Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Photographing the First Year: Stories Without Words

"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." Dorothea Lange.

"All there is to thinking, is seeing something noticeable which makes you see something you weren't noticing which makes you see something that isn't even visible." Norman MacLean, A River Runs Through It.

The transition from high school and home to college and a new living environment can be a fascinating and interesting time, made all the more challenging and interesting by being at MIT. More than recording the first semester through a series of snapshots, this freshman seminar will attempt to teach photography as a method of seeing and a tool for better understanding new surroundings. Over the course of the semester, students will develop a body of work through a series of assignments, and then attempt to describe the conditions and emotions of their new environment in a cohesive final presentation.

Work will be done entirely in digital format. The product for the final review will be a Web site developed by the student throughout the course of the semester. Prior experience with digital photography isn't necessary, but it would be good for each student to have a digital camera. (In limited cases, cameras can be made available to students with interest in the class who don't have their own.) Each student will be responsible for the three major assignments and the final project, as well as a presentation on the work of one prominent photographer. Technical sessions will cover all the necessary techniques in Adobe® Photoshop®, Macromedia® Dreamweaver® and perhaps Macromedia® FlashTM (as time and interest warrant), as well as the basics of digital photography, digital printing, and Web presentation.

I should mention as well a great debt of gratitude to my former instructors. The entire content of this seminar arises directly from Anne Spirn's class, 11.309J Sites in Sight: Photography as Inquiry. I very much appreciate her willingness to let me adapt that class to this purpose. Thanks are also due to our final jury, for their valuable insights: MIT professors Jan Wdampler, Bill Hubbard, Les Norford, and Chris Dewart. And along with Anne, I owe a great deal of thanks to those people who taught me about photography and inspired me to pursue it: Reiner Leist, Barbara Broughel, Zachariah Kramer, and William McCluskey.

About the Instructor

Keith McCluskey worked as a Faculty Liaison for MIT OpenCourseWare to the School of Architecture and Planning, and is now the Senior Director of Online Strategy for Harvard Law School. He received a Master of Architecture degree from MIT in 2002. Before that he was an undergraduate student, a library employee, a Teaching Assistant, and a Resident Advisor at MIT. He remains very interested in issues of design in the everyday world and is an avid photographer. His current work can be seen here: