Photography In Paris: Documenting the City of Lights

Institut Catholique de Paris

Course Description

Digital technology has made the photographic image ubiquitous in modern society. A huge array of camera models, smart phones and portable devices with high quality digital cameras, as well as the Internet and social networks, have made the taking and sharing of photographs an integral part of our daily lives. Facebook alone holds 4% of all photos ever taken. In a sense, we have all become photo-reporters documenting our own lives. This growing passion for observing, photographing and sharing images, as well as viewing and commenting on a bewildering stream of pictures from the world at large, makes visual literacy, an understanding of the history of photography and technical aptitude essential assets in contemporary society. France is the birthplace of photography and Paris has played a fundamental role in the development of photography over the past 180 years.
This course provides an introduction to the technical and aesthetic properties of digital SLR (single lens reflex) photography as well as Paris' rich photographic history, culture and patrimony. Emphasis is placed on understanding and mastering the technical fundamentals of photography in order to manually operate the camera and correctly expose images. Students will learn to understand the qualities of light, how to manage different light sources and how to adapt to diverse weather and lighting conditions. The principles of composition and methods for photographing different situations and subject matter will also be important elements of the course. Students will learn basic digital imaging workflow, editing and story-telling techniques. Through the study of the history of photography in France and a concentration on a number of French masters, students will learn how the medium has evolved over time, how the evolution of photography has been linked to important events throughout history and how those events were influenced by photography. Students will be encouraged to begin developing their own photographic vision and by the end of the course they will have the tools and foundation necessary to begin observing and interpreting the world around them, to express creative ideas, tell stories and respond to social, political or cultural issues through the digital photographic process.
- Technical Skills: Learn the basic functions of a Digital SLR Camera (DSLR), the principles of aperture, shutter speed, exposure and a basic understanding of digital darkroom workflow.
- Light and Exposure: Gain knowledge about the qualities of light, the ISO function to adjust light sensibility, interpreting light meter readings, exposing an image correctly for the subject and in variable light conditions, and adjusting white balance and color temperature.
- On-camera Flash: An introduction to flash photography.
- Composition and Method: Learn the principles of image composition, the organization of space and subjects in the frame, methods for photographing different situations, subject matter and genres.
- Learning to Communicate Visually: Learn to observe and analyze your surroundings and environment, develop creative decision making skills, ways of seeing and the capacity to express visual ideas.
- Critical Thinking: Understanding the objective and subjective nature of photography, responding to and analyzing photographs and photographic bodies of work.
- Interpretation and Evaluation: Learn how to explain the social, cultural, psychological and symbolic dimensions of an image, how to discuss your work verbally and how to give constructive feedback to others during group critiques.
- The History of Photography in France: Learn a brief history of photography from its birth in France, its development in France and beyond,up to the present.
- All cell phones and similar devices must be turned off before entering the classroom.
- Internet surfing, emailing, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. are prohibited during class time.
- Guests are not permitted in classes or labs.
- Attendance is mandatory. Your improvement and grades depend on continued active participation. You are allowed up to two absences before failing the course. Use them wisely and save them for absolute emergencies. Three late arrivals and / or early departures will count as one absence. After the first absence, your final grade will be reduced by one letter grade for each additional absence.
All assignments and critique work are due on the dates specified in the syllabus or by the instructor. As a studio art course, you will be assessed primarily on your visual work and progress leading to the final portfolio of images rather than on test scores and written reports.
Your grade is based on several factors:
1. Satisfactory completion of visual, written and presentation assignments. Solutions to visual problems will be discussed and evaluated in class critiques. Grades will be based on aesthetic merit and technical competence.
2. Participation: Your personal contribution to the class including: regular attendance, punctual completion of assignments, willingness to participate in class discussions and critiques (including preparation of reading material and coming to class with opinions and questions that will promote discussion).
3. Presentation of a final photo series or essay at the end of the semester. This body of work is given utmost consideration in determining your final grade.
Score breakdown:
Photo Assignments: 40%
Midterm Assignment: 10%
Photographer Presentation: 10%
Class participation and effort: 10%
Camera Test 5%
Final Portfolio: 15%
Assignment Resubmission:
After receiving feedback during the critique session, students can turn their work in for grade reconsideration up to a week after the critique. Work that is turned in late is not eligible for resubmission.
Grade Assessment:
A- Excellent: Work far exceeds the expectations for the assignment. Shows exceptional grasp of technique, craft and creative expression.
B- Very Good: Work is of a high standard that shows a firm understanding of technical considerations and individual creative expression.
C- Average: Meets the expectations of the assignment and shows technical competency.
D- Poor: Does not meet the expectations of the assignment. Work is uninspired and does not show a technical understanding.
F- Fail: Failure to complete the assignment in the time allotted.
Each week students will edit and select pictures from their assignments to bring to class for critique.
Students will learn how to talk about their own work as well as other students' images in order to understand what works and what doesn't in both aesthetic and technical terms.
Students will work individually or in pairs on a 10-20 minute PowerPoint research presentation about the work of different French photographers. Research subjects will be assigned on the first day of class.
The midterm assignment will be a series of five images inspired by or responding to the work of the photographer you researched plus a two-page paper discussing the relationship between the photographer, his work and your visual response.
Some museum or gallery visits will involve short, one-page written responses to the works observed.
The final project will be an six to twelve image series in which you tell a story related to your experience of Paris by focusing on one, specific subject.
Additional information about assigned work will be handed out or explained during class.
Required Materials:
- Digital SLR camera body with manual controls and interchangeable lens(es). Bring camera equipment to class every day! Digital cameras must have a detachable lens with the option of fully manual settings (shutter, aperture, focus and metering). Examples include: the Canon EOS Rebel XS or the Nikon D40, among many others. Film, point and shoot, or fixed-lens "prosumer" cameras do not qualify, and will not be allowed. The camera should have a minimum resolution of 6-8 megapixels. If you buy a used camera, test it to make sure it works before coming to France!
- Memory Cards compatible with your camera ? 4GB or larger. Speed classes 6 or 10 are preferable for SD cards. The price varies depending on the type of memory card required for your camera.
- Card Reader or cable for transferring your photos from your camera to the computer.
- External Hard drive for storing and backing-up your photos. 250 GB or higher is acceptable. The hard drive will NOT WORK on Mac computers if you have only used it on a PC. You must first set up/format your external hard drive on a Mac (Mac/PC compatibility) and then it can be used on both Mac and PC (ie computers at ISA).
- USB pen drive (Mac and PC compatible).
-Access to maps on your phone or a detailed city map book where you can look up locations by street name.
- 8.5 x 11 or A4 plain paper sketchbook for note taking.
- Ring binder or folders for keeping course handouts.
Optional materials:
- Laptop with Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop (you can download a month-long trial version of Lightroom & Photoshop, online). Do not bring your laptop to class unless you are doing a presentation on it.
- Tripod for photographs that are taken below 1/60 second (depending on your lens focal length). We will experiment with many different exposure times during the class and a tripod is essential for nighttime photography. There are many models that are relatively compact, light and reasonably priced, but make sure it is of decent quality and stable.
Where to purchase your equipment and supplies online:
B&H Photo: (the photographer?s Mecca)
Calumet Photographic:
KEH Camera: Used Cameras and accessories
Ritz Camera:
For your final critique and show, you will need to make prints of your images at one of the photography labs listed below. You should expect to spend about 50? (Euros) on photo printing costs.
Photo Labs:
- Negatif+, 104, 108 Rue La Fayette, 75010 Paris, 01 45 23 45 44
- VLT , Pro Image Service, 145 Avenue Jean Jaurès, 75019 Paris, 01 42 02 43 43
- Phot'Com, 49 Avenue Jean Jaurès, 75019 Paris 01 42 45 04 28
- Processus Photo, 163, rue de la Roquette, 75011 Paris
- I-Labo, 192 Rue St Maur, 75010 PARIS
*Course content subject to change
- ?On Photography? by Susan Sontag
- ?Camera Lucida, Reflections on Photography? by Roland Barthes
- ?Get The Picture? by John G. Morris
- ?The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression? by Bruce Barnbaum

  • Course Name

    Photography In Paris: Documenting the City of Lights

  • Sessions Available

  • Host University

    Institut Catholique de Paris

  • Location

    Paris, France

  • Area of Study


  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Prerequisites

    Students must bring a Digital SLR Camera (DSLR) with them to Paris/class.

    Hours & Credits

  • Contact Hours

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units

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