VIS318 – Integrated Photo-based Explorations

Course Outline/Syllabi


March 28 – 9:00 AM (GROUP 1)

Jae In Choi (Samuel), Mohan Zhu (Jasmine), Yongheng Zhang (Agnes), Chenxi Cai (Cassie)

[30 min BREAK]

Jinyan Zhao (Katharine), Ziyan Zheng, Jinrun Wen, Brandon Price

APRIL 4 – 9:00 AM (GROUP 2)

Tina Gong, Kha Den De (Lera), Hamayil Ahmad, Zhelun Li (Jerry)

[30 min BREAK]

Hanbing Wu (Joyce), Emily Trajkovski, Raffi Bedrossian, Rania Haider

Spaces for presentation of your work will include the classroom (SB211), EEL Space (Across the Hall from SB211, where Mid Term Critiques took place). Other spaces TBD, and if you have a space in mind connect me ASAP so we can try to arrange.

SIGN UP for your SPACE here:

Renee – Photo Technician is available to assist you Monday-Thursday. She can give you a FOB for EEL space access on weekend, paper for printing your final projects on the printer in the classroom (SB211).

Be on time (9am start each day). NO INSTALLATION during critique time – do on weekend, morning before Critique start, OR during 30 minute install break between 10:15-10:45 each day. Critiques will each be 15 minutes total. 5 min intro and we look at your work + make notes, followed by the class having a 10 minute discussion about your work. If you have any questions you want us to consider in our conversation include them in your introduction text.

Final Crit Content Submission VIA QUERCUS by end of day APRIL 4

  • Digital file(s) of images/work. Can include an installation image and/or links to content if necessary. Keep file sizes reasonable. 1500-2000 pixels MAX for longest dimension + save for web and/or as “high” quality jpeg. Aim for under 1MB per image, larger ok if only a few. If sharing links, just include them in/with your “Introduction Text”. JPEG for image files.
  • Introduction Text that you read to introduce/offer context of your work (max 100-150 words). PDF or word doc.
  • Crit Notes on every crit except your own (ie 15 total:). Include observations, thoughts, questions. Offer both positive and critical feedback – what is working and what needs further work and/or consideration. Word doc or text file.

MID TERM Critique

This will be IN PERSON on Feb 14 (9:00am) atthe E.E.L. Gallery in the UofT South Borden Building (across the hall from our classroom – SB211). Your Mid Term Critique work will be Framework #8 (see below). You will need to get three sheets of 13×19 photo print paper (Luster) to make one final print (up to a max size of 12×18) of your work using the self-serve printer in SB211. There will be an in-class printing demo on Feb 7. You can access room SB211 and the printer during the week to make your test prints and final print. See the schedule to see when the room is closed (grey blocks – classes), when there are work study students to assist (blue blocks), and all other times you will be working on your own/with other students (remember your FOB for after hours access 8:01pm-7:59am). Installation/display of your prints can be done using thumb tacks, tape, etc. (or any other way you want to display your work) and will be done on the day of crit/during class.

* DONT FORGET to post your Framework #8 to the blog in addition to making the print for Crit:)


#1 – Setting up the fake (1st iteration: Choose a notable artwork – historical or contemporary – and recreate it as a photographic image)

#2 – Low contrast (B&W image) based on one of two images:

#3 – Three images using the exact same framing for each

#4 – High key composition of grey to white (B&W image)

#5 – Low Key composition of grey to black (B&W image)

#6 – Still Life

#7 – Interior space of interest

#8 – Setting up the fake (2nd iteration: Choose a notable artwork – historical or contemporary – and recreate it as a photographic image. This may, or may not be, the same reference from Framework #1.)

Jan 17

  • Cadava, Eduardo. “Reflections.” In Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History. 92-97. Princeton, NJ: Princeton U P, 1997. (in PDF see p120-125)
  • Wall, Jeff. “Photography and Liquid Intelligence.” In Jeff Wall Selected Essays and Interviews, 109–110. New York: MOMA, 2007.

Supplemental Content:

  • Italo Calvino, “The Distance of the Moon”. In Cosmicomics, translated by William Weaver. 1965. Available as a Text (PDF) and Audio Podcast

Jan 24

  • Benjamin, Walter. “A Small History of Photography.” In Walter Benjamin Selected Writings Vol. 2 1927–1934, translated by Edmund Ephcott and Kingsley Shorter, 240–257. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard U P, 1999.
  • Burgen, Victor. “Looking at Photographs.” In Thinking Photography, edited by Victor Burgen, 142–153. London: Macmillan, 1982.

Jan 31

  • Krauss, Rosalind. “Photography’s Discursive Spaces.” In The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography, edited by Richard Bolton, 287–302. Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 1989.
  • Flusser, Vilem. “Introductory Note” and “The Apparatus”. Both in Towards a Philosophy of Photography. 7 and 21-32. London: Reaktion Books, 2000.

Feb 7

  • LISTEN McLaren, Karla. On Embracing Anxiety. Podcast, 58:38 min. California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS): June 2020.


Supplemental Content:

  • Baker, George. “Photography’s Expanded Field.” October, No.114 (Fall 2005): 121–140.


For Mar 7 and 14 submit a one page (PDF) Reading Response that combines your engagement with all the material for that week. What you do for your response is up to you, with the following considerations:

– Structure, Form and Quality of your writing

– Clarity and Connection between ideas, references, and positions/opinions articulated

– Thoughtfulness and/or Creativity through engagement with reference material provided

Mar 7

  • Spend some time with Gustave Courbet’s The Painter’s Studio (1855). Consider the various possibilities and choose what + decide how you will embody/perform for the group image.

Mar 14 (choose one – Hito Steyerl OR David Claerbout)

Hito Steyerl

  • Steyerl, Hito. How Not To be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File. HD video, 15:52 minutes. 2013


  • Steyerl, Hito. “In Defence of the Poor Image.” e-flux, No.10, (November 2009): 1-9.

David Claerbout

  • Documentation of David Claerbout’s Oil Workers (2013). 5:22 minute video.


  • Claerbout, David. “The Silence of the Lens.” e-flux, No.73, (May 2016): 1-7.


  • Interview with David Claerbout offering additional context and information on his practice and Oil Workers (2013). (1 hr)


(Consisting of a mid-term paper and end of term paper)

What is photography?

Develop a written text that engages this question, while drawing from course references (texts, artists, visual content, etc.) and introducing at least one additional reference source (text, artist, artwork, film, cultural event, discipline, life event, etc.) of your own. The expectation is to engage this question as a site of departure and exploration, rather than offering a literal answer.

If you would like to use a creative written form discuss it with me directly. Otherwise, follow a formal structure of writing that consists of:

  • Introduction, with a premise or thesis.
  • Body (usually three or more paragraphs) where ideas are expanded through examples/references used to relate and position the main premise/thesis.
  • Conclusion as a process of reflecting/revisiting your thesis in relation to the ideas and associated references introduced in the body text.

Mid-Term Paper (Feb21)

An in-process “draft” of your End of Term Paper that consists of at least an outline (point form), thesis/premise, potential references (images, texts, artists, artworks, etc) with citations, and draft of introductory paragraph. One to two pages (PDF).

End of Term Paper (Apr 4-8)

1000-1200 words as a PDF (two pages single spaced / four pages double spaced). Include title page, references (visual and academic) with citation information (title, date, author, etc.), and bibliography. 

Writing Resources

There are many resources for you to make use of through the Daniels Writing Centre.


Lecture notes for this course are based on writing and research drawn from the text:

Miner, Colin. “Part 1”, in A Photographic Ontology, Being Haunted Within the Blue Hour and Expanding Field (2014). University of Western Ontario – Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. Paper 2204.

CLASS 02 (c02) PPT on The New Objectivity and artist Bernhard and Hilla Becher.

CLASS 03-04 (c03 & c04) PPT of artist work considering concepts of “framing” and “composition” (c03) and introduction of photographic “apparatus” in relation to expanding field and practices of photography (c04). See also, the work by Peter Fischli and David Weiss, The Way Things Go, video (29:45min), 1988.

CLASS 04 The work of artist Cao Fei, Whose Utopia, video (20:06min), 2006. [See above PPT c03-04 for still images of her work.]. Followed by the short video interview with artist Cao Fei “Constructing Whose Utopia”; artist statement on Whose Utopia; and, the interview (text) between Cao Fei and Jordan Strom “Your Utopia is Ours” from Fillip #4, Fall 2006.

Artist statement:

Interview – text (Fillip #4, Fall 2006)

CLASS 05 PPT of various contemporary photo-based artwork and practices that expand the medium of photography and the photographic image.

CLASS 06 PPT on expanded photographic practices, especially in consideration of photographic materiality. And, PPT on Courbet’s The Painter’s Studio (1855) and the class/group large format photographic image making project.