Please Redo

You have to have a person in your photos. Please Redo.

You have to have a person in your photos. Please Redo.

I’m currently taking a class called “Visual Expression”. As the name suggests, it deals with the visual elements of storytelling that we use in filmmaking to tell a story without words. You might think that as someone who has a background in art and who worked with artists at a commercial art studio that I would find a class in Visual Expression to be old news, but it has actually been quite informative. For the concepts that I was already familiar with (perspective, additive and subtractive color, etc) it has been a huge help in quantifying those concepts into specific terms and examples. For the new concepts (contrast and affinity, depth cues, etc) it has helped open up a whole new level of the toolbox that I’ve never played with before.  I’ve learned a lot already.

The only problem is putting all this theory into practice. The class meets once a week- for me it is on Wednesday afternoons. We sit in a lecture room and take notes about the topic of the day- color, line, depth cues, etc. Then, sometimes, we are given an assignment of photographs that we must take to illustrate the concept described. There are a lot of rules about these photographs: they must all be landscape orientation (because movies are always shot landscape). They must all have an actor in them, not yourself, not looking at camera, and not closer than a waist shot. They must all be submitted online, labeled, and only one option to illustrate each concept.

Oh, and if you don’t get them right the first time you have to redo them.

I almost always have to redo them. I’m not alone in this, evidently. The professor joked this week in class that he has a quick command on his keyboard that just enters the words “Please Redo” into emails for him. (Which I would guess is patently untrue since he always takes the time to show how each photo needs to be improved.)

This was hard to swallow at first: I’m not used to being asked to redo work and it felt discouraging that I wasn’t able to get it right the first time. Then I got over myself and went ahead and re-shot them.

The thing is, I highly respect the fact that we are being asked to redo photos when they aren’t right. It reminds me of a segment that I read in “A River Runs Through It” where the father makes the son write and re-write an essay over and over again until he gets it right and I remember my father seeing that and pointing out how valuable that was as a way to learn because it taught the son not only what he did wrong but also gave him a chance to make it right. Because the point isn’t to just get a grade but to learn how to do the work.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on March 7, 2014.

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