Understanding and Working with Pictures with Dr Les Walkling

This weekend course is dedicated to how pictures think, emote, and misbehave. That is, how they work for and against us and the essential processes underpinning all image creation and affect. The 'problem' with photography, as with all technologically mediated art, is when it gets in the way of our understanding. Photography intensifies this by capturing so much in an instant that it can be hard to know when and what to pay attention to. Therefore, like any language the process needs to be deconstructed and demystified so we can work with and not against the medium. Then, our images have the best chance of achieving what we ‘need them to be’.

© Les Walkling. The site of his last embrace.
© Les Walkling. The site of his last embrace.

Specific topics include:

Analysing Pictures – The structure of images
• Decisive moments and effective compositions
• Figures and grounds: the organisation of the image
• Drawing compositions: the relationships within the image
• Tonal compositions: the drama of the image
• Colour compositions: the personality of the image
• Spatial compositions: our relationship to the image

Building Pictures – Elements of pictorial design
• Line
• Direction
• Size
• Shape
• Texture and tone
• Hue and Chroma

Designing Pictures – The principles of pictorial design
• Form and repetition
• Gradation and contrast
• Rhythm and melody
• Harmony and discord
• Unity and conflict
• Dominance and balance

Looking at Pictures – Thinking about images
• The nature of light, shade, and shadow: inherent versus imposed values
• Emotional theories of scale and aspect ratios
• Picturing things, picturing feelings
• Interpretive frameworks: formal, cultural, political, historical, personal
• Symbols, associations, metaphors, archetypes, equivalents, and illusions
• Photography: a way of seeing

Working with Pictures - Sequencing and exhibiting images
• Developing, curating, and discussing your work
• Telling a story, making a point, iterating the facts
• Stand alone images, sequencing images, and series
• Artist statements: packaging and presenting your work
• Text and image: titling, signing, and annotating works
• Exhibition design, layout, and installation

Understanding and Working with Pictures is based around looking at pictures; their critical analysis, historical investigation, and real world imaging practice. Within your own photography, this course is designed to assist you with understanding, managing and creatively working with the elements and principles of pictorial design and the photographic medium, to enable you to improve your artistic output. This workshop will also support you in contextualising and professionalising your work - how to talk about it, how to display and publish it, and have it represent you to the best of your ability.

In addition to this workshop there is an extensive workshop resource website with detailed course notes, videos, and test files.

What to bring?

While there are no prerequisites please bring along anything that you think might be helpful, especially examples of your images (files and/or prints), or those of others you admire or wish to better understand, plus anything else that you feel could be relevant.


Saturday, 18 May and Sunday, 19 May 2019, 10am—4.30pm.

About Dr Les Walkling

Les Walkling is a renowned artist, educator and art consultant. Les holds a special place in the history of CCP (formerly Victorian Centre for Photography), having been among a group of leading teachers and practitioners who originally established the centre in 1986. He has been teaching specialised workshops since 1977, and was the Program Director of Media Arts (1993 – 2005) and a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Art (2006-2010) at RMIT University. In 2012, he was named a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography, and also serves on museum boards/committees of management and cultural and technical advisory groups. As an artist, his work is exhibited and represented in many public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA), the National Gallery of Victoria, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and the National Gallery of Australia. In recent years his practice has expanded to include major collaborative projects with other artists including Peter Kennedy, Polixeni Papapetrou, Peta Clancy, Siri Hayes, and Bill Henson.

Upcoming Events Submit an Event


An ancient rock shelter in remote Arnhem Land decorated with complex x-ray figures and naturalistic animals is one of a number of extraordinary Indigenous sites featured in this exhibition of work by acclaimed Melbourne photographer, John Gollings.


The National Photographic Portrait Prize is an annual event intended to promote the very best in contemporary photographic portraiture by both professional and aspiring Australian photographers.


A series of intimate portraits depicting the same group of men as they evolve from childhood to adulthood - from boyhood in 2005, through adolescence in 2012, and into the young men they are today in 2019.

The Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize 2019 exhibition features the 30 finalists from over 3,000 entries, including the winner who took out the $50,000 first prize.

Exploring the emotions and experiences of being a chronically ill, this ongoing conceptual photographic self-portrait series takes the viewer inside the often unbearable world experienced by those with a chronic illness.

The exhibition will be Bill Henson's first in Sydney in seven years.

Now in its fourth year, Refocus Retreat is the premier conference aimed at women in the business of photography. It runs over 4 days and 3 nights (24-27 May).

'Shot in the Heart of Melbourne' is a street photography exhibition by the members of the Australian Association of Street Photographers, exploring the decisive and often indecisive moments that occur in the gritty, yet beautiful city of Melbourne