Grammar 1

Photographs tell stories. A writer might use cadence, sentence structure or even the sounds of words themselves to convey meaning. In a similar manner, photographers use light and shape, they make choices about where to stand or how to frame a scene in order to make meaning clear. Based on ideas suggested in two seminal writings on photography, John Szarkowski’s The Photographer’s Eye and Stephen Shore’s The Nature of Photographs, this class will function as a primer of visual literacy for photographers. Through weekly shooting assignments, lectures and critique, students will learn about balance, tempo, ways of organizing space, the significance of geometric structure, and why the edges of the frame are important.

Far from being a list of rules to memorize, how we compose is an extension of the way we see. Slight changes in vantage point, framing and timing have a tremendous impact upon the content and success of a photograph. The exercises in The Grammar of Photography will make students more attentive to how we see what we see and allow students to produce stronger, clearer pictures as a result.

For an overview of Grammar 1, click here.

Lecture Notes and Images

Class 1: Introduction

Class 2: Vantage Point

Class 3: Aspects of Grid

Class 4: The Edges of the Frame

Class 5: Shape

Class 6: Time

Class 7: Detail

Class 8: The Thing Itself

Class 9: The Nature of Photographs

Class 10: Review of Portfolios

The lecture notes linked to above are solely for current and former students enrolled in Grammar of Photography classes. Unauthorized reproduction of text or images is prohibited without permission. All images are copyright their respective photographers.


John Szarkowski, The Photographer’s Eye

Stephen Shore, The Nature of Photographs, second edition