Photography majors are taught to explore and examine the social, cultural and historical contexts in which they are making new work as a means of underscoring the cultural continuum of the medium. Through close observation and guided discussions, students learn to "read" images in order to develop the visual literacy needed to articulate ideas and make meaningful work.
Just over 30 undergraduates work in close proximity with roughly 15 graduate students, who share certain darkrooms and workspaces but have dedicated studios in a separate building. Between crits, informal discussions and rotating exhibitions at the department's Red Eye Gallery, students find abundant opportunities to share ideas and talk with each other about their work. A wide range of photographers with totally different approaches and styles come to campus each semester through the popular T.C. Colley Lecture Series, while Professional Practice electives offer exposure to photographers working for commercial studios and photo agencies.
While many of the technical and conceptual skills taught at RISD are applicable to fields such as advertising, fashion and editorial photography, professors emphasize a fine arts approach in order to educate students for a rich, lifelong engagement with the medium. In addition, Photography majors benefit from a popular internship program that provides contacts with potential employers and grants elective credits for on-the-job experience.
Midge Wattles BFA 2013
Tori Roy BFA 2013
Lucas Vasilko BFA 2016
Elliot Romano BFA 2013
Rachel Jump BFA 2013
Carrie Witherell BFA 2013
In the first year of the program, students explore the history of photography – from its 19th-century beginning through contemporary manifestations – and learn the fundamentals, focusing on film-based media, camera formats, darkroom techniques, exposure and development controls, lighting basics, image and film scanning, and more. Juniors move on to more advanced techniques in digital printing, lighting, web projects, video and other production methods, while pursuing self-directed projects and strengthening the ability to articulate ideas verbally. In addition to completing a final Degree Project, seniors exhibit in on-campus galleries and hone professional practices and portfolio presentation skills.
Seniors create a definitive body of work and write a final thesis that addresses the aesthetic, theoretical and technical aspects of the work.
All freshman applicants apply to RISD as opposed to a specific department and begin with a required year of Experimental and Foundation Studies. Students select a major midway through the first year but don’t begin those programs until sophomore year.
For more information or to begin the application process, visit the Apply page.
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