This summer, the MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department is launching a four-week intensive residency program that brings a range of lens-based practices into focus. Running July 6 – August 3, the core of the residency is a twice-weekly seminar taught by Department Chair Charles Traub and faculty member Grahame Weinbren; in addition, the program will feature intensive critique sessions and lectures by Alan Berliner, Jennifer Blessing, Chris Callis, Shelly Silver, Amy Taubin and others. Weinbren sat down with the Briefs to discuss the new summer program.
How did the summer residency come to be?
One of the most important things about the MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department is that we really don’t distinguish between still images and moving images. Over the years we have taught many photographers how to include moving image in their practice. Charles Traub and I teach a course together called Contemporary Issues: Photography and Film—A Practical Relationship. We’re in the room together. We bounce off each other and learn from each other. He’s talking about the composition of the still image, and I can contrast that with the tension needed for a moving image. Charley said to me, ‘We should take our show on the road.’ It’s how the summer course developed.
What will students learn in the program?
Because of new cameras, students can make pro-quality moving images, HD video and 21-megapixel photos with the same instrument. It’s an SLR camera, it looks like the same camera you’ve been using for 20 or 30 years. That meant our students are holding an instrument that they know well and can now make video. Charley and I realized that this is a big sea change in how we think about lens-based image making. The point of the summer program is to teach a range of people—photographers, performance artists, etc.—how to be able to work in the field of moving image. We’ll teach technology, techniques, concepts and how to see as a filmmaker as opposed to how to see as a photographer.
What will be different about what/how you teach in this program vs. regular MFA classes?
The compression of time is significant for the students. In the four weeks, we want to compress everything that students would do in a year with the extensive history and theory that we offer. Charles and I will be doing our class, which includes presenting a great range of material and analyzing it, plus a lot of technical classes. And the students will be expected to work like slaves [laughs]. At the end they should have projects that they can put on YouTube, submit to a festival, etc.
What are you most looking forward to with this new program?
I love to work with Charles, he teaches me so much, he has so much energy. To spend every day teaching with him is something I’m looking forward to. It’s wonderful to watch students who have had some sort of career take on a whole new set of skills and understandings. It’s all about learning to see—to see a still image that can be extracted from the complex changing world of objects when taking a photograph, or to see a delimited chunk of space-time when making a moving image shot—and to imagine how this shot might connect with other moving images. They’ve been watching movies their whole lives, but understanding what it means to put two images together is a great thrill.
Images: (top) Grahame Weinbren, still from 50 Letters: I, 1998 – 2009 ; (bottom) Illustration by Seth Lambert.