Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2020

Author's School

Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts

Author's Program


Degree Name

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)




What makes a photograph great? This is the central question which guides my research, and I answer this question in two parts. The first element is the structure of the photograph, which Robert Adams addresses in his collection of essays, Beauty in Photography: Essays in Defense of Traditional Values. With the guiding principle that structure can provide harmony in an image, I develop a collection of guidelines for composing images and name them the “Rules of Clarity.” The purpose of these rules is to help photographers create harmonious compositions, free from distractions. When a photograph has few distractions, it becomes easy to read. To show this, I break down my photograph Dick O’Bryan (2014) and explain that when there are no distractions, a viewer can develop a relationship with the content. The content leads into the second element which makes a great photograph, which is the “punctum” of the image. Following ideas developed in Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida, I analyze the role of the punctum and use this idea to write about why I am drawn to photographs of people who are now deceased. A photograph of a dead person is a proof of existence, but also a reference to the passing of time. A photograph becomes a prophesy of death. For my capstone project, I make photographs for this limbo. I create obituary photographs, which are made while my subjects are alive but for when they are dead.

Mentor/Primary Advisor

Michael Byron