Course Description

This class is for photographers that want to develop their conceptual and photographic skills, focusing on the traditions of image-making of the built environment and landscape. We will explore the idea of the vernacular landscape and how it relates to photography, both historically and in the contemporary moment. Class discussions will consider the complexity of and how these ideas can be utilized by photographers making images of the manmade environment.

Course Learning Outcomes

  • Developing conceptual and technical photography skills
  • Advance vocabulary for interpreting and responding to images critically
  • Contemporary and historical understanding of the vernacular landscape
  • Refining a body of work (15-20 photographs) that reflects the artist’s visual voice.
  • Developing critical thinking skills and vocabulary used to describe art, with an emphasis on the individual artist improving communication about their own work and that of their peers.
  • Increased exposure and comprehension of texts relating to photographic theory and history and for the student to be able to discuss these issues as they relate to their own work.

Each student will be scheduled to present work in progress on four specific dates during the semester and a final assignment that will include 5 final prints. In addition each student will participate in discussion, critical evaluation, field trips, and assigned reading of specific essays and articles.


1. Two short (200-500 words) write-ups to be posted on blog after we visit SFMOMA and Ratio 3.

2. Occasional blog posts from field days and thanksgiving week.

3. Photo Assignments

                1. One photo from a window in your house

                2. Take a portrait of your neighborhood–bring in at least 5 working prints

                3. Typologies–bring in at least 5 working prints

                4. One-on-One–bring in working prints/project description

                5. Final project–bring in at least 5 final 8 1/2×11″ prints


We will cover a number of texts in this class. There are several books on reserve in the library. Some of our readings will come from these books, but  I also encourage you to take advantage of the photography books that are in the library collection and spend time investigating the collection.

 1.            Adams, Robert. 2009. New Topographics. Tucson, AZ: Center for Creative Photography,                University of Arizona.

2.            Wolfe, Ann M., David B. Walker, Lucy R. Lippard, Geoff Manaugh, and W. J. T. Mitchell.                 2011. The Altered Landscape: Photographs of a Changing Environment. New York: Skira Rizzoli     Publications, Inc.

3.            Jackson, John Brinckerhoff. 1984. Discovering the Vernacular Landscape. New Haven: Yale  University Press.

Additional readings will be handed out in class.



All handouts and supplemental material will be posted on the class blog. You will also be asked to post photos on the blog when we have field days. This is a resource for you to use throughout the semester, but do not rely on it as substitute for being present in class.



25%        Participation and Attendance

50%        Class assignments

25%        Final Project 


Attendance Policy

Unexcused absences will result in a lower grade. Three absences will lower your final grade by 10 percent (one letter grade). Six or more unexcused absences will result in a failing grade. If you’re going to be absent, please let me know. Persistent lateness will result in a lower participation grade.


Grading Policy

A             Inspired growth and/or consistent excellence

                Strong contribution to class critiques

                Punctuality and outstanding class participation

                Have no more than three unexcused absences

B             Consistent high quality response to assignments

                Active participation in critiques

                Punctuality and appropriate class participation

C             Average response to assignments

                Marginal attendance and participation

D             Little or no effort in work and in participation

F              No effort in work or participation





DSLR/SLR or equivalent with manual adjustment of focus and exposure.

Photography paper for printing.


Recommended Materials

Notebook / Sketchbook, tripod, extra battery, extra memory card


Mail Order Suppliers

Freestyle Photographic Supplies



Local Suppliers

Adolf Gassers, 2181 Second Street at Howard (downtown), San Francisco, CA, (415) 495-385

Calumet, 2001 Bryant Street at 18th Street, San Francisco, CA, (415) 643-9275

Looking Glass, 2848 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705, (510) 548-6888

Photographer’s Supply, 436 Bryant Street (Between 2nd & 3rd), San Francisco, CA, (415)-495-8640


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