Photography at GVSU

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 Student Photographer

What does it mean to study photography at GVSU? Perhaps this video can answer that question.

A glimpse at students studying photography

Degree Options

BA/BS degrees

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. 

Bachelor of Arts/ Bachelor of Sciences, Photography – Information

Photography Minor

The Photography minor offers students in other majors the opportunity to pursue their interest in photography. Students take seven courses for the minor for a minimum of 21 credits

Minor in Photography - Information 

Why Photography at GVSU?

A 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 school has many ties with business, community, and cultural organizations, and has contacts with experts in a variety of areas in communications, which serve as outstanding resources both within the classroom and for internships.
  • The diversity of courses offered allows students the opportunity to explore a variety of photographic methods and applications as they develop their personal expertise and interests.
  • The program prepares students to engage graduate studies in fine art programs.
  • Faculty in photography have a broad range of professional experience and a dedication to teaching.

Learning Environment

Rachel Britton talks about her experience in the photo major

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.  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, and aesthetic uses of images. This dedication to intelligent image-makers  is neither constrained in a vocational training program, nor a studio art emphasis alone. 

Student standing in gallery
student standing in gallery laughing
student standing in gallery smiling

Faculty and Staff

Stafford Hiroshi Smith

Associate Professor of Photography

Anthony Thompson

Professor of Photography

Mahsa Alafar

Visiting Professor of Photography

Paige Young

Visiting Professor of Photography

Sara Alsum-Wassenar

Communications Resource Specialist

Liv Chow

Adjunct Instructor of Photography

Michael Powell

Adjunct Professor of Photography

Page last modified September 15, 2023