As Antonelli Institute approaches its 75th anniversary, Lead Instructor in Photography Andrew Simcox talks about the school's illustrious founder, its close-knit community, and the combination of photography, graphic design, and business courses it offers students to prepare them for a rapidly evolving field.
For more information about Antonelli Institute, and to see photos of the campus, visit the school's profile.
PhotoVideoEDU: What is distinctive about your program?
Andrew Simcox: Perhaps what is most unique about Antonelli Institute and its photography program is that it was founded in 1938 in Philadelphia by internationally renowned commercial photographer and visual artist Severo Antonelli. As a major Futurist and photographer, he brought to the school his reputation as one of the leading photo-picturalists in the United States. On two occasions, his photographs were exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution. His work is now part of the permanent collection at Woodmere Art Museum.
Our photography and graphic design programs train our students to be technically sound, creatively driven, and commercially focused. Our programs are distinctive in the way we prepare our students for positions in the “real” world with hands-on learning and allow their creativity to flourish. We teach them business as well as photography or graphic design and coach them on problem-solving, beating deadlines, and delivering what the client wants so they can succeed once they graduate.
Secondly, our program is very rigorous. From the first semester to the last, students are constantly given assignments that challenge them on a variety of subjects, from portraits to architecture to food. Photography students work with traditional black-and-white film and shoot with a 35mm SLR or large-format camera during the first semester. This gives them a strong foundation and helps them to get it right in the camera. In the second semester they begin to work with a professional-grade DSLR camera. During the second year they are introduced to color photography and specialty courses, and focus on building a professional portfolio.
We are a close-knit school that truly cares about each student. We value the uniqueness of each student and aim to foster his or her creativity. The instructors, administrators, and staff of Antonelli Institute are dedicated to working as a collaborative team. The faculty is composed of passionate professionals with a wealth of experience in their respective industries. Students not only receive a high-quality education in their field of study, but also develop critical thinking skills, which prepare them to work in ever-changing environments. Antonelli Institute is a nurturing environment where excitement for visual arts continues to grow.
PhotoVideoEDU: What kinds of students does the program attract?
Andrew Simcox: We attract artistic, passionate, motivated, intelligent, hard-working, imaginative, and incredibly creative students eager to enter careers in photography or graphic design. We nurture their creativity and help them to apply it in a commercial application.
Our photography graduates are well-rounded, learning photojournalism, architectural, commercial, food, fine art, portraiture, fashion, and landscape photography.
PhotoVideoEDU: What kind of campus does your school have, and what is student life like?
Andrew Simcox: Our campus is located on a 15-acre wooded hillside near historic Chestnut Hill. It is a short trip from Philadelphia or King of Prussia. It has the excitement of the city and the mall coupled with the safety and beauty of the suburbs.
It is a welcoming, supportive family atmosphere. The entire campus works as a team so that each student can reach his or her potential. Lifelong friendships are forged.
PhotoVideoEDU: Does the program have required courses or final requirements?
Andrew Simcox: The program has required courses that, depending on the major, are a mix of graphic design, photography, and business-focused applied general education courses developed to prepare students for a profession where many will freelance or start their own business.
Graduating students are required to have a professional portfolio, a website, a blog, a resume, employment related letters, a business card, leave-behinds, and a published book.
PhotoVideoEDU: Do your students do internships?
Andrew Simcox: While they're not part of the formal program, we encourage students to do internships the summer between their first and second year or just out of school. Students have done internships with many organizations such as WPHL17, Disney, QVC, and Campbell’s.
PhotoVideoEDU: Do you hold special events for photography students?
Andrew Simcox: Each year begins with Philly Fun Day for incoming students, followed by orientation.
The fall semester tends to be filled with more social events. In September we have our Annual Constitution Cookout and pie eating contest, a great photo op! In October faculty, students, and alumni head up to the PDN Photo Plus Expo at the Javitz Center in New York, which is followed by our Halloween party, topped off by our costume contest. November is our potluck Thanksgiving luncheon. In December we have our Cookie Extravaganza.
The spring tends to be dominated by professional events. In January, approximately twenty students from our Student Photographic Society Chapter volunteer for ImagingUSA, the Professional Photographers of America’s annual convention. They get to meet thousands of photographers from all over the world and take part in a variety of seminars and classes as well as have their portfolios reviewed by top professionals. The final months are full of events, including our Annual Career Day, our Design Guest Speaker, our Annual Design Competition, our Photography guest speaker, our Annual Print Competition, our Annual Portfolio Exhibit for graduating students and, of course, graduation. Our guest speakers have included Colin Finlay, Richard Drew (AP), Michel Tcherevkoff, Paul Aresu, Julieanne Kost, and Kevin Kolczynski, director of photographic services at Universal Studios.
We are very active with and in professional organizations. The Student Photographic Society meets monthly and features a guest speaker. We are very active with the Philly Ad Club. We have a NPPA chapter as well. Our students often attend ASMP Philly Chapter events as well as GPPDV events. We have recently hosted Ad Club and GPPDV events on campus. There are many field trips and opportunities to shoot on location for different classes at places like the Kimmel Center, Eastern State Penitentiary, Morris Arboretum, and the Philadelphia Art Museum.
We are active participants in a number of Ambassador Programs at companies including Athenech, Imagenomic, and Western Digital.
Every other year a faculty member sponsors a spring break art trip for our students to travel to Europe. Past trips have been to Italy, Spain, France, and the Czech Republic.
PhotoVideoEDU: Do your students get opportunities to show their work?
Andrew Simcox: One might say that our entire campus is an art gallery, from the main entrance to the restrooms. Faculty work is displayed in the reception area, along with over 3,000 images of student work on a 55-inch television. The Red Hall Gallery features First Place Design Competition work as well as work from Advanced Photography classes. The “Rug Wall” gallery features work by those who placed in our Annual Design Competition. The Atrium Gallery features our Annual Print Competition winners and our Best of Show recipients, along with other photography and design work. The Robert D. Golding Memorial Gallery is a feature gallery that just finished showing work our students did in Haiti for Poverty Resolutions. That work is also on loan for an exhibition at the Harrington College of Design. The current exhibit features a series of posters for internationally known recording artists at Philadelphia venues created by Oleg Kremeshnoy, a 2001 Graphic Design graduate. In addition, we hold an annual portfolio exhibit for our graduating class as well as various competitions and featured exhibitions throughout the year.
We are always on the hunt to exhibit student and alumni work. Recent exhibits have been held in the Adobe Café and the Nichols Berg Gallery. We are looking forward to our upcoming exhibit at the Woodmere Art Museum.
PhotoVideoEDU: What areas do graduates of your program go on to work in as professionals?
Andrew Simcox: Photography graduates go on to work as professionals in portraiture (including specialties in dance, environmental, wedding, pet, and children’s photography), commercial and industrial photography (including e-commerce, fashion, food, and architectural photography), photojournalism (including astronomical, band, documentary, editorial, event, sports, and weather photography), as well as in fine art and education offering seminars, workshops, meet-ups.
Many from both programs open their own studios or do freelance work.
PhotoVideoEDU: Could you name a few distinguished graduates?
Andrew Simcox: At 75, Antonelli Institute has too many distinguished alumni to mention them all. So, please forgive us for not mentioning everyone.
Alumni faculty members include Christina Heil, Mimi Janosy, Todd Murray, Mike Pancoast, Drew Simcox, and Ed Zawora.
Some notable alumni from across the years include:
Denise Ramono Bright, a member of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain
Barry Cox, a PPA Master Photographer
Christian Giannelli, an interior, exterior, and food photographer
Evan Habeeb, a professional sports photographer for USPresswire
Stephen E. Kancianic, CPP
Alisha LeDonne, studio owner and a successful senior portrait and studio photographer
Dom Loschiavo, Philadelphia City photographer
Jack Megaw, sports photographer
Brian Mengini, dance photographer
Vincent Primavera, a PPA Master Photographer
Samuel Psoras of the Philadelphia Daily News
Three of our rising stars in photography are:
Jeff Berkes, a fine art, landscape, weather, and astronomical event photographer whose work was on the cover of Adventure Magazine, a National Geographic magazine, just two years out of school.
Jared Polin, a.k.a. Fro Knows Photo of “I Shoot Raw” fame, who has a following of thousands of photo enthusiasts with over 50,000 Facebook likes, 1 million unique website visits, and 15 million unique YouTube impressions.
Serena Star, a fantasy, fashion, pin-up, boudoir, and now, baby photographer, who was recognized by Professional Photographer Magazine as a Top 10 Up and Coming Photographer. She presented at Imaging USA and is one of the youngest PPA Master Photographers ever.
PhotoVideoEDU: Does the program have any important new developments on the horizon?
Andrew Simcox: Antonelli Institute is about to celebrate its 75th anniversary with an exhibit at the Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania. The exhibit will feature work from the founder, faculty, students, and alumni.