Art for Children, Goshen College

ã 1997, 2000, Marvin Bartel

Please note: This page is in progress. More links biographical material are pending.

A Short H istory of Photography.

200 years ago, only the very wealthy could afford a family portrait or a pictorial record to commemorate a special event. The average person had no simple way to visually record ordinary events. Historical information from those times is all based on information created by artists and writers.

The camera, however, was invented much earlier than photography. There are descriptions dating three centuries before the time of Christ, explaining that an image can be formed by passing light through a pin hole. Alhazen, a tenth century Arabian drew an illustration for dark room with only a pinhole in the wall. Inside the room he could observe a solar eclipse and trace an image of it. By the time of the Renaissance camera obscuras (dark rooms and boxes) including lenses were commonly used by Leonardo Da Vinci and other artists and scientists. These cameras may have been a major reason for the more realistic art styles that became popular during the Renaissance.

But how is a photograph made. We all know that light changes stuff. Even our skin darkens from light. For example enough sunlight will fade a bright fabric. A piece of cherry wood darkens over time from the light. If you shade part of the material with a stencil, you eventually make a print using light. You could also do it with a lens or a pinhole image with enough light and enough time. This is too slow, and image isn’t very permanent. A practical way of producing an automatic permanent picture fixed in a material wasn’t invented until about 160 years ago. Eventually materials were discovered and refined that are so light sensitive that they can capture an image rapidly. Additionally, these images can be fixed quite easily. Photographic film and paper has a layer of microscopic particles of silver halide that are extremely sensitive to light.

We are currently living in a time of transition between film based and electronic based image recording and printing. The technology and costs are shifting in the direction of electronic digital photography for both still and motion pictures. In the near future film photography will likely be relegated to artists much in the same way etching and other printmaking processes changed from everyday art to fine art. Picture post cards and mementos were made and sold by artist-printmakers before the invention of photography made them obsolete.

Today with mass production, everybody in the developed world can afford photography to commemorate, to record, and/or to tell a story visually. Photographs, depending on their purpose, inform us, remind us, move us, entertain us, amaze us, sadden us, amuse us, and accuse us.

In a classroom setting today, it can be less expensive, safer, and more applicable to teach digital still photography and video motion photography compared to using silver based film and chemistry. Good art units and lessons can be based on either process. Today a new digital camera is as low as $200, and the price keeps getting lower and the image quality keeps getting better.  Instead of a darkroom, enlargers, and chemicals; we will use computers and printers—something most schools are more likely to have. Most schools have video cameras and many have at least one digital camera.

There are many approaches to developing ideas for art. These three types cover most photography.
  • Some artist-photographers look for pictures and take lots of them. They use lots of film and take lots of exposures. Photographers like Gerry Winogrand are always looking and searching for a great picture. They work very fast and intuitive, shooting lots of pictures and then making careful selection from the negatives.
  • Others artist-photographers search for only the best things to photograph and print most of what they take. Ansel Adams, Margaret Bourke-White, Edward Weston, and Berenice Abbott worked with extreme care and skill to get the best possible framing and composing. They took the time to get exposures nearly perfect. In making the print they did all they could to bring out the best tone and image quality.

  • Still other artist-photographers invent settings and situations to photograph. They script and produce them. Advertising photographs are almost always done by this method. They don’t look for something interesting to photograph or wait for an event. They invent the photograph based on something they want to say or express. Sandy Skoglund constructs elaborate lifesize sets and then records them with the camera. Duane Michals produces sequences that tell a story. He often writes comments in the margins explaining the thoughts and feelings of the characters in the photographs.

    1. Write and/or diagram some ideas. Other persons will be the subject matter (actors or models) for your photograph. You can use persons from your group in this class or you can cast the photograph from family or friends off campus if that works better for you. Give some consideration to the place or "stage" to use as the setting for the photographs. You will be the photographer, writer and director for your photographic production. Have fun, but definitely go beyond cliché clowning for the camera.
    2. Select one of the following common sources for artistic inspiration as the basis for the content of your photographs. Or, see your text for sources of inspiration for art and select one of those.
    1. Ordinary Experience. Your subjects will be acting out an everyday situation representing real things that happen to college students (or others). If possible, select an ordinary experience which is not often photographed, or do it in the opposite way from the stereotypical fashion. Think about the styles of art and consider expressionism.*

    2. Quest for Order. Your subjects might be arranged in some kind of rigid unnatural but orderly sequence. You invent it. Consider surrealism or Formalism.*

    3. Inner Feelings and Imagination. Your subjects act out a particularly sad event, bizarre event, frightening event, or another feeling. You may use another art form (not photography) and preferably not a visual art as inspiration for the feelings or imagination. Consider stealing feelings from music, children’s literature, or poetry. Consider expressionism or surrealism.*

    4. Other. Their are many other reasons for making photographs. If you are inspired to follow another kind of photographic intention, do so. Simply write a short explanation of how you got your idea and why you wanted to do it. Say why you feel it is original. If you know the source of your inspiration, note it. When you teach you can help students use a similar source. In VA07, are some a copies of Criticizing Photographs , by Terry Barrett. In chapter 4 he describes 6 types of photographs. Cindy Sherman, Duane Michals, Sandy Skoglund, amd William Wegman are a few examples of artist photographers who make intentional scripts for their work. They are not making documents or news, they are producing concepts and ideas based on contemporary life. They are artists who happen to use photography as their art form and film and paper as their media.

    • Recording the preparation (the script or story board).

    • Make written notes and diagrams indicating the relationships you want in your photograph. Include this preparation in your sketchbook.


      A. With a digital camera, use enough digital memory to make 4 or 5 exposures of one photographic idea. You'll want to make some kind of variation for each exposure. Ask others in your group for creative input as you photograph. The following are some possible variations.

      1. Aim the camera from a different direction to get more diagonals, motion and dynamic feelings.

      2. Get much closer to fill the viewfinder with action.

      3. Get down low to make the subject look bigger.

      4. Move to eliminate the distracting background or to change the setting.

      5. Turn around so the light hits your subjects from the other direction. Turn off the flash.

      6. Experiment.

      In one of the campus computer labs, download the images to your own computer drive or disk. This process will be demonstrated in class. Make a backup of the ones you are most apt to use.


      See the handout entitled, "Basic Image File Preparation using Adobe Photoshop 5.0". After preparing your best image, make one print in color and one print in black and white.


    Use one of five available digital cameras.

    VI. SCHEDULE - Spring 2000

    1. By Thursday/Friday, March 2 and 3, 2000, bring a script and diagrams to class. Not everybody will be able to start at that time, so if you get a better idea later, you are permitted to change your script. Each group should be able to complete their exposures in one day. Everybody should have images files downloaded and saved to the M:drive.
    2. Week two: work at enhancing and printing the images. See this web site for Photoshop help. Discuss prints.
    3. History and Connections to everyday life  ( Watch for more here).

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