It's more than just "point and shoot" at OCC
by Carol Jonson
Photography is one of the most popular classes at OCC’s
Royal Oak and Orchard Ridge campuses:
Nearly 900 students a year sign up for the introductory class, explains Nick Valenti, chair of the Fine and Performing Arts department at Orchard Ridge, and coordinator of the Photographic Technology program for that campus.
You can earn a certificate or an Associate Degree in Applied Science in Photographic Technology…or you can take classes just because you enjoy photography and want to improve the family photos you take on your next vacation.
Many photography students at OCC, however, plan to become professional photographers or photographers’ assistants, work in photo labs or even own their own retail businesses. "A lot of students come to us from their high schools where they’ve worked on yearbooks or school papers, or have taken classes
in photography," Valenti explains. "Others – like people in culinary or fine arts programs – know that their ability to create expressive photos will help showcase their work" whether it’s a wedding cake or ice sculpture, or a piece of jewelry being submitted as a slide for jurying in an art show.
"Ours is a very strong program. It’s been around a long time, since the late 1960s," he says.
Valenti himself is a graduate of OCC’s program; he went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in photography from Wayne State University.
"We provide students with very strong foundational courses and technical grounding," says Valenti. "Students learn the use of cameras and lens selection. But we also teach composition and darkroom processing, because these help provide a feeling for image creation. And of course, today teaching digital photography is a must."
OCC’s photography program gives students professional and technical experience in black-and-white, color and digital photography, according to faculty member Rob Kangas, Photography program coordinator at the Royal Oak Campus.
Using state-of-the-art facilities, labs and equipment, students learn about studio and commercial photography, studying portraiture, fashion photography, still life and table-top photography. They also receive a general overview of business practices, since many will work in their own photography businesses, says Kangas. Not only do students learn from their teachers and from hands-on experience, they also benefit from the knowledge and experience of working photographers who return to the program for further studies, he explains.
"Although students take photography classes for a variety of reasons, the knowledge they acquire about creating an image and communicating through a photo is always an asset to them. Often we take images for granted, but someone composed and cropped that image to make it the most powerful communication device that it could be," says Valenti.
With each photo, a photographer creates a work of art, Valenti says. "Photography is visual communication – an international language." It’s also very elemental communication, he believes: "Visual communication is the first form of communication we learn as human beings."
Kangas agrees, saying that the challenge of photography – and the talent of good photographers – is achieving "just the right balance between technique and expression."
It’s something a lot of OCC students have done. Many are now working as professional photographers, and you can find their photo credits in publications such as
Hour magazine, Kangas says.
The Royal Oak photography program is also proud of its long-standing tradition of working with professional photographic organizations to bring nationally and internationally known photographers to campus. This October 24, OCC – working with the American Society of Media Photographers – has scheduled a lecture by John Isaac. Isaac is the head photographer for the United Nations.