Book Review: ‘Open Aperture’ by Paul Matte

By The Arty Teacher - April 20, 2021

I have been lucky enough to be sent a copy of the photography book ‘Open Aperture.  The Evolution of Photography in an Abstract World’ by its author Paul Matte.  I’m really pleased that it has been brought to my attention as the more I’ve looked at it, the more I’ve realised that it is pure gold for art and photography teachers.

This is partly because of the way it is structured; it is organised by genre rather than chronology.  And partly because of its content; like all good photography books you can flick through its pages and get lost in a photograph.

Why is this book great for Photography Teachers?

As a busy teacher, don’t you just love a book that does some of the work for you?  ‘Open Aperture’ is split up into chapters each of which would make ideal photography project.  I suppose this is no surprise when you learn that Paul Matte is a retired photography teacher who taught for 31 years.   Chapter titles such as ‘Social Portraiture’, ‘The Snapshot Aesthetic’, ‘Street Photography’ and ‘Abstraction’ are all ideal starting points for a unit of work.

In each chapter, the theme is explained and explored.  Then photographers are introduced and key works presented.  This is an accessible format for busy teachers and interested students.

For example, in the chapter ‘Hand-Painted Photographs’, a topic ripe for the art room, takes us through a brief history of the genre and then introduces us to artists who have explored this way of working.  We are shown photographs that have been hand-tinted with varying degrees of subtlety using watercolour, oil pastels, oil paints, through to Gerhard Richter’s photographs that have been pulled through paint leaving a thick, textural layer.  So many possibilities!

It is Ideal for New Photography Teachers

Its pages are illustrated with the photographs of the big names that you would expect to find there for each chapter.  Man Ray, Diane Arbus, Annie Leibovitz, Edward Weston, Walker Evan and many more.  If you are a new teacher and want to build your subject knowledge, this book is a good place to start.

You can find ‘Open Aperture’ on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. #Ad

Free Assessment Rubrics for Art & Photography Teachers

Paul Matte has kindly given us his assessment rubrics to share with those teachers who register on The Arty Teacher.  There is a careers-worth of knowledge in these rubrics and I feel we are lucky to have them.  Over the next few months I will be publishing his rubrics with versions for the US and UK.  You can find the first, on the chapter ‘Abstraction’ by clicking the image below.

There will be more rubrics to follow too.

Open Aperture by Paul Matte

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The Arty Teacher

Sarah Crowther is The Arty Teacher. She is a high school art teacher in the North West of England. She strives to share her enthusiasm for art by providing art teachers around the globe with high-quality resources and by sharing her expertise through this blog.

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