Friday, August 9, 2013

Southeast Center Portraits (Part One)

Daytona State College’s School of Photography, the Southeastern Museum of Photography, and the University of Central Florida’s School of Visual Art and Design represent a reverent trinity of photography, which makes up the Southeast Center for Photography program, all located in Daytona Beach, Florida.  In this two part special, you will be introduced to eleven photographers from the program, both currently enrolled and alumni.  They will tell you in their own words why they chose this educational path, what they loved, what they hated, and what they would have done differently

"I attended the college right out of high school in 2010, and spent roughly three years learning from some talented and passionate individuals. The Southeast Center for Photographic Studies was a blessing to me! It was relatively close to home, which made the decision even easier. Before attending, I heard so many wonderful things about the college, and felt like it was the best choice at the time.  I thought it was important to broaden my horizons and most importantly, be surrounded by other creative individuals. There are always new things to learn, and I thought a formal education was a great start.

 My family was supportive of my major in photography. Photography was something I was passionate about at a young age, and they understood my desire to work on the craft. I now have the ability to problem solve in a difficult shooting situation, and still produce quality work. Due to formal education, I have refined my photography technically. My creativity may have been cut short due to deadlines and guidelines, but I do think it was important to understand the foundation of imagery.

I honestly enjoyed all of my classes, and was able to walk away with something, even if it did not relate to photography. My favorite class was probably during the summer of color processing. I loved spending hours in the darkroom perfecting a print. All of the lighting classes were incredibly helpful.

 I wish I would not have allowed myself to become so stressed during the last few semesters. I might have dabbled a bit more into video as well. If I had known then, what I know now, I would have kept commercial portfolio building in mind while in school."

"I was in the program from 2009 to 2013.
Initially, when I was looking at programs to apply to after high school, the most important criteria for choosing the correct one was that it would offer me primarily photography courses. Most programs, especially ones that are for the fine arts, offer a select few photography courses that, if majoring in photography, would be taken multiple times to supplement for the lacking amount of variety. At the DSC-UCF program, the entire focus was on photography and therefore, was the program that I was seeking. By attending college, I was aware that photography was not going to be the only thing that I would learn. Going to college, or getting a formal education, isn't just about learning what you are majoring in. What you learn during this time is who you are as an individual, how you interact with others, how to create lasting and meaningful relationships, and most importantly how to learn – not just what. Since my Dad has always worked within the advertising industry, there was no aversion to my attendance at an arts based program. However, the ramification was that if I were to do the program, then I had to stick with it – which I did, and am very glad for that. 

Before attending the program, I didn't really have any true grasp of how to be a conceptual photographer. Of course I could come up with a concept beforehand, but the execution as well as the idea in itself was not as solid as I would have liked it to be. Now, I am able to execute conceptualism in my photography very well, even for such alluding concepts as environmentalism through symbolism as well as personal friendships and how they can be explored. 

Within my time at the program, I had many different likes and dislikes. I wouldn't necessarily say that I had a favorite since overall, I enjoyed a lot of the program to the extent that you could classify that enjoyment as favoritism. The courses that included my favorites were: Large Format Photography (Steven Benson), Contemporary Photography (Steven Spencer), Thesis (Laine Wyatt), and even Fundamentals of Photography (Kevin Miller). One assignment that stood out to me more than others was the installation assignment that was completed for the Contemporary Photography class. This assignment forced students to think outside of the frame and work with something site specific and creative. I was very happy with the instillation I completed which consisted of portraits on dry wall suspended from the ceiling in one of the critique rooms. There was only one time that I explicitly rejected an assignment and changed what was needed (while still fitting the assignment’s rules at the same time). The assignment was to go out during Bike Week and take two photographs of a biker; one photo taken of the front of the biker, and one taken of their side. Due to my lack of enthusiasm and disdain for Bike Week, I refused to complete the assignment and eventually turned in, begrudgingly, a photograph that still fit the specified criteria but was of a friend, who was a cyclist- a biker. Ultimately, I think I got a B on that assignment. 

The only photo school activities that I was involved with were a couple of things here and there. I was a member of the SPA [Student Photography Association] however I rarely attended the meetings or actually helped with anything since I was too busy completing assignments or having fun with the friends I made in that program. Although, I did attend the movie nights that SPA coordinated and I hope continue to do so. Cinematography, although not the same as photography, is certainly important to study and is also easily appreciated coming from a photography background. 

After leaving, I had spoken with a couple professors from time to time as well as continuing communication through the facebook SECPS group. In addition, I hold a job position with one of the professors as a part-time gig when I am needed for assistance. Looking back I would have certainly volunteered at the Southeast Museum of Photography and wish that I had done so. Also, there are a couple of items within the stockroom that I should have experimented a bit more with so that I could learn whether or not they were for me and to learn what can be accomplished by using some of the equipment."

"I attended the Southeast Center from Spring of 2010 to Fall of 2011, and then continued on with the B.S. Degree in the Fall of 2012.
In high school, the program was highly recommended by my photography teacher. My friends and I would use the Daytona State darkroom on Saturdays. It was like our own little sanctuary. I knew one day, I would attend the program. My interest was mainly sparked by the facility and equipment available to students, as well as the access to the Southeast Museum of Photography. I wanted the experience of formal education. I am very sensitive to the energy of other individuals. This drove me to want to be surrounded by creative and inspiring students and faculty. I also wanted to play with all of the schools equipment before spending big bucks on my own. Lastly, the diploma looks so good, on my wall, on paper. I have made so many memories and life long connections. Success in this industry is all about who you know, and what you bring to the table. 
I think my family was just happy I was going to college. I am the first of their children to graduate with a college degree. They have always been supportive of my art though. They couldn't be financially supportive, but they were constantly eager to see what I was learning and working on. 

My favorite courses were those summer classes: 4x5, color processing, and multimedia. I felt like I was pushed out of my nest. My eyes were wide the entire summer. The 4x5 medium was my form of meditation, slowing me down, provoking thought. It was too hot that summer to be under any sort of cloak so I found myself photographing at night in all the places I shouldn't have been. I feel like I spent that whole summer just shooting. There was no instant gratification with the films I was using. Then, after processing and scanning and printing, it was as if I had stumbled on some sort of treasure chest. I hold those images very dear to me. 
I felt challenged by the courses I took, and the professors, to be more conscious of why I was photographing and what the content meant, to me, to the world. The spontaneity was always encouraged, but I started to notice a higher quality of instinct, technique, and production almost immediately after my first semester. I remember getting very excited about balancing artificial light with sunlight. My favorite assignments were the open ones. I always felt nurtured by my professors when creating self-directed bodies of work. Even the business course felt necessary. I try not to hate anything. I trust the faculty and program to not waste my time. I honestly think the structure was well defined and beneficial to my success both as a student and an artist. 

I was a member of the Student Photography Association. I got to participate in a Bike Week workshop with Photo Journalist Craig Litten. It was spectacular, again yet another link and a handful of awesome memories. I recently became the Vice President for the UCF Student Photography Association. We have an incredible team and the rest of this year is sure to be something special. 

If I could have done anything differently I would have not procrastinated so much. I also would have loved to not have had to work. Working and going to school is such a challenge. Also, I probably would have stayed single....and sober. Hangovers and being distracted by a relationship really took away from my time with myself. I should have defined healthy boundaries in all aspects of my life before it got too late."

"2008-2012. (Both the Associate and Bachelor program)
This program was highly recommended by my professors at Flagler College, and I was encouraged to transfer. My family was excited I had chosen a degree program that really seemed to motivate me. I chose school because I would rather have learned from seasoned professionals than try educating myself completely on my own. Plus I enjoy the atmosphere of learning alongside my peers. I was the president of SPA (Student Photography Association) my senior year at UCF, plus the outside photo group, Fancy Tuesday*. 

School helped educate me by teaching me photographic techniques but it helped shape me into a young business professional. My favorite teachers were Stephen Spencer (commercial photography), Jason Burrell (visual thinking), and Eric Breitenbach for videography, also Laine Wyatt for thesis. I didn't have a favorite assignment but while in SPA, helping other students get to the SPE National conference was exciting! Traveling with my peers and visiting my hometown of San Francisco, CA was great. My studio class in third semester wasn't that great. I felt it was redundant and boring. 

If I did it over again I maybe would have done more internships. I haven't had too much involvement with the school since graduation due to an ankle injury and relocating to North Florida."

*(note from the editor) Fancy Tuesday was a weekly group meeting at different members houses that involved serious discussions of photography, life, our assignments, and sometimes group photo shoots. After midnight, the parties sometimes turned infamous to the point where rumors still exist about what actually went on. 

"I started at the Southeast Center for Photographic Studies in August 2011 and graduated with my AS degree in May of 2013. I will be continuing in the program through UCF and should graduate with my BS degree in 2015. The reason why I chose to attend the Photography program at Daytona State College is because of the wonderful things I had heard and read about it. A friend of a friend was attending the school in 2006 and I loved the work he was producing. I took a tour of the school in 2007 and was very impressed by the facilities. I knew that’s where I belonged. Unfortunately, I got sucked into sticking with my desk job for another 4 years before I got laid off. Fate decided that it was time for me to leave. I made another visit to the school and finally enrolled. The program lets you dip your toes into many different types of photography, so I feel confident in being able to pull off a variety of different projects. The critiques during class really helped me to gain confidence in my work and in myself. 

I really wanted to be in an environment where I could be around other like-minded individuals and felt that I needed the hands-on instruction from the professional faculty and facilities that the school could offer. I wanted to be in a place that could help me develop and gain confidence in my skills.

My family has been nothing but supportive. My father had always told me that I needed to find something I love so that I didn't have to work a day in my life. He purchased an iMac for me in 2006 after seeing how much I loved making images. Before my father passed, he always told me he was proud of me and was always happy to see the images I made in my first semester. My mother has also been supportive and understanding. She’s even maintained patience after being the subject of several of my projects.

All of the faculty at The Southeast Center are amazing, but I must say that Eric Breitenbach is one of the best teacher’s I've ever had. He’s just an incredible human being who has really helped me believe that I have something special to offer. He genuinely cares about all of his students and will always make time if you need help with anything. I learned so much from him. I must also mention that Kevin Miller really helped lay the foundation for me in my first semester and later taught me so much about studio lighting in my third. I enjoyed Dan Biferie’s Fine Art Photography class in my second semester because it let me explore more of my creative side. His class was sort of therapeutic for me. I’m also grateful for everything Steven Benson taught in his Commercial Photography class in the fourth semester. It’s not just these few, but all of the teachers are talented, wonderful people that have made me a better person for knowing them.

My favorite assignment was during my second semester in Dan Biferie’s Fine Art Photography class, which was basically a Photoshop class. We had to create a picture depicting a life changing experience we’ve had. I ended up creating the photo “Don’t Know What You’ve Got” where I am bald and holding my hair. I was never actually bald, but I did once think I was going bald. I’d love to share the story behind the image:
My hair had always been one of my best features. A few years ago, I was in the shower one night, washing my hair. I started to notice more hair than usual coming out of my head and clogging up the drain. Days went by and this trend continued. While most people lose an average of 100 hairs per day, I was losing close to 1,000. Yes, I counted. I figured that if the average person has 100,000 hairs on their head, I’d be nearly bald in 3 months. I ended up going to multiple doctors who offered nothing other than telling me that I’m probably not going to die and that my hair would eventually grow back. But there was seemingly no apparent reason that this was happening to me, so I was not very comforted. I cried every night.

A long-distance relationship with an old boyfriend of mine rekindled shortly before my hair started coming out in gobs. I felt as though my world was crashing down around me and he was there for me when everyone else was probably tired of hearing me cry about losing my beloved hair. He would call me every night and always listen to me and offer words of comfort, mostly “You’d make a pretty good looking bald chick!” or “You love wigs! You’ll be able to wear them all the time!” It helped. He made me laugh. He made me love.
My hair eventually stopped falling out in excess and started growing back. Then a couple months later, it started falling out again. This time, much more rapidly. Again, I was devastated, thinking nothing could possibly be worse. But right around this time, my actual worst nightmare was realized. My dad, my favorite person in the world, was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer. Talk about perspective. It’s like my entire thought process shifted. Watching the drain completely clog with my hair to the point where the water backed up paled in comparison to watching my father fight through radiation and chemo, watching him start to lose HIS hair, watching him being unable to eat and ultimately watching him lose the battle. I was lucky to now be living with my once long-distance love and have him by my side the whole time, supporting me through it as he supported me over the phone with my hair woes.

To this day, I still have no idea why my hair fell out like crazy and I am realistic about the fact that it will probably happen to me again. But the difference now is that it won’t really faze me this time, because through the shedding of my hair, I gained the love of my life and the ability to not take so much for granted. Also, after creating this image, I must admit, I would make a pretty good-looking bald chick.

There have definitely been assignments that weren't favorites of mine, but they all helped me grow and become who I am today as a photographer. Working in the color darkroom definitely made me appreciate Photoshop so much more! I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Departures exhibition at the Southeast Museum of Photography where my work was on display among the work of other classmates of mine throughout the summer. I've been back to the campus a couple times to assist with teaching a summer class, and I also have been back to Daytona State College to have my photo taken for promotional materials for the Interactive Media program!"

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