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Featured Photography Program: Rocky Mountain School of Photography


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BY PhotoVideoEDU staff February 01, 2014 · Published by PhotoVideoEDU

RMSP Marketing Coordinator Andy Kemmis talks about the school's intensive Career Training program, its international student body, and the natural beauty of its Missoula location.

For more information about RMSP, and to see photos of the campus, visit the school's profile.

PhotoVideoEDU: What is distinctive about your program?

Andy Kemmis: Our Career Training program is a concentrated, intensive education in the techniques and the aesthetics of photography. It begins with our Summer Intensive session, a course unique and renowned for its ability to take students from basic to advanced topics in a short 11 weeks. Now entering our 26th year, the Summer Intensive program features a time-tested, innovative curriculum and a slate of instructors whose passion is to teach students how to be the best photographers they can be.

All told, the Career Training program encompasses 22 weeks from early June through late October. It’s made up of Summer Intensive, Professional Studies, and Advanced Intensive. Graduates of the complete program can expect a foundation in professional photography skills, a professionally critiqued portfolio, a practical business plan, and the know-how to put it all to use.

PhotoVideoEDU: What kinds of students does the program attract?

Andy KemmisThe range and diversity of students that come to RMSP is something we are very proud of. We attract people of all ages from all around the world with goals that are equally diverse. In the past two years, we have had students from Iran, South Korea, Australia, Mexico, Canada, Switzerland, and France, in addition to most every state in the U.S.

Since we focus so much on producing technically sound photographers, rather than preparing a student for a certain niche of photography, we welcome a wide range of photographers.

Some students enroll in our program with the intention of making a full-time living as a professional photographer. Others come without a career in mind, but simply want a foundation of technical skill and a trained creative eye.

PhotoVideoEDU: What kind of campus does your school have, and what is student life like?

Andy Kemmis: Our campus—meaning our actual classrooms and studios—is located in the heart of downtown Missoula, MT, in a building that is over 100 years old and is on the National Historic Registry. But we also consider the surrounding mountains, rivers, national parks, and open spaces to be part of our campus. Words can’t describe how much our students enjoy our location, and how much it adds to their overall education. Missoula is a friendly, lively, and artistic town positioned at the hub of five valleys. Our facilities are two blocks north of the Clark Fork River, and about two miles away from the entrance to the Rattlesnake Wilderness. Blue ribbon fly-fishing is a 30-mile drive to the east and one of Lewis and Clark’s former campsites is just outside of town. It might sound a bit romantic, but watching a bald eagle pull fish from a river while riding your bike to class is a reality for our students.

Our students work hard. Most days are a combination of lectures and demos in the classrooms, working in the digital labs, working in the studio, and shooting outdoors. Classes are held Monday through Friday, but occasionally they spill into the evenings and weekends as well. The rigorous nature of the curriculum is part of the appeal and moves the student along at an intense, yet manageable, pace.

Our student body is broken down into separate groups who go through the program together. The variety of age ranges and diversity of backgrounds represented in each group provide an interesting mix. Many lifelong friendships and partnerships have been formed here at RMSP. Our classes are fun and engaging sessions, where uproarious laughter is mixed with concentrated learning and introspection.

PhotoVideoEDU: Does the program have required courses or final requirements?

Andy KemmisOur Career Training program is made up of three sessions. Each session can be taken as a standalone experience, and will result in a Certificate of Completion. To be a graduate of the full Career Training program, however, one must complete Summer Intensive, Professional Studies, and Advanced Intensive. 

PhotoVideoEDU: Do your students do internships?

Andy Kemmis: Some do, but on their own after graduation. Owing to the short duration of our program, internships are not a part of our curriculum.

PhotoVideoEDU: Do you hold special events for photography students?

Andy KemmisYes. We host an annual Open House at least once a year. We have one coming up on March 29, 2014. We also host monthly gallery openings in our gallery, as well as a series of monthly public lectures in the fall and winter seasons.

PhotoVideoEDU: Do your students get opportunities to show their work?

Andy KemmisYes, definitely. We have a gallery in the main entrance to our school and we often feature student work. We also showcase student work in our printed publications and on our website.

PhotoVideoEDU: What areas do graduates of your program go on to work in as professionals?

Andy KemmisOur graduates are working in almost every genre of photography out there, from commercial to wedding and portraiture to editorial, and even specialties such as underwater photography. This is by design. We do not necessarily target any specific niche in our curriculum; rather we focus on building the fundamentals. So, for example, while we do not teach underwater photography with the solid foundation we provide, our students can pursue any direction they choose.

By building our Career Training program in three sections, we first and foremost prepare our graduates to be technically sound photographers. Spending an intense amount of time focusing on the fundamentals allows them to thrive in whatever niche they choose throughout their careers. Most of this foundational work is done in Summer Intensive. From there, our Professional Studies courses give our students real world, hands-on experience in a wide range of specialties including wedding, architectural, documentary, portrait, adventure and lifestyle, outdoor photography studio, advertising, and stock photography. These courses have been compared to a “major” in a traditional college setting. After Professional Studies comes Advanced Intensive. This is a six-week course that delivers advanced business and marketing, teaches emerging technologies, and provides the time and space for students to hone their professional appearance before launching into their careers.

PhotoVideoEDU: Could you name a few distinguished graduates? 

Andy Kemmis

Phil Nesmith

Forest Woodward

Mike Tittel

Inti St. Clair

Heather Anne Thomas

Ethan Rohloff

Ryan Mastro

Jamie and Jeremy Manstrom

 . . . as well as most of our instructors.

PhotoVideoEDU: Does the program have any important new developments on the horizon?

Andy KemmisAs a staff, we’re always talking about new programs we can put into place, but nothing I can mention right now. . . . We’ll keep you posted. For now, though, since complacency has never been a part of the RMSP culture, we’re continuing to refine our current offerings so that we can provide the best education in the industry.


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