ARTS444 Advanced Black & White Photography, Romeo Di Loreto, Fall 2019 | SACI College of Art & Design Florence

ARTS444 Advanced Black & White Photography, Romeo Di Loreto, Fall 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 for the advanced level and for advanced students.

Necessary, prerequisites: Introductory Photography and Intermediate Photography in black and white at college or university levels. If one of the prerequisites has NOT BEEN FILLED, the student must present a coherent, recent portfolio and must have an interview (in person, through telephone or via e–mail) with the instructor teaching the course. (An entry test may be given prior to acceptance to evaluate the student's level.)

Special emphasis will be placed upon aesthetic and visual concerns as well as craftsmanship and the understanding of black and white photography at the advanced level. The students enrolled in this class must have a full understanding of the following course basics: advanced understanding and operation of the camera, the lens, film types, film exposure, black and white film development, the negative, black and white print making, toning, and the final re-touching (all course material covered in Photography II).

This course and term is divided in two sections:

  1. The first half of the term will consist of a review of materials covered in at intermediate level - proper processing techniques, developers and papers and how they affect the image syntax; pushing and pulling and the zone system (altering the film's characteristic curve);advanced printing controls, like farmers reducer and flashing; working with continuous tone lith film and inter negatives for alternative printing.

    If a student is already above this level, the professor will assign the portfolio preparation project immediately. In addition to the visual work, the professor will assign reading and articles discussing aesthetics and contemporary photographic issues.

  2. The second half of the term will be a study of your personal vision and portfolio preparation. You will dedicate the rest of the term on a personal project that you will propose and conclude. You may choose to work with any technique, with the traditional black and white silver gelatin print, mixed medium, assemblage boxes, books, boxes, projections, light boxes, collages or any of the techniques you saw in class.

Requirements: a 15 to 20 image portfolio with a coherent theme in a professional presentation for a gallery or graduate school portfolio. During this period you will also be writing an artist statement that you can include in this portfolio.

Students in this course are expected to do personal testing and push their aesthetic ideologies. Please remember that the program you set out to complete in your college or university degree truly depends on the work you set out to complete.

I try to structure my classes 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 efficiently by watching and doing, rather than by 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.

Field Trips

We go to as many contemporary photography and art related exhibitions as possible. Where we go depends on which traveling exhibits are in Florence during the term.


This includes participation/full participation.
Attendance and promptness are mandatory. Two absences will result in one grade less. Two latenesses are equivalent to one absence. Eight minutes tardiness is equal to lateness.

Critiques are like tests; therefore, they cannot be missed! Check the final exam date on your schedule. No final critique absences will be excused; therefore no flights can be scheduled before or on this date. Missing the final critique will greatly affect your grade, resulting in a high risk of failure. Any exceptions to this rule will be made by the instructor and the dean, so please talk to us in advance.


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 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 or Medium or Large Format (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 all students purchase film here, due to risk of airport x-ray fogging and suggestions of diverse film from professor. This will be taught during the term.)
  • 18x24 variable contrast / resin – coated photographic paper pearl finish (carta politenata / perla 18x24)
  • 24x30 variable contrast / resin – coated photographic paper pearl finish (carta politenata / perla 24x30)
    (More advanced students may use Fiber based paper)
  • 35mm or other format clear plastic negative sleeves - porta negativi
  • Binder to keep all negatives and contact sheets - quaderno per porta negative
    (A good suggestion to to buy the last two items in North America or country of origin, this will allow for a consistent system of archiving of your negatives.)
  • 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 / 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. Ask 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
    Web site: - E-mail:

For Computer Repairs (MAC)

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

Recommended Reading

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. Note: Many required and recommended texts are available for loan or can be consulted in the SACI Worthington Library.

Henry Horenstein, Beyond Basic Photography: A Technical Manual, Little, Brown & Company, 1977.
ISBN: 9780316373128 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Christopher James, The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes, Delmar Thomson Learning, 2002.
ISBN: 9780766820777 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

John Berger, About Looking, Pantheon Books, 1980.
ISBN: 9780394739076 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, Vintage Books, 1993.
ISBN: 9780099225416 (Retail price: $14)

Robert Adams, Beauty in Photography. Essays in Defense of Traditional Values , Aperture, 1996.
ISBN: 9780893813680 (Retail price: $16.95)

John Berger, Ways of Seeing, Penguin Books, 1977.
ISBN: 9780140135152 (Retail price: $16)

Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World , Vintage, 2007.
ISBN: 9780307279507 (Retail price: $16.95)

Susan Sontag, On Photography, Penguin, 1979.
ISBN: 9780140053975 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Michael Rush, New Media in Late 20th-Century Art, Thames & Hudson, 1999.
ISBN: 9780500203293 (To Be Determined)

Andy Grundberg, Crisis of the Real: Writings on Photography since 1974 , Aperture, 1999.
ISBN: 9780893818555 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual In Art, Dover Publications , Inc., 1977.
ISBN: 9780486234113 (Retail price: $6.95)

Herbert Read, The Meaning of Art, Faber & Faber, 1960.
ISBN: 978-0571096589 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Hal Foster, The Anti-Aesthetic. Essays on Postmodern Culture, The New Press, 1998.
ISBN: 9781565844629 (Retail price: $21.95)

Peter Galassi, Before Photography: Painting and the Invention of Photography , The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1981.
ISBN: 9780870702549 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Trewin Copplestone, Art in Society, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1983.
ISBN: 9780130477125 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

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

Course Goals

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

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.

Course grades will be based on class participation/discussion, assignments, critiques, quantity/quality of energy and imagination invested in each assignment, oral presentations and final critique. Attendance and promptness are mandatory. Three absences will result in one grade less. Chronic lateness will result in same (3 late classes = 1 absence).

Assignments must be turned in the week requested. No exceptions, unless one has a note from the Dean.

Note to Advanced Students!

To all advanced students: I suggest you work on one continuous project - a small portfolio for graduate school applications or photographs for a graduating senior exhibition. Remember your project may not be fully completed, but you will have a good start on your ideas and photos. It is very important that, if you wish to work on one project all term, I receive a written proposal as soon as possible (before the first week of the course). You may make an appointment with me if you need to clarify your ideas.

Remember you are in Europe! Use this experience in your vision and ideas.

The portfolio must be of approximately 15 to 20 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 either copy slides or good digital reproductions on CD be made of your work, including identification of the artist, title, photographic process, date, and size. You are required to leave a copy of this documentation with me; digital images on a CD are more economical.

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

Monday September 9
Introduction to course.
Visit Photo store to buy all material for class.


Wednesday, September 11
The camera and the lens: How they function.
Test of light meter, aperture and speed (reminder: Bring camera and manuals if you have them).

Assign Project #1 (expose at least three rolls of film). One of the rolls must be made at SACI (example, the gardens) – yes, the entire roll and this is the only requirement! Use your creativity, you are individuals and you all have a personal language.
Photograph – Sensations, feelings and fears…notes of the new! I would like to see you use the camera and film like a notebook. Transmit your state of mind. Observe the blindingly obvious!
Is a photograph a window or a mirror?

** Read chapter #1 "In Plato’s Cave" of Susan Sontag’s On Photography** and write a short description of your thoughts, a personal opinion would be appreciated. I would like it typed, short and anonymous.
Due September 18.

Week 2

Monday, September 16
Film development (reminder: Bring one exposed film and negative sleeves).

Lecture and demo on film development (break any bad habits).

It is important that all levels of students be present.


Wednesday, September 18
Contact Sheets (reminder: Bring developed film, 24x30 cm paper and 18x24 cm paper).

*** Hand in reading assignment, paragraph on Susan Sontag ***
Printing test, with negatives that you choose. Use one or two negatives for all your technical printing exercises. In this way you have comparisons and can see differences.

If we have time we will have a quick overview on the use of aperture and shutter speed for creative use, the importance of selective focus. Printing test, with negatives that you choose. Use one or two negatives for all your technical printing exercises. In this way you have comparisons and can see differences.

The camera as a television screen.
Slide shows on a variety of photographic artists.

Week 3

Monday, September 23
Printing: Demo and explanation on use of contrast filters and burning and dodging. Split filter printing method. Printing and verification of students' level. Check bad printing habits.

(Reminder: Bring developed negatives and 18 x 24 cm paper).
Printing demo in trays and in the processing machine.
Perhaps a demo by teaching assistant! On tray processing of paper.
Assign reading.


Wednesday, September 25
Hand in first assignment, contact sheets in an envelope with name, class and first selections.

Slide show (The Landscape and Nature).
Assign assignment #2 “The Urban or Natural landscape could include Natural Form”
Due October 14.
I would like a minimum of 6 images.

Week 4

Monday, September 30
Negative evaluation, what a negative should look like, how they should be interpreted.

Review on aperture and speed controls and film development in theory.
Demo: Contrast control. Flashing of the photographic paper and Farmers Reducer.
Free printing time for assignment #2.


Wednesday, October 2
Field Trip to San Salvi or Le Cascine park.
Bring lots of film.
Lesson on the hand-held light meter.

Week 5

Monday, October 7
Printing and processing film from field trip, printing is suggested.
Assign reading.


Wednesday, October 9
Light and how it can fool the camera - white subjects, dark subjects, skin tones and back lighting. Pushing and pulling.
If we have time, review of work completed.
**Perhaps: Visit to exhibition**
Printing (Reminder: critique next class.)

Week 6

Monday, October 14
Critique of assignment #2 (6 images or more).


Wednesday, October 16
Slide show (people, portraiture, self-portrait and the human form).

Assign assignment #3 “The Portrait or the Human Form” (6 images or more). Due November 18.
Contact and non-contact: The psychological impact of the subject and the power of the camera.
1. At least one image must be of someone in our class or a self-portrait.
2. One of the portraits must be manipulated during or after printing.
or must be taken or stolen from any source you wish (example: magazines, films, internet).

Week 7

Monday, October 21
Field Trip: The MNAF – The Alinari Photography Museum (if they re-open) or another exhibition in Florence if possible!

Assign reading and written project on the found portrait.


Wednesday, October 23
Lecture on how image syntax can change with papers, developers and different photographic techniques and even size. Lecture will include demonstrations.

If the lecture finishes early, you have printing time to practice what we discussed.



Week 8

MIDTERM BREAK (October 26 - November 3)


Week 9

Monday, November 4
I will show my work and discuss my philosophy as a photographer.
If we have time, open dark room lab.


Wednesday, November 6
Free Printing time.
Take up midterm tests.

Week 10

Monday, November 11
Free printing and processing time.


Wednesday, November 13
Assign assignment #5 “A Personal Investigation.” Start thinking about it! Requirement: A written project proposal, and individual meetings with Romeo. I would like the written proposal ASAP. Printing for assignment #3

Week 11

Monday, November 18
Critique of assignment #3 (6 images).


Wednesday, November 20
Slide show on indoor photographs or Projection of a DVD called “Contacts” Printing.

Week 12

Monday, November 25
Presentation and demo on mounting and matting.
Where to buy boards.
Demo on Spot Toning or printing.

*** Perhaps visit to exhibition ***

Assign reading.
Reminder of assignment #4 Final Project “A Personal investigation.”
I would like the project proposals today.


Wednesday, November 27

Individual meetings with Romeo.

Week 13

Monday, December 2
Printing for final project.
Sign-up sheet will be posted for the final critiques.


Wednesday, December 4
Demo on how to make reproductions of your work for galleries and portfolios.

Week 14

Monday, December 9


Wednesday, December 11

(FINAL EXAM WEEK: December 16 to December 20)

Week 15

Monday December 16 and Wednesday December 18
FINAL CRITIQUE (12 images and a written paragraph of the presentation).
I may keep your work until the end of the week, so I can make reproductions for SACI documentation purposes.
All students must be present at both final critiques.

A sign-up sheet will be posted for the final critiques on December 2. Students have the option of signing up to have the final critique on Monday December 16 or Wednesday December 18, depending on the progress of the final project.


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