Here and Home: The MKE Challenge

Put your photography skills to the test! Novice and experienced photographers alike are invited to take part in a series of assignments drawn from the legendary lessons of Larry Sultan included in the Photographer’s Playbook (2014). Once a week, beginning October 24, the Museum, Art's Cameras Plus, and 88Nine Radio Milwaukee will assign a challenge for 6 weeks. Completed assignments will be digitally displayed in the Museum. To submit your entry use the hashtag #MKEChallenge on Twitter and Instagram or upload here.

The assignments were created by noted photographers Larry Sultan, Dru Donovan, Greg Halpern, Doug Dubois, Sean McFarland and Abner Nolan, reflecting practices that helped refine their own work and teachings. The Photographer's Playbook is available in the Museum Store and online.

Assignment #1 - Larry Sultan

Fake Evidence

"[Evidence] was the culmination of 2 years of research into mostly aerospace, state and government archives. The photographs are taken literally from [these] files. Because their function was once documentary - to document specific programs for industry, and now they were pure connotation - they no longer had their specific instrumental function. They could mean whatever we could nudge them into meaning through context and visual association. We created one fictitious Evidence picture that we bet John Humphrey (SFMoMA Photography curator 1935-78) a bottle of Chivas that he couldn’t [identify]. To his credit he actually chose it, and we bought him a bottle of scotch and drank it with him." - Larry Sultan

Assignment: Make an undetectable, fake Evidence photograph

Assignment #2 - Dru Donovan

Sound Photographs

Use an audio recording device to capture a minimum of 3 disparate sounds. Record both observed sounds and constructed sounds. Listen to the sounds and imagine how you would make photographs of these sounds. Do not think of the visual scene as you remember it, but use the sound as a launching off point for a photograph. Would you photograph the action that caused the sound or create a more abstract interpretation of the sound? Try not to make photographs that point at sounds; rather, try to make viewers feel as though they are listening when looking at your photographs.

Assignment #3 - Greg Halpern

Truth or Dare

Make a purely objective photograph. It may not be possible, but try. We know photographs can “lie.” Is it possible for them to tell the truth?

Assignment #4 - Doug Dubois

Fits and Starts

This assignment is a celebration of false starts, dead ends and wrong turns. It’s quite simple – show us a photograph that fails in an interesting way. The misstep should be less of a technical error, such as underexposure and more of a conceptual misstep like a wedding gone wrong. Of course, one can always lead to the other to produce a marriage of cave dwelling shut-ins.

The whole point of this exercise is to come to grips with the simple fact that more often than not, all artists fail. Celebrating this kinship, getting it out in the open helps to avoid the delusion of self-pity and lighten the burden of defeat. Hopefully, we can laugh at our efforts and keep the faith, so critical to art and life, that things will get better.

Assignment #5 - Abner Nolan

An Altogether Different Lesson

In the mid ‘90s I was a photography teacher for an elementary school in South Florida. They are still among the best photographers I ever taught. This is a modified version of one of the assignments I gave them: photograph someone you love while they sleep.

Assignment #6 - Sean McFarland

This is a photograph of…

Make or choose a photograph that you find compelling. It can be found by photographing something in the world, or by re-photographing an existing picture.

Consider the following: How do pictures tell us about the world? Can pictures have multiple meanings? Can photographs be about anything? How do we accept them as fact or dismiss them as false documents?

Without altering the photograph aside from cropping, give it a caption. Adding the text can reveal how you feel about the photograph, it may add to its perceived authenticity or create a fiction.

Here And Home: MKE Challenge Presenting Sponsor: Art's Cameras Plus

Here And Home: MKE Challenge Media Partner: 88Nine Radio Milwaukee