The photography program made a giant technological leap this past year, one that enables students to take their own large strides in realizing and developing their artistic vision in photography. Funds from the Department of Art and Art History and the Liberal Arts Dean’s Office, together with a generous grant from the Parents Association, provided the capital to build a state-of-the-art digital photography lab that addresses the needs of professors and students in the ongoing transition from silver to digital.
Located in the Paul Creative Arts Center, the new lab consists of 17 imaging workstations, the latest Adobe image manipulation software, two Epson V700 flatbed scanners, a Nikon Coolscan film scanner, an Epson 4800 inkjet printing station, and a MacRascol Film Recorder, which burns digital images to film. With this technology, students can review their work as it is made, examine and edit exposures, manipulate imagery, scan images, and print their work at high resolution. For the faculty, pedagogy follows technology, as they are now able to conduct lectures using digital projection as well as model techniques and help develop skills in image enhancement and manipulation that were previously not possible.
Assistant Professor of Art Julee Holcombe, whose own photography utilizes digital image manipulation and collage (a portfolio is available at her website, juleeholcombe.com) spearheaded the creation of the new lab. During the past several years, she has seen growing student interest in photography generally and in the digital medium in particular, the latter a trend she embraces. “The digital age has considerably enhanced our ability to teach and, we believe, our students’ ability to capture what they see. The photography lab has enabled our students to precisely control the qualities of every area in the print to a degree unprecedented in traditional practice,” says Holcombe, who expects that demand for photography classes will only increase with the new opportunities the lab offers. The program plans to expand offerings by adding an Inquiry course in digital photography within the new Discovery core curriculum.
Student response has been enthusiastic. Julie Hamel, currently in the final year of her B.F.A. program, has taken photography workshops at UNH since 2007. She witnessed the evolution of the lab and experienced first-hand the benefits of the new equipment. “Over the years, the digital lab has changed a lot,” says Hamel. “It used to be in a small room where we would have to share the computers which made Photoshop not the easiest thing to learn with a partner…The new lab makes class not only more enjoyable but easier to learn in. Since the Macs are cluster computers, students can edit their images anywhere on campus if need be.”
Karrah Kwasnik, a senior dual major in marketing and studio art, had her first experience with digital photography in a workshop this past spring. She fell in love with the medium. “I think that this new digital lab is a new vital heartbeat in the PCAC as it finally connects photography at UNH with our technologically savvy culture,” says Kwasnik, who hopes to incorporate digital photography into her future profession, which will likely be at the intersection of her two majors.
Despite the sheen of the new lab, Holcombe and students are aware that this facility is very much a work in progress. The digital medium is evolving and the lab will need to stay abreast of changes if it is to remain vital. The lab is intended to be a research facility—a place for exploration of new strategies, innovative thinking, and the creation of new knowledge. As the work progresses, the tools of this digital research will need to stay sharp.
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