The “Photo City”
Rochester is sometimes known as the “Photo City,” and for good reason. As the birthplace of Kodak, it has a rich history in photography and is home to the George Eastman Museum, Visual Studies Workshop, Kodak’s headquarters. (Plus a whole lot of talented artists and photo geeks!)
I’ve been passionate about photography for a long time, so I was really excited to arrive here and take part in its history. In my three and a half years here, I’ve gone to museums, meetups at the Kodak headquarters, and had a remote collections internship with VSW last summer through the Humanities for Life program. This year, I’m finally involved with the art department here at the U of R!
It’s my last semester here, so I decided I’d finally take a photography class like I’d always considered. I’m in Advanced Photography: Remixes & Collages now, offered through the Department of Art and Art History. The department offers majors, minors, and clusters in art history and studio arts. But other students (like me!) can take most of these classes as electives as well. Other studio art courses include painting, printmaking, architecture, video and new media.
Remixes and Collages
Photography, more than other subjects, translates really well to a hybrid learning model. Studying it remotely changes little for me because so much of it is done outside of a book, lecture or class. It doesn’t always require a studio space, and I like having a flexible schedule to experiment with natural lighting.
In order to work well in an online format, professor Evelyne Leblanc-Roberge designed the course to focus on image manipulation. We’ve been learning about lens-based and collage artists and their processes, and she doesn’t emphasize using any specific equipment. I complete assignments with my phone camera sometimes, and a free imaging software called GIMP! Our projects focus largely on concepts and ideas, like “loops,” or “remixing time.” Evelyne has been encouraging us to experiment and explore new techniques instead of worrying about making things perfect. Class has made me feel good about trying new things and forced me out of my comfort zone.
What class is like
We meet as a class once or twice a week online. Meetings include a combination of small group and one-on-one sessions. As a group, we critique each others’ projects and learn about other lens-based artists. During one-on-one meetings, we generally brainstorm and get feedback on in-progress work.
And while I do still look forward to gathering with my classmates again someday, I don’t feel like I’m missing out much doing this class online! My classmate Faraz Ghorbanpour (’21), a studio art major, said he agrees that the class feels about as normal as it can get. He also mentioned that he enjoys how the course is focused on all sorts of digital imaging. He has considerable photoshop experience, which he said he’s glad to put to use for class despite being newer to photography.
Sage Art Center
The Sage Art Center building is home to the studio art program, and the building is currently open for students enrolled in Studio Art courses. Using it as a workspace this semester has been amazing! It’s quiet there, and easy to stay physically distant. I love being surrounded by art supplies, works-in-progress, and the chance to run into the classmates I otherwise only see on Zoom. The class has the lab reserved during our meeting time, so we have the option of logging on from the computers there. Otherwise, students can tune in from home and access programs like Photoshop remotely. Plus there’s a gallery space in Sage displaying student works from current art classes! I’ve started working there a few days a week this semester. I definitely put a little extra work into my art projects as an excuse to leave the house!
I certainly miss getting to meet with my teachers and classmates in real life as much as the next person. But a digital photography class, where we’d do most of our work individually and share it in a digital space regardless, offers me a bit of normalcy during a challenging year. The only thing I’m disappointed about is that I never took a studio art class earlier!