Studies in Photography at Grand Valley State University encompass the history, critical and aesthetic theory, and varied practice of photography as a medium of visual communication and expression in culture and society. As in all forms of communication, the study of photography requires that students synthesize analytical and creative capacities and apply them to the critical interpretation and creative production of meaning. Mastery in photography requires an understanding of the visual language of the medium, the acquisition of technique, and a disposition of intellectual curiosity. The photography program offers high-quality, student-centered, production and theory courses aimed at developing liberally educated professionals able to thoughtfully adapt and thrive in a variety of professional and creative environments.
As meaning-makers, students need to combine photographic technique and their understanding of visual language with ideas that emanate from an authentic sense of self. The individuality and integrity of the photographer are essential grounds for the self-governance and success of any artist and professional. Although the photographer needs expertise in the practice, history, and critical study of photography, these are rarely the content of the photographs they make which operate as densely-coded objects in a system of cultural discourse. Breadth and depth in studies in a variety of fields contribute to the intellectual life of a photographer and his or her understanding of the cultural, political, social, ethical, economic, aesthetic, and psychological uses of images. This dedication to the education of intelligent image-makers that is neither constrained in a vocational training program, nor a narrow studio art emphasis alone, is what makes the photography program at Grand Valley distinct and valued in the state and region.
The B.A. and B.S. degrees prepare students to engage graduate studies in fine art programs, begin careers as professional artists, work creatively in commercial advertising and portrait studios, produce compelling work as photojournalists and editorial photographers, apply their expertise in museums and galleries, or combine a knowledge of image-making with another field for a variety of interests and functions. The photography program serves many of the 1500 students in other major programs within the School of Communications, students in the Department of Art and Design, and students from across the university.
The Photography program, in supporting the mission of the School of Communications and the University, develops liberally-educated professional image-makers and media scholars through student-centered inquiry and practice in visual communication and the history, theory, criticism, and production of photographic images using state of the art methods, tools, and facilities.
The Photography program at Grand Valley will continue to develop as the regional center of respected photographic and visual communication studies that promotes professional versatility, critical awareness, and life-long learning. The Photography program will contribute to the profession and the vitality of the community, as demonstrated through student achievement and placement, faculty development and creative activity, and participation in the regional culture and society.
The Photography major values a student-centered curriculum with a face-to-face learning community of students and faculty; the ideals of a liberal education and the life of the mind; a commitment to teaching by highly qualified, diverse, full-time, permanent faculty; a safe and professional learning environment and the essential experiences and opportunities conducive to professional development, creativity and intellectual growth; and a sharing of resources and collaborations with interested partners in the School of Communications, the university community, and the regional community.