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Seminar Participation

This should be obvious. Come to class having read or watched the material for that day, ready to discuss that material or other material you have found on your own, and be a regular contributor to discussion and debate, and you will do well on this portion of your grade. Failure to do so may not only result in the lack of credit on this portion of your grade, but the rest of your grade in the course as well. In a word, seminar attendance and participation are paramount.

Completion of Reading and Technical Trainings

You will report on the completion of the readings on the syllabus as well as a series of technical trainings related to post-production, including editing photographs in Lightroom, editing audio in Audacity, cutting film in Premier, etc. While entire courses are taught on any one of these tasks, you will gain a basic knowledge of each in this course in order to help you complete the major assignments. But this portion of your grade will reflect the extent to which you read and undertook these trainings.

Media Reports

Media here refers to any medium of ethnographic analysis or documentation (sound, photo, video). For each of these critiques, I will provide you with an ethnographic piece (a photo essay, a soundscape, a film, etc.).  You will analyze how this piece portrays something about the human condition that written words alone could not capture. Be specific about how the piece reveals or portrays something about human experience because of the very affordances of the medium. Provide a brief synopsis (a paragraph at most) of the piece you analyzed (along with the complete citation for the piece), and then describe and critique (in approximately 400 words) the unique ways that the piece provides insight into some element of human experience through the interplay of medium and subject matter. You will turn these in for credit, but in any given week when these are due, you need to be prepared to share your synopsis and analysis of the piece in class.

Ethnographic Photo Essay

​You will produce a photographic essay on some cultural phenomenon, reflecting your original ethnographic data collection. This photo essay must include a series of images, along with any writing that is necessary to contextualize (but not replace) the images. The photo essay should stand on its own as a "thick depiction" of the cultural phenomenon that you chose to depict. But you will also include an Appendix that provides a summary of post-processing of photos (including justification of exposure methods and post-processing techniques—explicate your decision-making process), and a précis that details how these images, in your mind, accomplish some ethnographic purpose that words alone could not. ​ Parameters for the assignment include the following: ​ 1. You must take original photographs for this ethnographic photo essay. In terms of topic, pick some cultural phenomenon that can be depicted photographically, and use your skill as a visual anthropologist to undertake that depiction. ​ 2. For each image, please provide caption identifying the image (e.g., "Figure 1" or "Landscape 1" etc.) in the photo essay, and in the Appendix, please provide a) the exposure settings for the image and why you used these (ISO, shutter, aperture, resolution of the final image), b) the post-processing work you undertook with the image, and a description of why you made the decisions you did. This Appendix will also include a brief analysis of how the still images communicated meaning in ways that words could not. ​ 3. Your photographic essay should include at least 5 images, and at least 600 words. There is no maximum for the number of images or words to include in the essay, nor a required ratio of number of words to include in the essay per image. As we saw in the examples we discussed in class, photographic essays vary on these fronts. You need to include enough substance to make an ethnographic point, or to thickly depict some cultural phenomenon, but also not clutter the essay with so many images that it waters down the impact of the best, most meaningful images. Use the text to provide context to the reader/viewer of your essay and help them understand the impact of your images and how they contribute to understanding the human condition. Your writing that accompanies the images should entail sound anthropological thinking that helps make the images meaningful. Write clearly, avoid grammatical errors and vague or imprecise descriptions, and think critically about the interplay of text and image in the essay as you compose it. ​ 4. You have several options in terms of how you arrange and submit your photographic essay. You can produce a PDF that you submit for the assignment (if exporting to PDF from another software package, do NOT compress the images); you can design the essay on a photographically oriented website ( has a free period, allows a free version of its web design platform with several photographically oriented templates around which you could build your essay, etc.); you can also use Adobe Illustrator or InDesign to produce a photo essay with advanced tools to design the layout that you want to employ in order showcase them. Get creative, and consider the aesthetic impact as well as the anthropological uptake of your essay. ​ 5. Regardless of the platform that you use to design the essay, by the due date, you will upload a PDF document with either the essay itself followed by the required Appendix, or a URL or instructions as to where I can find the essay, along with the required Appendix in the PDF. Please submit it to Box by 11:59pm on the date that it is due, and name the file accordingly: "Lastname_Firstname_Photographic_Essay.pdf"

Lead DP on 3 Memory Cards

During the production phase of our collaborative ethnographic film project, you need to serve in the role of Director of Photography for at least 3 memory cards. This means that you are directing the filming for the content on those cards. It does not mean that you are not collaborating or working with others on the content for those cards. But it does mean that you are the driving force behind the content, setting up shots, coordinating how to capture ethnographic engagement with camera and sound, etc. We will discuss what this means in detail, but for the purpose of this course, you need to produce at least three memory cards of content on which you were the DP for that content. The cards need not be full, but they need to have ethnographic substance.

A rubric for the soundscape assignment can be found here.

Note: Each of these projects needs to be accompanied by a written analysis that describes how the medium illuminates the ethnographic material it deals with, including a synopsis of the analysis that the medium provides (ethnographic insights, etc.). It is also advisable to do all three major projects (photo essay, soundscape, and short film) on a single cultural community or related phenomena. The reason for this, as we will discuss, is that ethnographic filmmaking requires a degree of cultural immersion and insight that sets it apart from other forms of documentary filmmaking and multimedia work.

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