I have found the following post very enlightening and informative and because I want to get back to this again and again I am writing this post to have it here and reread it:
“The first Assignment in the first of the OCA Photography course, The Art of Photography, is an exercise in finding and photographing contrasting qualities. There’s a particular purpose here, and it is intended to set the tone for the course. Deliberately, this first assignment has nothing to do with camera mechanics, or lenses, or any of the usual purely photographic issues. Instead, it goes to one of the roots of making images. As mentioned in the assignment notes, it is a contemporary, photographic version of one of the first exercises that students at the Bauhaus in the 1920s had to undertake.
It’s worth looking at some of the reasoning that went into it by Johannes Itten, the Swiss teacher who developed and ran the Basic Course (or Foundation Course). The Bauhaus was founded in Germany as a school of crafts and fine arts by the architect Walter Gropius in 1919, and became best known as a Modernist design school that integrated a number of disciplines. It was hugely influential in art, architecture, graphic, interior and industrial design, and typography. Less so photography, even though Itten was succeeded by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, but the underlying ideas taught by Itten in the first term are relevant to all kinds of image-making.
The Basic Course took place over what was actually a provisional term, and it was Itten’s idea. He suggested it to Gropius as a way of dealing with a problem he faced from the first student submissions in the winter of 1919. He took with him a number of his own students whom he had been teaching in Vienna, and they were not, of course, part of the problem. That lay with the range of students coming from all over Germany, the “young and not-so-young” who were “at very varied levels of training.” Itten was frustrated that the work that many of them had submitted for acceptance “was devoid of individual expression.” Radical in his teaching approach as he was, he laid the blame on the fact that “most of them had attended the usual colleges of arts and crafts and academies of art.” He had a low opinion of these, commenting that when he himself began studying in Geneva, “the subjects were taught, there as in all other art colleges, in a medieval manner.”
The Basic Course in a first term was to be the solution. It had three tasks as he saw it. One was to shake out the “dead wood of convention” that students had acquired elsewhere, so as to “liberate the creative forces and thereby the artistic talents.” A second was to help students decide on their careers by letting them experiment with different materials and find the creative area they felt most at home in. The third task was “to present the principles of creative composition to the students for their future careers as artists.” Itten, in other words, saw composition not as a way of improving the organisation of images, a series oftechniques <http://thefreemanview.com/category/techniques/> that wold be useful to artists, but as the core of creative thought. And this is why we have made it the first photography assignment in the OCA courses <http://thefreemanview.com/category/oca_photography_courses/> . Over on the Techniques <http://thefreemanview.com/category/techniques/> page, we take an extended look at it, because I want to explore something beyond Assignment 1, which is the rôle of contrast in composition within a single image.”