Performance and Photography

This class will be a hands-on investigation into performance and photography through making self-portraits. What does it mean to photograph yourself? Is it an act of self-exploration, narcissism, self-love, representational justice, theatre, performance? What are the possibilities and limitations of making art in this way? What can our own bodies teach us if we start to pay attention?

Through making self-portraits students will reflect on how it is to be in their particular body. Each class will have guided warm-ups which will foreground play, embodiment, and free-association out of which students will generate material for their photographic explorations. Journaling throughout the semester will encourage students to digest their first experiences at Princeton while also helping to spark ideas.

We will start by learning the basics of camera operation and from there will begin to consider how things like framing, angle of view, and distance influence meaning. Though students will learn about how to make images with intention, this is not a deeply technical class. We will be using video screenshots, phone cameras, or digital cameras and discussing how their differing qualities contribute to the mood and meaning of the final photograph. Pre-recorded technical lectures and/or assistance through The McGraw Center will be given to students with an interest in Photoshop, but this will not be covered in class.

Each class will have time devoted to looking closely at one or two artists’ work. This will be a way for students to develop their visual literacy and vocabulary for discussing photographic works while also providing art historical context. These sessions and our readings will guide us in conversations about identity, performance, and photography. Students will receive feedback frequently throughout the semester through critiques. Collaboration will be encouraged.


Application required. The application process for fall-term Freshman Seminars opens Wednesday, July 7 at 10:00 a.m. (EDT) and closes on Monday, July 19 at 12:00 noon (EDT). Apply for a Freshman Seminar




Tuesdays, 1:30-4:20 PM


Jennifer Calivas