archive?

Final: Large-scale projections onto the Arts Building, or somewhere else, at end of semester? Days will be very short in December, so this is doable!! And then perhaps a showing in ARTS 111?

Independent-study advanced student/s to help with implementation, organization, and archiving for this project?

We will spend some time talking about and practicing the art of photographing “strangers.” Ashley Gilbertson, an award-winning photojournalist, produced lectures on just this subject, which I will share with you in class.

3. Final Documentary Project: 2nd major work for the semester:This is your own self-generated project, which we will discuss at length.
choose one
a. Book: 8 1/2 x 11″, minimum of 40 pages: this format is the least expensive, printed at
b. Printed photo series with text, displayed somewhere in the University
c. Multimedia project with music, voice, etc.
d. Exhibition: Jerry Slough, CSUSM student, had an exhibition last semester at Iron Fist Brewery. My friends who normally have no particular interest in art/photography attended. Something about a venue at a brewery . . .
e. Devote all of your energies to the CSUSM Student Archive project to help develop your own photo portfolios

LEARNING OUTCOME D: Reflect on how your photographic practice can become a tool for social, cultural, or political change, increase visibility of under-served communities, and/or increase understanding of  important contemporary issues. For example:

CSU Homeless and Hungry Students

CSU Response


: This course is conducted as a workshop: all students must participate actively and consistently. Much of the class will be devoted to the work of other artists and to the development and discussion of your projects. Part of your final evaluation will focus on your ability to respond thoughtfully to other students’ artwork and your ability to work collaboratively with each other. For this reason, it is essential that you attend class regularly. I will take attendance at the beginning and at the end of each class. Class attendance and participation is mandatory!!! Two unexcused absences will result in lowering your final grade. Classroom Participation in discussions and helpful collaboration with your peers will count towards your final grade.

The course includes the Visual and Performing Arts Department’s Arts Events Attendance Requirement. You are required to attend MOPA two times during the semester. amd write in depth about one of the artists in each exhibition who can inspire your own photography practice. In addition, you will use your blog to reflect upon and write about the artists we view in class as well as your ideas for your art projects, your art process, etc. I am interested in the quality of YOUR thought and reflections, and your ability to make connections among the various artists we review.

My hope is that at the end of the semester, you will have a blog, website, and project you are proud of, and that you can be use and/or continue to expand for a graduate school portfolio or job application in the industry.

I am interested in the quality of your images; that is, your ability to perform key image edits and enhancements that we will cover. You will also be evaluated on the content of your images, the coherence and originality of your ideas, and your over-all involvement with your projects.

25%  Blog
25%  Website at Format or 22Slides, etc
25%  CSUSM Student Documentary Project Archive
25%  Final Photo Book, Series, or Exhibition, Multimedia Documentary Project

David Avalos
Chicano Art & the Border Region: Chicano Park and MCASD installations
Kristine Diekman
Video and the Community: 3 groups
Agua Hedionda
Vets & Service Dogs
American Indian Legal Services and Reservations
Jonathan Berman
Oct 5 weds evening and Oct 6 daytime
Hand processing super8 film
Lucy Solomon
Data Visualization: scavenger hunt outdoors for data
Judy Bauerlein
theater/improvisation class
Marcos Martinez
Karen Schaffman
Anya Cloud
Bill Bradbury
recording Studio
M’tafiti Imara
jazz ensemble
vocal ensemble
Merryl Goldberg
ChingMing Cheng
piano classes