It has been a busy few weeks in the APP Introduction to Photography course. In Weeks 11 and 12 of the semester, students continued their assignments about living with mental illness and began their next assignment: picturing hope and gratitude. As Chris Leonard, one of the course mentors, said: “Hope means looking forward to what could be, while gratitude means appreciating what you have.” During an in-class exercise, students brainstormed about some of the things they are grateful for in their lives, which they may incorporate in their photography. These included: art, family, friends, pets, weather, love, health, technology, travel, and creature comforts.
The class has continued to look at and critique students’ work, as well. Below are some of the images that have been discussed, as well as some of what students had to say about them.
Photo by Grace Erikson. In taking this image, Grace said she was focused on the leaves, the bird’s nest, and the reflection in the house window. Other students appreciated the framing and light quality of the photograph. They also appreciated how the scene borders on monochromatic, save for the slight splash of color in the few red leaves.
Photo by Nancy Balch. In creating this portrait, Nancy said she sought to portray a hopeless woman who is down on her luck. Other APP students commented on the emotion and gesture in the photograph, as well as how its use of a neutral background really focuses our eyes on the woman and makes the image more powerful.
Photo by Paul Hall. Paul photographed this deer in his front yard. Students commented on the precise timing and dramatic lighting Paul used when he shot the image. Some also thought the deer appeared to be posing for the camera.
Week 11 Assignment: “Living with Mental Illness”
“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.” – Vincent van Gogh
For the assignment this week, I ask that you explore your feelings and experiences surrounding mental illness from a new perspective: that of an artist.
Explore imagery in the world that can express and represent your feelings surrounding mental illness. When you identify subjects that can stand as symbols for your feelings, work to compose your photographs carefully so they show exactly what you want them to show. Can you frame your photo to amplify certain characteristics of the subject?
For this assignment, you can explore many different subjects, including yourself via self-portraits. You are welcome to photograph found scenes/objects that are not manipulated, or you can stage a scene or create a still-life. If specific subjects don’t come to mind as symbols for how you feel, consider photographing textures and light/shadow as a starting point.
This assignment will give you time to look at mental illness from the perspective of an artist. It will also allow you to share this perspective with your peers, and vice versa.
Week 12 Assignment: “Seeing Hope, Feeling Gratitude”
You may have felt loss and hopelessness at some point in your life. You may have those feelings right now. Hopelessness and loss can make the world feel scary and overwhelming. Can you recall a time when you felt loss or hopelessness? How did you find hope once again? How did you learn to feel gratitude for your life once again?
In this assignment, we are going to focus on things that have given you hope in your life and things that you feel grateful for.
Below are two approaches that you can try for this assignment. Feel free to use either.
Approach 1: Write down a list of people, places, and things that you are grateful for and/or that you associate with feelings of hope. Photograph these subjects knowing that your images can express your appreciation of these subjects (people, places, or things). Spend time with your subjects. Show the details of your subjects. Show their importance.
Approach 2: Connect with feelings of hope and/or gratitude. If you can’t feel either hope or gratitude, then just imagine that you are feeling them. This will work just as well. Now go out and photograph with these feelings in mind. Photograph any subjects that catch your attention. As you photograph, try and feel grateful for the subject you are photographing. Know that your images are honoring the life and presence of your subject.