This course, co-taught by a nonfiction writer and a photojournalist, explores the art and craft of documenting place through words and images. Using the city of Durham as a practice ground, students will learn the skills essential to create both documentary writing and photography, as well as explore how these two genres can be used in concert to deepen a story. Given its rich history and current state of growth and change, Durham offers many opportunities for place-based storytelling that motivates thinking and reflection in others.
Students will study writing and photographs that effectively capture place, examining how these works engage with issues, evoke certain moods, and draw out narratives; discuss ethical aspects of gathering and working with stories that are not their own; and learn practical skills of both genres. They will learn how to report and conduct interviews as well as how to structure written work-incorporating research, observation, quotation, and reflection-and develop their personal literary voice. And they will learn essential elements of good visual storytelling, with an emphasis on portraiture and building a narrative through photo essays.
Throughout this six-week course, students will learn by doing, spending time in the field reporting, taking photos, and then sharing their experiences back in the classroom. As a final project, they will immerse themselves in a corner of Durham-a neighborhood, a street, a block, a building. They may produce a personal essay or a piece of literary nonfiction accompanied by several images or a photo essay with detailed captions or an introduction-or some other project that combines writing and photographs. As they work, students will receive feedback from their classmates and instructors. In the end, they will walk away with a broadened skillset for documentary work, and an understanding of how to bring places to life in textured and nuanced ways. (12 hours/All Levels)