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Photography course added for first time in years

In the upcoming spring semester, Visiting Professor Ally Christmas, art, will teach a special topic course, Contemporary Photography.

The studio art department has not offered a photography course in recent history, but Christmas’ arrival to the College this fall as an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow has provided opportunities for students to explore visual and digital arts. This semester, Christmas taught Digital Image and Video Production, which will be offered again next fall.

Contemporary Photography will be open to all students regardless of prior experience, with registration priority given to studio art and art history majors. The course, which counts towards the studio art major, delves into many aspects of photography and editing, as well as photography’s interdisciplinary abilities and potential.

“Really, a large part of the class is hopefully focused on sort of breaking apart students’ preconceived notions of what photography is and can do today. I think that maybe photography has a bad rap sometimes of its limitations, but there’s some really incredible and groundbreaking work being done in contemporary photography today,” said Christmas.

The beginning of the course will focus on learning the basics of technical skills involved in photography, such as using a camera. Students will also work with basic Adobe editing software including Bridge for file management and workflow, Camera Raw, Lightroom and Photoshop. These skills from the first part of the class will carry on through the entire semester in students’ photography work.

From there, students will focus on developing a body of work through a series of images and learn to present work both digitally and in print form. They will discuss and practice documentary and straight photography before moving on to the constructed image and photo as illusion. Christmas highlights the importance of storytelling through images that students will create and those that they will analyze. The semester will end by delving into performance for the camera before students create a final portfolio of their best work.

A crucial aspect of the course involves developing the ability to analyze images, beyond simply making them.

“Knowing how to read and interpret an image critically, I think is so vital today, even when we’re just scrolling through social media or looking at the news. Picking up on different visual cues and photographs and being able to understand what they mean is really important, and that’s something I’ll be emphasizing in the class,” Christmas said.

The course will also highlight the interdisciplinary potential of photography with other mediums of art, such as papermaking and sculpture. This will provide students with expanded room for creativity by bridging their work in photography with other artistic interests. Christmas also acknowledges the capacity for photography to portray deeper messages.

“Overall I want students to know that photography is a critical medium. I think not just as makers, as artists, but also just as humans who have to interact with other humans in society. I think it can be used to talk about a lot of really important issues like politics or identity or representation,” she said.

The course will take place on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:00 until 3:50 p.m.

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