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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Theodor Frederick Hiebert
BISIA 350
Bothell Campus

Photography and Digital Art

Explores the use of photography and 2D digital imaging as contemporary art forms in a practice-based arts workshop. Emphasizes creative and conceptual engagement.

Class description

We live in a culture surrounded by photographs. Whether analog or digital, these images speak (as proverb has it) with the power of a thousand words. And, as a consequence, we encounter millions of words and messages every day, describing realities of all sorts -- some real and others less so -- creative re-inventions of the world to artistic ends. It is no longer the case that photographs simply tell the truth. Now images represent all sorts of things -- airbrushed or enhanced or sometimes even simply fabricated -- creating stories of their own that often have little to do with the histories from which they were grown. And yet, in this, images also have the power to tell new stories and to make us think in imaginative ways about the worlds in which we already live.

Joan Fontcuberta, for instance, creates fictional animals and then presents their pictures as if they were real; Gillian Wearing asks strangers to write their thoughts on a poster board, and then takes a picture; Sandy Skoglund creates room sized installations depicting fantastic situations, then documents them with the camera; Philippe Halsman takes pictures of people jumping; Cindy Sherman dresses up like art history paintings in order to have her photograph taken; Sherrie Levine takes pictures of other people's pictures and presents them as her own; Barbara Kruger combines text and images into provocative political installations; Steven Pippen turns a laundromat into a series of pinhole cameras, then rides a horse in front of them, taking pictures along the way.

The stories are endless, and they continue to grow -- providing always new ways to think of the photograph and its creative possibilities. This course explores these possibilities through the practice and theory of image making as a contemporary art form, emphasizing the photo-based and 2D digital image. Students will be expected to develop individualized projects and creative perspectives of their own, framed by discussions of photographic theory and the work of photo-based artists, both historical and contemporary.

Student learning goals

learn strategies for self-directed arts production and project-based skill acquisition;

develop a visual imagination and the ability to creatively translate abstract concepts into visual form;

learn about the social, political and theoretical context of contemporary arts production;

develop critical, interpretive and reflective skills for engagement with visual arts practices

General method of instruction

This course will be content-driven, discussing aspects of theory, technique and context as they relate to image-based arts practices. There will be a combination of lectures, readings, discussions and in-class critiques of assignments and works in progress. Students will be expected to develop their own perspectives and areas of technical competence using resources provided in class.

Please Note: This is not a course on technical skill-acquisition or professional photographic practices -- this is a course that explores ways in which images can be used to develop an artistic and conceptual practice. While some element of technical learning will be discussed, the focus of the course is on using technical consideration to further an artistic agenda. Students will be expected to be largely self-directed in their technical learning supported by campus technical resources and staff, and by individualized project-specific guidance.

Recommended preparation

Students will be expected to provide their own camera(s) and other technical equipment necessary for project realization. Available campus resources, supported practices and off-campus alternatives will be discussed in class.

Class assignments and grading

Grades will be based on a combination of writing, arts production and participation in class discussions and critiques. Not less than 50% of final grades will be based on artworks produced for the course.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Theodor Frederick Hiebert
Date: 04/18/2011