Grossmont Professor Suda House talks about the college's new photography curriculum covering both digital and analog processes, its alignment with California's Studio Arts Transfer Model for students going on to four-year institutions, and its newly renovated San Diego County campus.
For more information about Grossmont College, and to see photos of the campus, visit the school's profile.
PhotoVideoEDU: What is distinctive about your program?
Suda House: The Photography Program at Grossmont College celebrates its fiftieth year by continuing its rich tradition of recognizing the continual changes within our medium. We provide for our students the opportunity to thrive within the new practice of photography, while gaining a solid educational experience viable for transfer to any four-year public university in California. Over the past five decades, the program has evolved through various curricular cycles, embracing vocational to fine art to technical driven courses, meeting along the way the demands of our students and the possibilities for their growth within photography.
What makes us distinctive is our new curriculum, which builds on our past by providing a concise set of in-depth course experiences. Photography is a way of seeing and using the current tools and processes as the means of communication. Our students define their unique and personal perceptions through capture and visual description.
Studio courses are hybrid. They explore both analog and digital, including color theory, artificial lighting, and alternative processes, as well as various historical, cultural, and cutting-edge issues current in today’s photography. Although the State of California does not recognize photography in the community college system as a transfer degree, our new curriculum is distinctive within our region for most closely aligning with the Studio Arts Transfer Model. When our students follow our plan and complete their studies at Grossmont College, they have the necessary courses, plus the approved units to be admitted to either a CSU or UC as a junior.
PhotoVideoEDU: What kinds of students does the program attract?
Suda House: The students who enroll in our photography program are representational of most students attending any community college within California. Sixty percent of our students are people of diverse ethnic backgrounds and more than 55 percent are female. The largest population of students is 18 to 24 years of age, and only about 40 percent of students are full time. Unique to Grossmont College is the large population of veterans receiving GI educational benefits. All of these statistics describe a thriving group of students, with a majority attending school during the day, and a smaller percentage attending in the evening.
Most of our students have jobs—full- or part-time outside of class—and others receive financial assistance from various sources. As part of the college’s mission statement—changing lives through education—transfer objectives are the highest priority, and our curriculum ensures learning for workplace training and other lifelong skills as well.
PhotoVideoEDU: What kind of campus does your school have, and what is student life like?
Suda House: Our campus has recently been revitalized with additional facilities for photography and the digital arts as well as nursing, health sciences, sculpture, and exercise science. All students have benefited from the new technology center, student center, and student services’ buildings.
Even though Grossmont College is considered a commuter school, students are active in theater, music, and dance performances; literary festivals; community outreach; and athletics, not to mention the art gallery, visiting artists' and photographers’ lecture series, and other cultural and social activities—all for free!.
Grossmont College’s location in San Diego County provides students with an exciting life off-campus. With our paradisiacal weather, students can venture out to such regional attractions as the beach, the mountains, and the desert. Students can participate in sports of all kinds and their social life is expanded by new venues in the Gas Lamp Quarter downtown and music clubs in North Park and Little Italy. San Diego’s close proximity of less than two hours to Los Angeles provides for greater awareness and exposure to a larger metropolitan city. Crossing the international border of Mexico invites students to explore a native culture of this region, and it is just 20 minutes south of the campus. All of these are fantastic opportunities to see and make exciting images, not to mention the continual available light at a perpetual f/16.
PhotoVideoEDU: Does the program have required courses or final requirements?
Suda House: In our new curriculum there are six core courses totaling 18 units of photography that are required:
Photo 150 - Introduction to Photography
Photo 151 - Personal Photographic Vision
Photo 152 - Contemporary Photographic Practice
Photo 154 - History of Photography
Photo 166 - Image and Idea
Photo 252 - Photographer’s Portfolio
Completing an additional 12 units to make 30 for the major, students can select Visual Arts electives that are within the Studio Arts Transfer Model, such as 2D Design, Drawing I, 3D Design, and select Art History courses. It is these courses plus Photo 150 and 154 that contribute to fulfilling transfer to the four-year California universities.
The Associate of Arts in Photography is obtained by completing 30 units of college-approved general education courses for a total of 60 units.
The Certificate of Achievement in Photography is granted for the 18 units of photography.
PhotoVideoEDU: Do your students do internships?
Suda House: We have no formal structure for internships. Students wishing to volunteer or work as non-paid interns are encouraged to inquire and apply with such venues as the Museum of Photographic Arts, the San Diego Union Tribune newspaper, and various professional photographers providing apprenticeships. If they're successful, we can provide mentorship via independent study status through concurrent college enrollment.
PhotoVideoEDU: Do you hold special events for photography students?
Suda House: Yes, we have several special events each semester. Visiting artists and photographers lecture to our students either by invitation or in collaboration with their exhibition in our on-campus art gallery. Programs are often brought on campus by the Museum of Photographic Arts, ASMP, and APA in the form of workshops, hands-on demonstrations, and portfolio reviews. Canon’s Explorers of Light, Freestyle Photo, and PhotoVideoEDU have provided us with exciting programs on careers in photography, color management, and studio lighting techniques.
Our most recent community outreach event was the sponsorship of a tintype demonstration with a local historical society. Students visited the historical archives of the society and participated in the making of 19th century photographs.
PhotoVideoEDU: Do your students get opportunities to show their work?
PhotoVideoEDU: What areas do graduates of your program go on to work in as professionals?
Suda House: Absolutely. Besides our annual student show in our campus art gallery, students exhibit their work throughout San Diego. Students who successfully complete the Photographer’s Portfolio course participate in a pop-up exhibition of their work in a non-profit gallery. They learn to edit their work, complete the final presentation, hang the pieces, organize a reception, and follow through with press and promotion.
Suda House: We have an outstanding track record for transfer, which is our primary mission. Students have matriculated to such institutions as the University of California, Los Angeles; University of California, Riverside; University of California, Irvine; California State University, Long Beach; San Diego State University; San Jose State; California State University, Fullerton; and many private colleges, universities, and art schools.
Many of our graduates pursue higher degrees to fulfill their desire to exhibit and teach, and several have returned to Grossmont to teach art and photography as adjuncts.
Professionally, most of our graduates become independent photographers, working in architecture, product, fashion, editorial, photojournalism, and stock photography fields, after serving as assistants with our large community of working photographers.
PhotoVideoEDU: Could you name a few distinguished graduates?
Gary Payne is a professional editorial photographer who is the president of the Board of Directors of the Museum of Photographic Arts.
Greg Lambert, who specializes in architectural photography, is the current president of the Artistic Photographers of America—San Diego Chapter.
Fred Greaves, photojournalist and Board Member of the American Society of Media Photographers—San Diego Chapter and Southern California AP-UPI photographer.
Donna Cosentino is co-chair of the Photography Program at Palomar College, San Marcos, California.
Alfred Pagano, photographer and owner of Giant Photo, San Diego, has for more than 25 years specialized in large printing and image reprographics.
PhotoVideoEDU: Does the program have any important new developments on the horizon?
Suda House: Yes, we hope to develop an enrichment program through our Continuing Education and Outreach Division to provide for those in our community seeking to refine their photographic skills within the medium, explore their ideas, and find their voice through personal expression.
In addition, affiliations with ASMP and APA provide a fantastic opportunity for masters’ classes in the business of photography, specialized careers, and how to make it as a pro.