Expressive photography lab: Blending historical process with cutting edge technology

Photography By Brian Uecker
Photography By Brian Uecker

April 11, 2012

By Kendal Kuehler | Ranger Reporter

“Every time I would go in there, they were rockin’ the darkroom,” said Rene West with a grin of pride upon her face.

That’s how the photography instructor described her students working in the expressive photography lab. She knew they were working hard and having fun while slaving over their Portfolio 2 projects.

Expressive photography is the art of capturing a photo that creates a feeling or mood. The photographer’s objective is to draw in the observer’s attention and recreate the same emotion the photographer experienced when capturing the photo.

Amarillo College offers a course in expressive photography that allows students to explore different photographic technology of formal, professional and individual uses of photography. The course requires completion of a Fundamentals of Photography course, but no books are required. Instead, students build their own textbook throughout the semester.

The self-created textbook is called technical book. It is broken into three portfolios correlating with the class. The tech book will serve as the students’ lab book and will consist of formulas, instructions, research notes and personal examples along with self notes, West said.

Brian Uecker, a photography major, said he likes the idea of the tech book and that he plans to expand it after the class is over.

West’s students said creating their own textbook gives them another creative outlook to think outside the box with hands-on training that documents failures and successes.

“Just because it’s a mistake doesn’t mean you cannot use it,” West said. “Own it.”

By Nicole Pham

She encourages her students not only to learn from their mistakes but to embrace them and use the experience to a creative advantage.

The three sections of the class are pinhole cameras and experimental darkroom techniques, Holga and cyanotypes and transfers and mixed-media. The class is now in section 2, where students work with processing Holga film and experimenting with cyanotypes.

Ashlyn Mannis, a photography major, said her favorite aspect of the class is going back to the core. She said it’s important to know the arhcaic photo process dating to the 1800s. Other students agree with Mannis and enjoy not only learning about it but experiencing the processes for themselves.

“I love the beauty of Holga because you don’t have to be special or rich, just have to have passion,” Mannis said.

The music rocking and the students rolling in the lab creates a mood as they prep their tech books and get ready for critiquing. The students are alive as they let their work communicate to the viewers for them.

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