Westminster College’s fine arts-based photography program may prepare its undergraduates differently from commercial programs, but the students said they think that it gives them an edge.
The program is designed to help students think more conceptually about photography, according to Brandi Richardson, a senior photography major. She said she believes that has helped her differentiate herself from other photographers and therefore become more competitive in a saturated market.
“The program lets us have creative freedom while also tasking us with creative challenges to incorporate into our work,” said Jennifer Librizzi, senior photography major, in an email to The Forum. “It makes you think, ‘How can I out-do my last project.’ It has definitely taught me new and useful things to help build my portfolio and has opened up doors to career opportunities I hadn’t considered. I’m sure it had had the same impact on my classmates as well.”
The Forum sat down with Richardson to talk about the benefits and downsides of the photography program’s fine arts-based approach and how that has helped her become the photographer she is today.
Q: What is photography to you?
A: I obviously love it… There is an ego to it. You have certain people that say, ‘Yeah, I’m the best’ or whatever and get paid such and such and won’t be as [open] to other people doing photos. But I think it’s kinda just a way to celebrate everyone having their own artistic eye or visual eye, to see how everyone sees things or wants to see things. I think that’s important. It doesn’t matter if your work looks the same as someone else’s work — it should just be open to everyone.
Q: What do you think about Westminster’s photography program?
A: I like it. There is ups and downs. It would be nice to have more access to things, like if we had better studio lights — stuff like that. It’s very fine-art based, which I is think is fine because I don’t do a lot of commercial work. But overall, I like it. The professors are super nice and helpful.
Q: What is the difference between art-taught photography and commercial-taught photography?
A: Fine arts based in the sense that we are taught to submit work to galleries rather than to magazine publications. And it’s also like you have education where you learn the history of photo, and some of that deals with more abstraction stuff. It’s more art that people do for themselves than what they are trying to do for other people. Commercial-based is more of the realm of doing stuff for magazines or products.
Q: How you think the program is preparing you for the future?
A: It kinda depends on what you want to do with it. If you want to submit to galleries, then the education here is very good at doing that — like supporting that you get your work out there. But I guess in the commercial sense, I do find it does lack a little bit and you do have to search on your own way to figure out that. But we do have a couple of photo classes where we can have some guest artist come talk to you and explain their realm of things, like photojournalism.
Q: How has this program helped you be different from other photographers?
A: It goes back to when you have that fine arts education you do have to have that idea of wanting to do something different instead of trying to stay the same as other photographers out there. You get somewhere if you do something different. I feel that having the education with fine arts, you look at things differently, which makes your commercial work a little bit different. It gives a different way of seeing things — like thinking more conceptually.