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May Term Class: Experimental Photography

Experimental Photography

Taught by Assistant Professor of Art and Photography David Baddley

If you take Assistant Professor David Baddley's May term class "Experimental Photography," don't expect to learn about F-stops and depth of field. Instead, you'll be asked to make your own camera out of a shoe box or a tin can, do triple exposures on a roll of film with different students shooting each exposure, and shoot with a child's toy camera.

The class approaches photography in a lot of different ways: "It's about taking a very different attitude towards the creative processes in photography," said Baddley.

Baddley explained that photographers try to carefully control every aspect of their images--not in this class! Baddley's assignments incorporate chance into the work. "The students are forced to redefine or at least reexamine the notion of what it is to be an artist," he said.

One assignment calls for the students to cover their viewfinders with a piece of black tape. They then guess the aperture and focus. Students shoot a few rolls of film this way, "with photography as a physical gesture rather than a visual," said Baddley.

Rashel Pedderson ('04) described this as the most challenging assignment. "We had little idea what our frame looked like," she said. To Pedderson's surprise, "When I got my negatives back, some of the pictures were perfectly composed. I couldn't believe it--because normally I would spend so much time composing, using my viewfinder."

Think photographers only print on photographic paper? Not when they work with Baddley. In another exercise students paint an emulsion on materials such as a rock, fabric, or even roofing tiles; they then print a picture on the material.

"This class gave me tons of different perspectives on how to look at things," said Pedderson. "But I think the liquid emulsion exercise will take me the farthest because I paint and do other media, and I can reflect what I learned from this exercise in my other work," she said.

May term classes are month-long courses, unique to Westminster. These classes challenge the faculty to find innovative ways to teach.