ARTS241 Beginning Black & White Photography, Romeo Di Loreto, Spring 2020 | SACI College of Art & Design Florence

ARTS241 Beginning Black & White Photography, Romeo Di Loreto, Spring 2020

PHOTOGRAPH > noun a permanent record of an image that has been produced on photosensitive film or paper by the process of photography.
> Verb (photographed, Photographing) tra & intr to take a photograph of (a person, thing, etc).

PHOTOGRAPHY > noun the process of making a permanent record of an image on light-sensitive film or some other sensitized material using visible light, X-ray or some other form of radiant energy.

PHOTOGRAPHIC > adj (1) relating to or similar to photographs or photography. (2) Said of memory: retaining images in exact detail. Photographically adverb.

Photography is one of the most exciting forms of image making. Invented in the 1820’s to 1840’s, it still remains a mystery for whomever uses it. For me it is still magic. Mistakes can easily become tools for beautiful image making. Photography’s weakness can even be its greatest strength; one can discover this very early or it can take years and years. Making photographs means making thousands of decisions almost instantly. To bring all the technical limitations and the artistic possibilities together into a single, well-seen and rendered photograph. A picture which conveys information and emotion is a juggling act that requires years of training to master.

What do I mean by “to master”?

Simply not to think about what you are doing, but to respond instantly. It means to work intuitively, with feeling rather than with intellect. (I did not say intelligence.) Thinking about your photography is important, especially during the learning stages, but as you progress you will find you are doing less and less “thinking” and more and more responding.

A guitarist does not think of the individual notes, but is feeling the music. The hands and fingers are responding to the music. It is a physical, emotional and feeling activity. Should the artist “think” about what he or she is doing, mistakes flood in, the musician stumbles, misses notes and music fails. The same thing happens when we make photographs. We are musicians. Our instruments are the cameras and shutters, lenses and apertures, the film we select, the chemistry we use to bring out the nuances of light and shadow in our negatives and prints. Eventually you will be able to work without thinking, you will work intuitively.

Learning to work intuitively will take time. Within the first year, you will have found you have mastered many of the technical elements of photography and no longer have to think about them. This class is meant to help you along that path of mastery. However, the path is a long one, and in that there is joy. Learning is more important than arriving, the voyage more wonderful than the destination. Most successful artists and photographers will tell you it will take ten years for you to master all the elements and to begin to make your own statement. This may be frustrating news for the novice, but take heart. Photography is fun almost every step of the way. There will be periods of pain, disappointment, frustration, depression and even anger as you struggle to learn all the elements. Do not be discouraged, be overjoyed that you have ten great years to look forward to, to grow in, to experiment, to learn and to develop. It is a magical time, so use it wisely. Learn each of the steps well, and then proceed to the next. Do not rush. There are no short cuts, no quick solutions, no secrets, other than to work very hard.


Course Content & Objectives

This course is designed to teach the fundamental skills and basic techniques in black and white photography. Special emphasis will be placed upon aesthetic and visual concerns as well as craftsmanship. The course will base itself on a basic understanding and operation of the camera, the lens, the shutter, film types, film exposure, film development, the negative, making the print, toning, and the final touches (re-touching, presentation). This information will be covered in more depth and complexity at the intermediate level.

I try to structure my class so that it becomes a sort of studio, with demonstrations and hands–on experience. Through my personal and teaching experience, I have come to the conclusion that certain things are taught much more sufficiently by watching and doing, rather than talking and doing.

You are required to keep a journal. I suggest you keep two! One as a technical notebook where you write class notes and keep all hand–outs, assignments, contact sheets and darkroom data (this notebook can be a binder). The second notebook is your creative journal. Be as creative as possible! Draw in it, paste and glue things in it, record data and feelings. I always make double contact sheets. One I put in my negative archive, the second I use to cut out the images that I feel are strong and glue them into my journal, where I write my ideas, quotes, re–write a poem or write a poem.

There will be a series of slide presentations to give you an idea of the history of photography and a sense of visual aesthetics.

We may go on field trips to some of these locations: Giardino di Boboli, Museo Zoologico (La Specola), Le Cascine Park, Sandicci urban areas, and if possible, the Alinari Archive, and to any contemporary photography and art-related exhibition.


This includes participation/full participation.
Attendance and promptness are mandatory. Two absences will result in one grade less. Chronic lateness will result in same (2 lates = 1 absence). Assignments must be turned in the day requested. No exceptions.


This class is designed to teach the fundamental skills in photography. Each assignment requires a certain skill level, presentation and thought. This is university level.

Students can achieve a passing grade by completing the assignments, having good attendance, and participating in class and during critiques.

Standards: Depending on your school, + or - grades can or cannot be given.

A = Work that far exceeds the minimum requirements in craftsmanship, presentation, and visual/intellectual order. Your concepts, ideas, and insightful participation in class and in critiques have to be of high level to obtain this grade.

B = above average work that far exceeds the minimum requirements. Skillful handling of the materials with good concepts, showing initiative in critiques and in class.

C = Average work completion with only adequate control of the materials. Minimum class and critique participation.

D = Failure to complete assignments resulting from a minimum amount of effort, poor execution, and sloppy craftsmanship in the handling of the materials with little or no class participation.

F = Little or no effort with consideration to the assignments. No participation in class or critiques.

Grading System:
Midterm -
(completion of assignments, punctuality/attendance, quiz grades, journals): 40% of the grade.
Final -
(final presentation and project, and punctuality/attendance): 60% of the grade.

Graduate Students
​Students in MFA, MA, and Post-Bac programs are expected to complete additional assignments and to produce work at a level appropriate for students in a graduate program. They are graded accordingly and, if they successfully complete all course requirements for graduate students, receive graduate-level credit for the course.

Required Materials

- 35 mm camera (must be manual) - macchina fotografica
- 50 mm or equivalent lens - obiettivo
- 20 + rolls of 35mm B/W film (Suggested film Kodak Tri-X 400 A.S.A) – Pellicola (I suggest that all students purchase film here, due to risk of airport x-ray fogging and suggestions of diverse film which may be given by professor. This will be taught during the term.
- 18x24 variable contrast / resin – coated photographic paper pearl finish (carta politenata / pearla 18x24)
- 24x30 variable contrast / resin – coated photographic paper pearl finish (carta politenata / pearla 24x30) (More advanced students may use Fiber based paper)
- 35mm clear plastic negative sleeves - porta negativi
- Binder to keep all negatives and contact sheets - quaderno per porta negative (It is a good suggestion to buy the last two items in North America or country of origin, this will allow for a consistent system of archiving your negatives.)
- Ilford anti–static cloth - panno anti–statico
- Towel - asciugamano
- Apron - grembiule
- Scissors - forbici
- Rubber gloves (optional) - guanti di gomma

Where to purchase photographic materials

1. Bongi Ottica (they give a student discount)
Via Por Santa Maria, 82/r Firenze
Tel: 055-2398811

2. Ottica Fontani
Viale F. Strozzi, 18-20a
Tel: 055–470981

3. Toscana Foto Service / SACI Internet Mail Order Service.

4. Internet Ordering: These websites are excellent for finding photo materials.

For Camera Repairs

  1. Private Repair Service (give to Romeo)
  2. Bongi Ottica
    Via Por Santa Maria, 82/r Firenze
    Tel: 055 2398811
  3. TECIAS (for digital equipment and some Analog)
    Viale Corsica, 39AB
    Tel. 055 359968 – Fax: 055 355776 E-mail: It is very easy to get here by using the Tramvia (Street Train /Car)

For Computer Repairs (MAC)

  1. Juice Apple Premium
    Via Fra Giovanni Angelico, n.6/R
    Tel. 055 660337 – Fax. 055 667415
  2. Apple Firenze
    Piazza della Repubblica, 50123 Firenze
  3. Apple I Gigli
    Via San Quirico, 164, 50013 Campi Bisenzio (FI)


In compliance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act Textbook Provision, SACI provides, when possible, the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and retail price of required and recommended reading.

Henry Horenstein, Black and White Photography: A Basic Manual, Little, Brown and Company, 2005.
ISBN: 9780316373050 (Retail price: $28)

Course Goals

1. To learn basic B&W photographic skills
2. To develop individual artistic expression
3. To develop skills in discussion of photographic work
4. To have fun

A basic black-and-white photography course designed for those with no experience in photography. Emphasis is placed on the application of technique in terms of personal expression, through the selection and composition of subject matter. Class size is limited, providing for a greater degree of individual critique and classroom participation. The course comprises technical lectures, darkroom demonstrations, slide lectures on historical and contemporary work as well as class critiques. Each student must have a camera with manually adjustable aperture and shutter speeds.

Six hours of obligatory class work are done weekly in addition to shooting and extra open lab time that is expected to be used to finish projects at a university level. Darkroom schedules and lab time cannot be changed, due to other classes that may need the laboratories. Upon completion of the course, a student can expect to have a thorough understanding of the basics of black-and-white photography.

Assignments are designed to help explore options for technical control as well as visual experimentation. Keeping in mind the inseparability of photographic technique and expression, students will be expected to articulate their particular choices in relation to the overall conceptual approach of the projects.

Requirements: Not only will you need to complete the required assignments but; during this period you will also be writing an artist statement that you can include in the final project portfolio. You will also be required to make high quality digital files of your work or instillations.

General Safety & Emergency Instructions

Click here for a pdf of SACI's General Safety & Emergency Instructions.

Additional Safety & Studio Rules

First-Aid Kit in the Photography Darkroom
In the darkroom upstairs, next to the entrance, is a green first-aid kit for eye injuries. It contains a solution for application to the eyes, eye patches, a plastic container, and scissors.


(Please note: The following schedule is subject to change.)

Week 1

Tuesday, January 14
Introduction to course.
Syllabus review.
Visit to Photo store.

Thursday, January 16
The camera and the lens: how they function (Chapter #1 Beginnings, #2 Camera Types, #4 Black and White Film).
Aperture and Shutter speed.
Test of light meter.
Assign Project #1: expose one film to be developed during the next class. If possible use Kodak Tri-X 400 ASA.

Week 2

Tuesday, January 21
Film development (Chapter #9 Film Developing pp. 129/149).
Reminder: bring exposed film and negative sleeves and binder.

Thursday, January 23
How to make contact sheets. Introduction to the photographic enlargement and use of contrast filters for B&W. (Chapter #10 Making The Print pp. 161/192).
Reminder: bring processed film, 18x24cm and 24x30cm photographic paper.

Week 3

Tuesday, January 28
Review on the camera and the lens, aperture and shutter speed controls (Chapter #3 Black and White Film, #4 The Camera Lens, #5 The Shutter and #6 Film Exposure pp. 69/84).
Questions & answers.
Assign Project #2 “The Natural and the Urban Landscape” or “Natural Form” due February 18.
Slide show on landscape and nature.

Thursday, January 30
Negative evaluation
Printing: Demo on dodging and burning (Chapter #10 Making The Print pp. 192/199).

Week 4

Tuesday, February 04
Field trip to “Mercato delle Cascine” Le Cascine Market and Park or another location.

Thursday, February 06
​Darkroom lab. Process film shot during the field trip and print for assignment #2.

Week 5

Tuesday, February 11
Darkroom lab, free printing and processing.

Thursday, February 13
Light and exposure, How to fool the light meter and push/pull (Chapter #6 Film Exposure pp. 85/97, #9 Developing Film p. 150/160).
Questions and answers.
Characteristics of emulsions, I will show examples.
Chemicals for B&W developing and printing.

Week 6

Tuesday, February 18
Critique of Project #2 (4 pictures).
Assign Project #3 "The human form: portrait and self-portrait," due March 24

Thursday, February 20
Field Trip: The MNAF – The Alinari Photography Museum or an exhibit in the city of Firenze.

Week 7

Tuesday, February 25
Slide show on people, portrait and self-portrait.
Camera Accessories: Camera filters, tripods, hand held light meters (Chapter #7 Camera Accessories).

Thursday, February 27
Photographic Syntax, different materials, papers and print size.
How an image can change by its presentation...a matt vs. a book.
Reminder: think of project #4 before break.

I will assign on March 19, A Personal Investigation. 12 pictures matted or presented in some form (not loose prints) and an artist's statement.


Week 8

MIDTERM BREAK (February 29 - March 08)


Week 9

Tuesday, March 10
Presentation of professor Di Loreto’s personal work.

Thursday, March 12
​Darkroom lab, free printing and processing.

Week 10

Tuesday, March 17
Darkroom lab, free printing and processing.

Thursday, March 19
Assign Project #4 (A Personal Investigation).
12 pictures matted or presented in some form (not loose prints) and an artist's statement.
I would like a written proposal of the project: ASAP.
Reminder: critique next session assignment #3.

Week 11

Tuesday, March 24
Critique of Project #3 (4 pictures).

Thursday, March 26
​Slide show on indoor photographs or Projection of a DVD called “Contacts” Printing.

Week 12

Tuesday, March 31
Presentation of photographs: Spotting and matting (Chapter #12 Finishing The Print pp. 232/245).
Museum/Gallery visit TBA.

Thursday, April 02
Work on final critique.

Week 13

Tuesday, April 07
Work on final critique.
Review of work completed.
Sign-up sheet will be posted for the final critiques.

Thursday, April 09
Work on final critique.
Reminder: Please bring a few of your prints for your final projects, so that reproductions can be made.

Week 14

Tuesday, April 14
Work on final critique.
Reminder: Please bring a few of your prints for your final projects, so that reproductions can be made.

Thursday, April 16
Work on final critique.

Week 15

FINAL EXAM WEEK - April 20 – 24

Tuesday, April 21 Thursday, April 23

Final critique (12 images and a written paragraph summarizing the presentation).
A sign-up sheet will be posted for the final critiques on April 07. Students have the option of signing up to have the final critique on April 21 or April 23, depending on the progress of the final project. Students must be present at both final critique sessions.



The portfolio must be of approximately 12 finished images or, depending on the project, an amount agreed upon with the instructor. Also required is a well-researched artist statement, which you will work on the entire term in place of the written assignments normally, assigned in this course. I also ask that good high quality digital files or scans of your work or instillations are submitted. Including identification of the artist, title, photographic process, date, and size. You are required to leave a copy of this documentation with me and the TA.

this page