University ignores photo and video as an art BY NICHOLAS SMIT

In this golden age of social media and selfies, every student on campus has taken pictures. So it’s a big surprise that, here at Puget Sound, photography is dead, and video too. The University puts hardly any money into these two major art forms and it is saddening. Yet, maybe more saddening is their reason for not pursuing these art forms: there’s no student interest.

Personal anecdotal experience tells me otherwise. I am a huge fan of videography. My high school spent money on classes and equipment, sending myself and others on to win awards at the Seattle International Film Festival. Then I come here and there’s nothing. No classes, no clubs, and the recording equipment for rent shares the same quality as a cellphone.

The same story rings true for photography. Students come here, fresh from high schools where photography is taken as a serious art form, and they forget about their passion, since there’s no artistic growth offered here. The only program for photography at Puget Sound is Photo Services, which, as its manager Laura Saltzer will freely tell you, is not designed for most students interested in photography.

“To be honest, there isn’t that much work, so that’s what’s limiting,” senior Laura Saltzer said. “Photo Services as an organization was only created to supplement The Trail. That’s its original purpose.”

Photo Services now helps any media group that approaches it, which isn’t too many. This narrow purpose also makes the organization a poor fit for amateur photography enthusiasts since one works on commission and to get in one must already be good.

Furthermore, a high quality camera is required to get in, since Photo Services has zero equipment and the rentals at Tech Services are not up to par. Recently, ASUPS purchased a single DSLR for student rental, but it’s not exactly known about and, of course, there’s only one.

With all these constraints, Photo Services is not exactly an expressive outlet for wannabe photographers. Saltzer saw this, and tried expanding Photo Services to host photography workshops last year, but realized it wasn’t going to work.

“I used to think that Photo Services could fill all the photography needs, but right now, as a growing organization, we have to focus on what our core purpose is,” Saltzer said.

“If someone reached out to me I’d love to help them out, teach them what I know and connect them to other photographers on campus. But there isn’t any formal club, or class or resource, aside from Photo Services, on campus,” Saltzer said.

Interestingly, the University used to have classes dedicated to darkroom film photography, and kept this darkroom until a couple years ago.

As printmaking professor Janet Marcavage explained, teaching this class became increasingly expensive due to the difficulties in acquiring the film materials and darkroom chemicals. The darkroom, too, failed to meet ventilation requirements since the chemicals are carcinogenic.

“We offer digital imaging on a very occasional basis, which incorporates digital photography. This is limited due to staffing and other courses that need to be taught as part of the curriculum,” Marcavage said.

Clearly, offering these classes and equipment is a money issue, and campus officials just aren’t convinced that the student interest is there to make it worthwhile. David Childers, Digital Media Services manager down at Technology Services, made it clear that this was his reasoning for not purchasing better equipment.

“There’s not enough avid photography people who want to use that equipment. We just don’t have the need for it,” Childers said. “If we were to try to accommodate every student who comes in with a media request, we’d be bogged down spending God knows how much on very particular types of equipment.”

These “particular types of equipment” would be cameras that shoot above ten megapixels, a quality which is worse than many cellphones. Tech Services does own high-end video cameras, but they’re not for student check-out, just for the full-time staff videographers.

Some things don’t add up. This campus has superb software programs for post-production, which goes totally to waste if the photos and videos are shot on crappy equipment and students never get taught how to use the programs. Students have to come to campus already owning expensive equipment and knowing how to edit.

If this campus was concerned about costs, throw out the expensive subscription to Adobe CC and purchase the much-cheaper-and-slightly-less-powerful Adobe Elements package. It’s not like any students are being taught how to use Adobe to the point that they’d notice any difference. Within a couple years the University could get a few great quality DSLRs that shoot photos and videos at 25 megapixels, purchased entirely off the software savings alone. So, honestly, if officials were playing smart, cost is not a problem.

Even if the money is efficiently re-appropriated,  there’s still the argument that students won’t use the better equipment because there’s no student interest.

No evidence proves such believers wrong, either. The campus has no photography or video clubs, which are normally good gauges of student interest; the argument goes that if Puget Sound can support a bee-keeping club, a kayak club and a few ultimate Frisbee teams, then it’s clearly just a lack of interest that hails the lack of a club.

Perhaps photography hasn’t become a club because it’s hardly a team activity. Perhaps videography hasn’t become a club because no one knows where to begin. All that’s evident from being on this campus for four years is that there is interest, it just hasn’t materialized into a unified group.

Once a club is founded and thriving, squashing the argument that there’s no student interest and getting funds for cameras will be a piece of cake. Maybe even a digital photography or videography curriculum can be developed, but that’s looking years down the road.

No one person can make this university respect photography on their own. So, this is a call to all the photographers and video-enthusiasts out there to unite, make a club, and show them what’s art.