Studio project: pioneers in photography instructions | ART 110 | Community College of Denver




You will research the development of photography and the work of a pioneer photographer from the Smithsonian Database. You will create your own studio project using light and motion, and then write an essay about your project and how it relates to a contemporary photographer and the development of film.


Photo of a man running through a town square.

Henri Cartier-Bresson. Place de l’Europe Behind the Gare St. Lazare, Paris. France. 1932.
© H. Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos.

Step 1: Research

Photographers such as Eadweard Muybridge, Ansel Adams, and Dorthea Lange and others active from the late 1800’s to the 1950’s played a crucial role in the advancement of still photography and photography as an artform. Research one photographer who lived and created during this pivotal period in time.

Step 2: Studio Work

After researching artists from the late 1800’s-1950, bring what you have learned and observed to your own camera. Experiment with one of the photographic devices available to you, including a digital camera, cell phone camera, or even a copy machine, create a photograph that contains some of the qualities you have observed in your research, while also developing your own style.

When you have achieved your desired photographic effect, copy and paste your photo into a document file. Title and date the photograph, and after your title, credit the photography pioneer that most influenced your photo.

For example, you may have been inspired to create a landscape after Ansel Adams, and you would title it: Mountain Landscape (inspired by Ansel Adams), Your Name, Date. Remember, that you are taking into account what you have just learned and researched, so images must be taken during the Module, please do not use an existing image from a previous photo session.

Step 3: Writing

In the document where you embedded your image, use short essay format to explain your subject matter and process an 800-word summary. Include a thesis statement in your introduction. Employ the vocabulary specific to photography, and include an assessment of your work based on the principles of design and elements of art. As you evaluate your final results, be sure to answer the following questions:

  1. Photography was a burgeoning technology and was not seen as a form of art at the time. Painters in particular rebelled against photography as it captured a moment in a seemingly effortless way. What might have drawn artists to work in this medium? Why did they choose to pursue photography as an art when there were several more established and recognized art forms at the time? Select one of the pioneers of photography to focus on in responding to this question.
  2. Describe their work. What did their work seek to capture or evoke? How did they use light, shadow, value, focus, and other elements to convey emotion and theme?
  3. Many of these pioneers of photography had to work against critics who did not consider photography to be a legitimate art form. From your research did your pioneer experience criticism? Why do you think photography was set apart from other forms of art?
  4. Describe your own image. Did you “capture” the image you hoped for?
  5. How did the work of a specific pioneer influence your process?
  6. Concluding your essay, state your understanding of how the media influenced your decisions, and likewise how your decisions influence the photo as a composition or concept.

Basic Information for All Essay Submissions:

Create a “Works Cited” section that lists your 3+ scholarly sources in MLA Style format at the end of your paper. Be sure you have properly cited any direct quotes you use in support of your own writing. For help with MLA Style citations, visit the suggested links in the Art Research Guide or look here in this course under Content > Syllabus > Research.

Step 4: Submit

Before you submit your assignment to the Assignment Submission Folder, review the instructions once again to make sure you have answered the required questions and provide relevant support. As always, the title of your saved file must include the module number and your name (M2_LastNameFirstName). Your work should be saved and submitted as a .doc, .docx,