ARTS241 Beginning Black & White Photography, Romeo Di Loreto, Summer I 2019 | SACI College of Art & Design Florence

ARTS241 Beginning Black & White Photography, Romeo Di Loreto, Summer I 2019

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 “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 will go on several field trips: Giardino di Boboli, Museo Zoologico (La Specola), 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). Eight minutes tardiness is equal to a lateness.


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
 - (completion of assignments, punctuality/attendance, quiz grades, journals): 40% of the grade.
Final Exam
 - (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
- 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)
- 35mm clear plastic negative sleeves - porta negativi
- Binder to keep all negatives and contact sheets - quaderno per porta negativi
- Ilford anti–static cloth - panno anti–statico
- Towel - asciugamano
- Apron - grembiule
- Scissors - forbici
- Rubber gloves (optional) - guanti di gomma

Where to Purchase Photo 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 required by MFA students. You can also find good pre-cut or custom cut archival matt board (with sufficient notice) at fotomatica at very good prices!

For Camera Repairs

  1. Punto Reflex
    Private Repair Service (take 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
    Web site: - E-mail:

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)


Horenstein, Henry, Black & White Photography: A Basic Manual, Little, Brown & Company, 1983.
ISBN: 9780316373050 (Retail price: $28)

Other written information will be assigned on a class to class basis.

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 lab work are done weekly in addition to class time. Darkroom schedules and lab time cannot be changed. 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.

General Safety & Emergency Instructions

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

Additional Safety Information

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, May 21

Course introduction and overview of syllabus and class schedule. What is expected of you in this class?
Test light meters, apertures and shutter speeds.
(Reminder: bring cameras and manuals if you have them.)
Visit Bongi Photo store to buy all material for class.

We all need a 35mm manual analog film SLR camera!

Break for lunch.

Assign Project #1 (A DOCUMENT vs. DOCUMENTARY)
Photograph – What realistically makes a photograph “Art” or is it a mere rendering of reality?  The camera as a reproduction tool? Is a photograph a window or a mirror? Observe and do not only see!
For this assignment, I would like a (minimum) of two rolls of film and contact sheets.
* The two films must be of different sensitivities, ISO’s *
Due Thursday, May 23.
** Read chapter #1 of Susan Sontag’s On Photography chapter title, "In Plato’s Cave."**
Please write a short paragraph on your thoughts. It must be anonymous and will be pinned up in class, and will be possibly discussed in class.
Due Tuesday, May 28
The camera and the lens: how they function.  For all students that need some refreshing.
A requirement for the students in the lower level.
If we have time we will have a quick overview of aperture and shutter speed for creative use,
Importance of selective focus! The camera as a television screen.
A requirement for the students in the lower level. Bring your cameras.

Thursday, May 23
Film development (reminder: bring exposed film and negative sleeves).
Lecture and demo on film development (break any bad habits).
It is important and required that all levels of students be present.

Break for lunch.

Contact Sheets (reminder: bring developed film, 24x30 paper).
Assign Reading, “On Reading Contact Sheets.”
Slide show of various photographic artists.

Week 2

Tuesday, May 28
Printing: demo and explanation on use of contrast filters as a tool; print; check any bad printing habits. Demo on burning and dodging.
(Reminder: bring developed negatives and 18 x 24 paper.)
Printing demo in trays and in the processing machine.
Perhaps a demo on tray processing of paper.
Slide show (The Landscape and Natural Form).

Break for lunch.

Assign project #2 “The Natural or Urban Landscape” or “Natural Form and Still Life”
Due June 4, a minimum of four images. Class Critique requirement for all.
Assign readings. Roland Barthes and Barbara Bullock/Wayne Bullock.

Negative evaluation, what a negative should look like, how they should be interpreted.
Printing time.
Reminder: hand in first assignment; contact sheets plus a minimum of two work prints. Place in envelope, labelled with your name, in Romeo Di Loreto's box in the faculty lounge by SACI closing time. (Best if you give to me in person during class today.)

Thursday, May 30
Light and how it can fool the camera…white subjects, dark subjects, skin tones and back lighting. A short description of the zone system and a characteristic curve. Sensitometry. Show examples of film and its responses on light due to film speed, push/pull and formats.

Break for lunch.

Demo: Contrast control. Flashing of the photographic paper and Farmers Reducer.
Printing for Assignment #2 (Reminder: critique next class).

Week 3

Tuesday, June 4
Printing for critique this afternoon.

Break for lunch.

Critique of assignment #2 (4 images or more).
Assign project #3 “The Portrait or the Human Form.”
Contact or non-contact, the psychological impact to the viewer.
August Saunders, Weston, Francesca Woodman, Ralph Gibson, Karsh, W. Eugene Smith, Joe’s photo studio, your ID’s, Harry Callahan, Jock Sturges, Tina Modotti.
Due June 11, minimum of four images.
Assign project #4 “A Personal Investigation.” Start thinking about it! Requirement: A written project proposal, and individual meetings with Romeo. If possible, written proposals should be ready for June 11.
A minimum of 10 to 12 images presented: not as loose prints… think of a presentation.

Thursday, June 6

Slide show (people, portraiture, self-portrait and the human form).
Lecture on how image syntax can change with papers, developers and different photographic techniques, and even size. Lecture will include demonstrations.
Printing (suggestion, try different papers: Warm Tone or Cold Tone paper and fiber based).
Characteristics of emulsion: film and paper.

Break for lunch.

Printing for Assignment #4 (Reminder critique next class)
Assign reading.

Week 4

Tuesday, June 11

Written project proposals should be complete.

Break for lunch.

Critique of assignment #3 (4 images or more)

Thursday, June 13
I will show my work and discuss my philosophy as a photographer.
Individual meetings with Romeo for your final project, if you have not met with him.

Break for lunch.

Printing for project #4.

Week 5

Tuesday, June 18
Presentation and demo on mounting and matting. Where to buy boards?
Demo on Spot Toning.

Individual meetings with Romeo, if you have not met with him.
(Reminder: critique next class.)
Printing for project #4.

Break for lunch.

Printing for project #4.

We will make reproductions during class.

Thursday, June 20
FINAL CRITIQUE (10 to 12 images and an artist statement) 


When I can organize a field trip to an exhibition, you will be notified!

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