Where Do You Stand? – A Photo Assignment.
Jeff Jacobson is an American photographer who began his career as a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union before devoting himself to photography under Charles Harbutt. He takes pride in borrowing from the best: Charles Harbutt, David Hurn, and Phil Perkins.
Hurn is a Welsh photographer who boils down photography to two questions: “Where do you stand?” and “When do you press the shutter?” These two questions provide an excellent learning framework.
The question of when you press the shutter seems rather simple, a question of timing: you either press it at the right moment or you don’t. But where you stand has deeper ramifications. Photography has this unique ability, that no other media has, to render a still image from a specific moment in time and space. The question of where you stand can be interpreted in different ways: whether it is physical or spatial in nature, or whether it is political, professional, or emotional. Where do you stand politically in your work? How do you use your photography as a source of income? What emotions are being expressed in your photography?
With the question of stance in mind, Jeff Jacobson devised two assignments: the first one concentrating on the physical aspects of the question. It is designed to help students move around rather than choosing a spot and remaining frozen in space. The second assignment focuses on the emotional and political aspects of the question. This photo assignment is a variation of Harbutt’s famous spaceship assignment. It is designed to assist students in occupying, photographically, their own individual and a personal sliver of time and space.
PHOTO ASSIGNMENT I:
DAY 1: Choose a definable space, such as a square block area, or a railway station, and spend the whole day walking around it photographing.
DAY 2: Return back to the same space, but take one step closer to your subject, to what has caught your attention the most the previous day.
DAY 3: Repeat the same process but keep moving closer until you are right up on the subject. Then, drop to your knees and take another picture.
DAY 4: Repeat the same process from the last three days, and then turn around, and take a picture of whatever is behind you. If that interests you, move closer.
PHOTO ASSIGNMENT II:
Imagine you are leaving on a spaceship and the only thing you can take with you to describe life on earth is your photographs. They must describe what life feels like to you (not just what it looks like) in order to give a sense of this to anyone you might encounter in space using only the photographs you make for the assignment, no words.