Students in the studio art program take courses that introduce them to a variety of photo techniques and prepare them for future careers in photography and the arts.
While they often work with modern methods, like digital photography, some have started shooting with photography film and working on darkroom techniques as a new approach.
Isaac Brown, a sophomore studio art major with a concentration in photography, is currently working with film. Brown became interested in photography as a kid, after finding cameras laying around his house.
“I was always attracted to using a camera,” he says.
He remembers being on Instagram when he was younger and seeing people post photos of themselves and other objects in mid-air. After that experience, he started using a self-timer on a camera and began taking the same types of photos.
“From there, [my interest in photography] just snowballed, and became more and more,” Brown says.
“I got to a place with my digital camera where I outgrew it,” says Brown. A new digital camera was out of his
reach financially and he knew switching to film would allow for “more capability and higher resolution for a cheaper cost.”
Brown is thankful that he gets to work with film in his courses here.
“I really like film,” he says.
“I wouldn’t say more than digital, but I really like what I can get from film. When you take digital photos, digital photos get to a point where they’re really, really fine and higher resolution and you can see everything on somebody’s face. But when you shoot with film, there’s like a little bit of leeway there. It makes the photos look more like memories than just like real present day.”
Without hesitation, he adds that his preferred style is portraiture. “I feel like people are the most interesting things to photograph,” Brown says.
Aaron Miller, a studio art major with a concentration in photography, also works with film. Miller’s specialization differs from Brown’s, and he prefers landscapes to portraits.
“It’s not that I’m not a people person, it’s just nice when it’s just me and the camera and my subject and I don’t have to tell the subject what to do.
“I just like working with nature, and it’s more calming to me. It makes for a more pleasant experience,” he says.
Switching to film had a direct influence on Miller’s nature and landscape photography.
“You can’t see the photo right after you take it, you have to develop the film,” he says. “You don’t get immediate gratification. It’s more rewarding in film when one of your photos comes out well because it takes a lot more work, but as you can see this is a very dark photo. You can edit it on the computer, but it’s not the same as editing a digital photo.”
Miller says he prefers nature photography because it is less demanding.
“You have more of a freedom to just do what you feel you want to do. You don’t have to listen to anyone else and be, like, ‘Oh I don’t like that, I want this shot, I want to do it this way, you can’t take this type of shot.’ You just have the freedom to do what you want,” he says.
The pressure to use film wisely changes the dynamic Miller is used to within digital photography.
“You only get so many shots, so you just want to make sure the shutter speed and the ISO and the focus, everything is perfect.”
With any new medium comes challenges. Miller says he’s faced a few technical difficulties while practicing dark room photography.
“When you develop a roll of film, you have this canister. First you have to load it completely in the dark, like you’re blind. You have to do everything in complete darkness when you’re loading the film on to the reel,” he says. “And then it’s such a long process to deal with all the chemicals and mix a bunch of stuff and make sure everything’s the right temperature.”
Miller calls the process tedious and says if it’s not done properly, it messes up the entire process.
“You have to follow everything exactly to what the directions say.”
Miller has been practicing photography since he was 13 years old.
“I signed up for it as an elective in high school just to take a class. I thought it would be cool. I didn’t think anything else of it. I started with an intro to digital class, and I fell in love with it. Ever since then I took photo classes every year in high school, and I decided to major in it when
I went to college,” he says.
Miller says that darkroom has given him a better appreciation of the work that goes into film photography.
“Darkroom is definitely harder, and it has made me realize that photography has come such a long way and it’s really amazing to see it,” he says.
“If I was born in the generation when film was the main media of photography, my mind would be blown. It’s cool to go backwards in time and see how this used to be the only form. It made me appreciate all the different types of photography that there are now.”
Learning to shoot with black and white film has given Miller even more insight into the different needs for specific films.
“I was shooting the other day and the leaves were beautiful, reds and yellows, and I remembered this isn’t going to show up, and they all kind of turned out the same color when I developed the photos,” he says.
Miller says that while working with black and white film looking at the exposure, and the different levels of the exposure, is one way photographers can tell color. This process is difficult with nature photography which tends to blend depending on the exposure.
“So that’s one of the things that I don’t love about film,” he says. “That’s why it’s important to have variation in lighting, like shades and highlights, because that’s the only way you can really differentiate in the photos.”
When it comes to the future of his career in photography, although he isn’t sure exactly what he plans to do, Miller is open to many different jobs.
“Nature and landscapes—maybe I will end up doing portraits. I’m really open to anything,” he says. “I’m just going to keep pursuing photography and see what I end up doing. I’ll just keep doing what I want to do and maybe I’ll do weddings in the future, graduations.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job outlook for photographers are expected to grow 17% within the next decade. As students continue to fill their portfolios, the future looks bright for young photographers looking for work.
By Caitlin Kirby and Valeria Araujo