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Common Places: A photography class where half the students are 18 and half are over 80

Billie Mandle

Saturday, November 11 - 10:00AM to 10:45AM

I teach a course at Hampshire College called, "Community, Photography, Storytelling" where half the students are from Hampshire and half the students are residents of the Applewood retirement community across the street. The class is designed to bring both groups together for a joint investigation of photography. Applewood residents and Hampshire students do the same assignments, participate in critiques together and collaborate on projects – Applewood residents come to the Hampshire dorms to photograph and Hampshire students regularly visit the Applewood apartments.

The class addresses a range of topics around the presentation of self and perceptions of aging and youth. We look at the work of photographers such as Dawoud Bey, Wendy Ewald, Nicholas Nixon, Fazal Sheikh, and LaToya Ruby Frazier as students embark on photography assignments that approach portraiture as a collaboration. Each week the students work in pairs, taking turns as both the subject and the photographer. This allows everyone to experiment with vulnerability and authority, seeing and being seen, and it allows everyone to experiment with different forms of revelation, both as an artist and a subject.

At Hampshire photography is part of the Film, Photography and Video program – still image is integrated with moving– so it is not uncommon for students in this course to delve into mediums other than photography. Students record sound, make short films and work with text. For this presentation I would speak about the development and logistics of the course, show the work of former students and discuss ways that expanded forms of photography enrich student projects. I plan to speak alongside a Hampshire graduate who took the course three years ago. 


Billie Mandle
Billie Mandle

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