Graduate-level photography students, and sometimes undergraduates, culminate their program of instruction with a thesis. A thesis is a novel creation using tools the student acquired during his course of instruction. In photography, students use technical skills they have acquired, and concepts behind the form, to create a portfolio.
Conveying a Story
Photography is not about simply capturing a snapshot of an objective reality. As students will have learned during their courses -- and probably realized before they started formally studying photography -- photography uses real-world images to convey the world as the photographer sees it. In this way, a photographer can tell a story by preparing a scene for his camera. Some photography students experiment with ways to tell stories with photographs as their thesis.
Beauty in Unexpected Places
Most people are familiar with conventional images of beauty: the picturesque landscape, the 20-something on the street, the touched-up photograph of the supermodel on a magazine cover. Leonard Nimoy, famous as an actor but also a photographer, undertook a project to show beauty in photographs of women who were overweight but comfortable with their body image. Students can follow in this vein to seek out beauty in unexpected places, and capture it using what they have learned in photography class.
Art expresses the infinite range of human emotions. These include basic contentment and fear of the unknown, to more abstract notions such as awe and the sublime. Photography students working on their thesis can experiment with expressing emotions with photographs. Different items evoke these emotions in different individuals, just as different individuals notice different items in any given situation. Students can use what they've learned to prepare scenes, or simply photograph everyday situations, and use their technical skills to emphasize the scene's elements that evoke the photographer's emotions. By emphasizing these elements in the photographs, they can communicate what the photographer felt, and why.
Not all photography is purely artistic. Photojournalists use their skills to capture real-life scenes that tell, and supplement, very real stories. Photojournalists -- especially those covering chaotic or violent situations -- do not always have the freedom or ability to frame scenes that other photographers could. Students specializing in photojournalism can choose to do their thesis on ways in which photojournalists can capture discrete events amid fluid scenes. Students can use protests and demonstrations as a laboratory for these techniques.
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