Help needed--support for college darkrooms

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Valerie, Oct 1, 2010.

  1. Valerie

    Valerie Subscriber

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    Ok, just got a memo from my department chair at the school where I teach darkroom photography. Apparently, there is question about the viability of maintaining college darkrooms and classes. I have an awesome dept. chair who is incredibly supportive of us, but we need facts, not emotionalism, to bring to the table.

    So, I'm asking for any articles, data, etc., that I can forward on to her that disputes the notion of the extinction of film.

    BTW, the existence and growth of apug is at the top of my list!

    Oh, and I need it by Monday :wink:

    (If there is a better place to put this thread, feel free to move it!)
     
  2. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    Freestyle photo has a lot of interviews, sound bites, and other material in their catalogs where educators, artists and pros defend film and so on. Showing them that there are other schools that value the darkroom might be just what you need. IME it's very important for that crowd to know what others are doing and they are uncomfortable if they feel they are out of the ordinary or being left behind or out of the loop.
     
  3. Barry S

    Barry S Member

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    Don't know if you saw this?
     
  4. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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  5. mabman

    mabman Member

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    Is this a vocational photography program or part of an overall art program? It may help us tailor our responses.
     
  6. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Subscriber

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  7. Vaughn

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    At Humboldt State University we have three beginning photography classes a semester (24 students each class) that are full every semester (and two of them start at 8am!) -- and they always have waiting lists. These are pure wet classes -- no digital components. Humboldt has about 7000 students.

    We went through this 3 years ago or so, when hiring a new Photography instructor (some of the non-photo faculty thought we should look for someone who was purely digital -- no darkroom experience required for the position). I got my ass in a sling because I wrote an open letter to the search committee on my vision of the future of the Photography Program -- as just a staff member (since 1991), how dare I offer advise to the search committee!

    Basically my premise was that wet photography was an art form in of itself and should be maintained as an art form taught by the HSU Art Department. I suggested not attaching digital photography directly to the Photograph Area, but create a new Area of Digital Art. I gave the example of the digital writing/drawing tablet and where it might eventually lead as a platform the encompasses not only drawing, but also photography, painting, film, and music (and who knows what else!)

    Once in a Department meeting I suggested a photo history class that actually made prints using the old processes. The photohistorian/dept chairperson looked like I was suggesting her students dip their hands in to fecal matter. Funny thing -- she eventually left to teach at a different college, and someone else in the department got the great idea to teach a photohistory class with some alt printing components to it! LOL!

    I think I gathered up some articles on Ilford's commitment to film, Ilford's mission statement probably, too. Don't know where I would find that stuff now, if I kept it. Good luck!

    I have to get busy and make a list of all the chemicals and supplies we provide to the students through the lab fees, and justify continuning to fund them. The other departments in the College are wondering (again) why the Art Department needs so much money for supplies (like natural gas for the kilns, gasses for welding equipment in sculpture, new stones in lithography, 200 feet of mural paper for photography -- that sort of thing)!

    Vaughn
     
  8. Valerie

    Valerie Subscriber

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    Clarification-- this class is in the art department. Most students take this as an elective (ceramics, painting, drawing, design are other electives available to them).

    The administrators are questioning the futute availability of supplies, and the relevance of darkroom photography as an art form.

    I do already have some of the sources listed in the posts above, but please keep them coming! The responses are great!
     
  9. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    Valerie, you have my support. This attitude is absurd; supplies are still available on a commercial, relatively low cost scale, and why shouldn't wet darkroom work be "relevant" - however silly that notion might be.

    To suggest something more concentrate, I started darkroom work in a college setting, and the process and learning involved in the analogue domain (non-curriculum in my case) was profoundly helpful in terms of understanding the process of composition, printing, and digital technologies etc, e.g. the concepts and practice behind Photoshop work. As far as I'm concerned, photo programmes should start (in the practical & technological sense) with a good foundational course in black & white darkroom work.


    Tom
     
  10. jerry lebens

    jerry lebens Member

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    The Monday deadline makes this a bit challenging, but I'd contact Simon Galley at Ilford/Harman. He should be able to supply you with data regarding the expansion of the company since the management buyout and the significance of the educational market. In the UK very few colleges - vocational or academic - have closed their darkrooms. Use of film is seen not only as important to the photographic industry but an integral part of the educative process.

    As an Ilford Master visiting colleges I emphasise how useful it is to students to have an analogue element to their portfolios. It's a talking point that sets them apart in interviews and it underlines their ability to master a much more demanding set of technical skills.
    Most importantly, when it comes to interviews post graduation, it allows a student to present and discuss work that (ideally) has been generated by their hands and their hands alone.
    Having interviewed many students presenting both digital and analogue work, I find that those who have studied digital photography alone tend to have a poorer grasp of the fundamentals of photography and much of their work is reliant on other people for their completion. They also tend to rely too much on luck (!), automation and Photoshop skills to get them by when, in most commercial applications, it's knowledge of the basics that gets the job done quickly and efficiently - whether you're working in digital or analogue.

    Jerry
     
  11. mabman

    mabman Member

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    IMHO the argument that darkroom work is no longer an art form is a bit silly if 3 other choices are also fundamentally analogue (ceramics, drawing and painting). Presumably in the ceramics class they still manipulate the clay by hand instead of designing something in a CAD program and having it made in China from injection-molded plastic, or in the painting and drawing classes presumably they are using real paints, pencils, paper, canvasses and other tangible materials instead of using digital tablets and Photoshop (or, at the very least, they start with the analogue processes before moving into digital work).

    Essentially, my point is if they're going to teach hand-crafted artistic techniques, wet photography is one of them and is equally valid as any other form of art, even if there is a digital equivalent which derives from the analogue process. As a side note, I found this link from 2009 indicating the most expensive photographs sold at auction. Most if not all (I'm not 100% sure about Richard Prince's "rephotographs") were shot on film or some kind of silver process. (I know Gursky's work, at least, is shot on film but then manipulated and printed digitally, so not sure if that helps or hurts your argument.) So, the argument could be made that at least *some people* view photographs, at least partially "wet", as valuable art, based on these prices.

    As for materials, well, they're certainly available now in good supply in many formats - if they are that concerned, maybe they should increase your budget so you can buy a walk-in freezer and stockpile them now :smile: Again, surely certain types of ceramic glaze or types of paints have become unavailable over the years - clearly the ceramics and painting courses have adapted. The same is true of film and paper. Worst case, you could make your own wet plates from scratch and make salt prints :smile:
     
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  12. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Don't forget to point out The Impossible Project as a further maintaining traditional materials, albeit to a niche market. There are tons of examples to justify continuing wet process photography education.
     
  13. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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  14. jp80874

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    Valerie,

    In my retirement I take photo courses at the U Akron, OH. All OH state funded universities take 60+ seniors for lab fees only, thinking we add something to the education. I have taken 20 photo courses in eight years.

    The U Akron has a very active Fine Art photography course program. Following are the courses offered this term.

    Photography I for Non-Art Majors
    four sections from 8AM to 9 PM
    Introduction to Photography for Art Majors
    Illustrated Advertising Photography – a hot lighting course
    Photography II
    Advanced Photography B&W
    Two sections
    Advanced Photography – color
    History of Photography

    In the spring term they will have Advanced Illustrated Advertising Photography or strobe lighting
    Portrait/Fashion photography

    In the summer term they will have Photo I
    and Alternative processes – Van Dyke and Cyanotype

    This in addition to digital photography and digital printing

    The wet darkroom courses have two fifteen enlarger B&W darkrooms and one color darkroom with both a color processor and color enlargers. There are two class rooms and two studios devoted to photography 8AM-9 PM.

    If it will help your cause, please PM me and I will send you contact information for the head of the department. She is a fine educator who sends many of her students off to graduate school every year and was instrumental in helping me obtain a 15 month, 30 picture, all expenses paid, museum show in Cleveland, OH.

    John Powers
     
  15. Valerie

    Valerie Subscriber

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    Thanks to all for the posts and pm's. I am putting this info together now to give to my chair.
     
  16. panchro-press

    panchro-press Member

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    How about taking back part of the money being given to linebackers and point guards and putting it into fine art?
     
  17. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Would they be questioning the supposed "art" validity if the economy were in better shape?
     
  18. Valerie

    Valerie Subscriber

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    Things are looking good.... my dept chair is pricing enlargers for our new darkroom! Its not a "done deal" but we have support in the right places.
     
  19. clayne

    clayne Member

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    That's great to hear Valerie. The kaiser enlargers sold new, while expensive, are grade A stuff that goes up to 6x9 and there's plenty of cheaper models out there as well.
     
  20. Tom Kershaw

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    Do you know whether the Kaiser enlargers will print a full 6x9 negative? - It is a shame Kaiser don't manufacture at least a 4"x5" enlarger.

    Tom
     
  21. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Valerie, this is great news indeed. Now if only you get a years' supply of Yoo-Hoo to keep in the fridge with the paper.
     
  22. clayne

    clayne Member

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    The VPM9005 can enlarge 6x9 negatives. You won't get the entire rebate area but you'll definitely get the exposed area.

    For 4x5 I use a DeVere 504.
     
  23. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    The local commuinty college in my area drop their analog photo department. Looks like they jump the gun.

    Jeff