“I couldn’t teach this course the same way anywhere else,” says Carroll. “Students here are so engaged with the outside world. There’s a great eagerness to have a discussion that goes beyond the classroom.”

In his Introduction to Photography course, Professor Eric Carroll takes an unusual tack. Rather than the conventional approach of beginning with black and white photography, he teaches an all-digital course in which the focus is on using photography to tell a story.

It’s a popular approach, judging by how quickly the course filled up with juniors and seniors—mostly non-art majors—and accumulated a waiting list of 60 students.

“I couldn’t teach this course the same way anywhere else,” says Carroll. “Students here are so engaged with the outside world. There’s a great eagerness to have a discussion that goes beyond the classroom.”

Early in the semester, photographer Wing Young Huie, famed for his social documentary photography of residents of the Twin Cities urban denizens, spoke to the class. He coached students on how to respectfully approach people whose photographs they wanted to take. “Sometimes the most successful photographs are the result of a dialogue,” says Carroll. “Photography gives you license to talk with people.” He credits the Civic Engagement Center’s Paul Schadewald with helping students make connections within the Twin Cities community.

For one assignment, students traveled to various city neighborhoods seeking photographs that would tell stories about migration. The resulting exhibition was part of Macalester’s International Roundtable, which had migration as its theme.

Muyuan “Sherry” He ’16 (Shenzhen, China) likes Carroll’s class because of “his sense of humor and his constructive critique of my artwork—he always points out the problems in my photos, and that really helps me make progress,” says the studio art major.

Although this fall’s class was only the third one that Carroll—a professional photographer—has taught at Macalester, he clearly has a feel for the college. Another assignment, for example, took students to the college library to work with librarian Ginny Heinrich ’90 and archivist Ellen Holt-Werle ’97.

After choosing a photo from the Macalester archives, students set out to recreate the setting in a contemporary photograph that shared lighting, point of view, etc., with its archival counterpart. It proved to be a great technical exercise as well as a window into how time has changed the campus.

“That Macalester has so many old photos from decades ago is simply incredible,” says Taro Takigawa ’15 (Moraga, Calif.). “Looking through the photos was a real privilege; I got a sense of what the campus was like, how students dressed, acted, and communicated, and how our campus changed through the years. I honestly didn’t think that there would be many buildings that were similar today, but in fact, Kirk Hall still looks and feels exactly the same.”

Photography II is being offered in the spring for students desiring to continue their study.

 

November 10 2014

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