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Berlin Today Homework (1-9)

H1 & H2: How to observe the city (Howie Becker)


Following the advice outlined in the syllabus, follow the advice Howie Becker offers in the first section of
"Learning to Observe in Chicago", "The El": ride the S-bahn and other buses and trains around Berlin, with
maps in hand, until you develop a good general idea of how the city lis laid out, and especially, where the
Kreuzberg, Neukoelln, and Prenzlauerberg districts are and how different they appear from the leafy suburbs
to the west and futuristic DDR cities to the East.
Bring to class at least one good page (preferably 3-5 pages) of your observations: describing things as
Howie suggests and as they might be photographed.
H3: BVG
Bring to class bvg printout showing schedule to U Mehringdamm for Tuesday evening.
H4: Identify a potential topic for a final presentation
H5 Perspective: How to see the world flat.
The world is deep, and we grow up taking depth for granted: our eyes compensate automatically, we
hardly notice. But pictures are flat, and except for the illusion of depth we see them as flat on paper or
monitor, too. We have the problem of learning how to understand this transition, and we'll do this by
systematically photographing things near and far and with an eye to how they flatten up on the picture plane.
Your assignment for Friday, 27.7, is to make a dozen photographs of ears: where there are at least two
people, at different distances from you, and where the image suggests some relationship of one ear to
another. Bring to class on 27.7 a proof sheet with nine images on it, where each has at least two ears in
meaningful (or playful) relationship to each other.
H6 Lighting INTRODUCTION: Setting your subject in the best light.
When you work with the play of highlight and shadow you can emphasize and compose elements to bring
out what interests you. It works like this: your eyes follow the play of light, and when the play of light in an
images is coherent, a picture may be more effective or pleasing, and as you choose how light plays on a
figure, you get to know it better and then may choose the more effective pattern: eye, cheek, and smile all
have enormous expressive potential when the light is right. With practice, you'll learn to explore such
variations rather systematically, anticipate the better combinations, and so become a sculptor of light.
To help you develop your skills, make a few dozen of pictures of somebody while moving around them
and then bring to class a proof sheet with just six to nine images where the light is working differently and
highlighting one or another aspect. Make notes explaining which picture works best for you and why and be
prepared to share your work with your classmates.
H7 Perspective INTRODUCTION: How to find a needle in a haystack
Pictures engage when there's something there to look at, and in this exercise you'll learn how to pour it in.
Find an architectural detail of some interest and clarity, then make a series of photographs close-up and
then progressively further away whereby you add first one, then two, then three or more elements to this
single detail.
Hint: choose a detail that is small and sharply contrasted from everything else.
Bring to class a proof sheet with nine images of a detail systematically composed with more and more
elements.
H8 Lighting INTRODUCTION: How to observe and tame the light of day.
Just as the light changes when you move around your subject, so the light changes as the earth turns.
From dawn to dusk, with every hour (and sometimes every few minutes) changes in light intensity,
sharpness, color, and contrast can transform even the most banal scene into a land of enchantment (and
conversely!).
To learn about this, make a dozen pictures of one or two Berlin places and from the same position (which
you can do by putting your camera on the same windowsill, or one of those red "entwerter" boxes in the u-
bahn you use every day and so offering each time the same view that can be easily compared. Approach
this as an experiment where you need to have something constant in order to observe the variables.
Bring to class a proof sheet with nine images on it, make a few notes explaining which pictures work best
for you and be prepared to share your work with your classmates and learn what works best for them: their
impressions will help you confirm your intuition and likely suggest things you hadn't observed as well.
H9 Perspective INTRODUCTION: How to square things up with vanishing points.
Camera lenses are basically bug-eyed and cock-eyed until you hold them flat and tie them down to earth:
find a courtyard with stones of equal sizes put down evenly and, holding your camera absolutely level and
straight-ahead, turn until the grid suggests two vanishing points.
Bring to class a proof sheet with nine images demonstrating your mastery of Renaissance perspective.