Current Events, in Silhouette

Technically, a silhouette (“little silhou”)* is gotten on film by exposing in a situation that produces a black outline, engaging for its easily readable form rather than for any shadow detail, against a much brighter field. Sunsets (with, oh, I dunno; cacti?) come to mind. We can’t/don’t want to wait for such occurrences because we can invent them and have control over them. Ideally, there should be a difference of five stops from foreground to background, and you’d like the meter to go by the background’s light level, not “over” expose for the sake of recording information in the darker “figure.”

(Harry Callahan, Eleanor, 1948)

For the first semester students’ second project, make silhouettes of our (and your) current events. This can be easily done indoors by a window, without braving the elements; or in a doorway between two rooms; or perhaps in an open garage, and still achieving the necessary four- or five-stop differential without resorting to harsh, amateurish “post-production” versions. The earlier in the process one can intend, the easier (and “better”) it is.

(Ray Metzker)

In class, we brainstormed in order to add to our list of recently shared adversities (H1N1, snowstorms, rampant headlice, earthquake).  Make negatives of silhouettes by February 23, in order to shift one’s next project (street photography) from passive to active, from research and writing to actual street shooting.

* JK

Contact Sheets, Made by You

A contact sheet (aka proof sheet) is indeed a photograph, and needs to be considered seriously as such. It’s information about the negative.

In our darkroom, we recommend making a contact sheet without a filter that would modify contrast. Set the enlarger height to illuminate one of our 9×11″ pieces of glass, with a negative carrier installed. Expose through the glass, through the negatives, onto the paper for nine seconds at f11 (f8 if the developer concentrate calls for it).

Some folks (Mr. Winogrand was one) prefer to make proofs at contrast grade 1, reasoning that they can see better into the highlights and shadows. Consistency is key here.


We (Photo II-IX) are planning and making typologies. Here are some ways to consider them:

Descriptive: similarities in form, consistent presentation

Explanatory: information, in order to understand

Interpretive: potential implications

Ethically evaluative: references to cultural judgment

Aesthetically evaluative: references to art, the art world; self-referential

Theoretical: explores possibilities

Check this out:

I guess I love the colons, eh?

Make your first batch of negatives by 2/23 (which is before the street photography project).

Then, read this: