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2012-2013 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog

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Photography - Program Description

For additional information about opportunities your college offers, please refer to the School of Communications web site.

School of Communications Director: Thompson. Professors: Rathbun, Thompson; Associate Professor: Veenstra; Assistant Professor: Smith.


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.

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.

Students are encouraged to explore a variety of photographic formats, including 35mm and 4x5 view camera, and to acquire experience in black-and-white, color, and digital imaging processes.

Working closely with a faculty advisor, students plan at least 39 semester credits directly relating to photography, plus the communications core (nine credits), and the Capstone (three credits). Students connect photography to related fields in the visual arts, performing arts, media and publications, and the humanities. The emphasis of the photography program is on the students growth as educated picture makers who not only know photography, but also know something about themselves, about the world around them, and about the culture that has shaped them. Students are expected to develop a working knowledge in many areas of visual communication and are encouraged to pursue elective studies in areas that provide a broad understanding of social and cultural issues and the role of the visual communicator in contemporary society.

Students beginning the photography curriculum with no prior credits toward the major are encouraged to take CPH 171 Photo I and CPH 266 History of Photography I in the fall semester, and CPH 172 Photo II and ART 150 2D Design in the winter semester of their first year. All others are encouraged to meet with their advisor before scheduling courses in the photography sequence. A 35mm film camera is required. A digital SLR and a laptop are recommended for the program.


The photography program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Career Opportunities

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 following programs are available:

Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Photography

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