Help needed--support for college darkrooms
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
(If there is a better place to put this thread, feel free to move it!)
"So I am turning over a new leaf but the page is stuck". Diane Arbus
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.
Don't know if you saw this?
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
Is this a vocational photography program or part of an overall art program? It may help us tailor our responses.
i can't wait to take a picture of my thumb with this beautiful camera.
- phirehouse, after buying a camera in the classifieds
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
This press release and program, if it's not too dated?
"There is very limited audience for the arty stuff, and it is largely comprised of other arty types, most of whom have no money to spend because no one is buying their stuff either. More people bring their emotions to an image than bring their intellect. The former are the folks who have checkbooks because they are engineers, accountants, and bankers—and generally they are engineers, accountants and bankers because they are not artists."
— Amanda Tomlin, Looking Glass Magazine, 2014
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)!
At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can still be a good day of exercise.
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!
"So I am turning over a new leaf but the page is stuck". Diane Arbus
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.
Originally Posted by Valerie
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.
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.