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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

Photo major shifts with new technology

In an attempt to make the program more state-of-the-art, NMU is planning to revamp its photography major, placing an emphasis on digital photography rather than the traditional film method that has been used in the past.

“Obviously the technology has changed, and it has changed drastically and rapidly,” said Michael Cinelli, director of the School of Art and Design. “We’re not changing the philosophical approach to photography, but we’re changing the technology. The tools of the industry are changing; we think it’s time our curriculum reflects that.”

The biggest of the changes, which will be implemented in the fall 2009 semester, will be in the introductory level photography class. AD 117 will no longer be Photography: Black and White, but instead, Intro to Digital Photography. Students will use digital cameras instead of the 35 millimeter film cameras.

Other alterations include the addition of upper level lighting courses to incorporate the use of digital cameras, as well as the revision of AD 417, a photography seminar, to include several experimental forms of photography such as the use of hand-built cameras and antique, non-silver processes.

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Both Cinelli and Christine Flavin, an assistant professor of photography, believe that the changes will better prepare students for photography careers in the real world.

“When you look at companies who have produced traditional materials in the past . you see the industry going in a certain direction,” said Flavin. “Students should have the foundation and the history, but they should also have a real hands-on preparation for what industry is doing.”

Today, everything from portrait photography to photo journalism is done using a digital camera instead of traditional film cameras.

“We want to make sure that when students leave here, they have the ability to perform as professionals,” said Cinelli. “We think the School of Art and Design has courses that are professional and contemporary and cutting edge. We believe that it’s important for students to have technical training and to be competitive in any kind of professional marketplace, and these changes will enhance our ability to do that.”

This change will also save beginning photography students money.

Students will no longer be required to buy or borrow a 35 millimeter film camera, nor will they have to pay the cost of film, chemicals and processing that was necessary in the Black and White photography class. Although students are encouraged to purchase their own digital camera, there are 10 high-quality cameras available for use from the department.

According to Flavin, even if a student already owned a 35 millimeter camera, they could end up spending anywhere between $100-$200 for photo processing costs in the Black and White class. The camera alone usually costs around $250.

Now that everything will be done digitally, all a student will need to pay for is a secure digital memory card, which can be purchased for approximately $25, and $1.50 for each photo the student wishes to print.

Flavin believes that this will not only help students financially, but creatively as well.

“When you don’t have to think about the cost . it frees the creative spirit,” she said. “You feel more at ease to make more images, and the more images you make, the better you get.”

While the administration and staff feel that this shift to digital is necessary and beneficial, some photography students are apprehensive about the change.

These students feel that it may take away a valuable learning experience.

“Working with film teaches you how to take your time and compose an image well, compared to digital where you can just point and shoot,” said Guy Strong, a senior photography major. “I think (these techniques) are better to be taught earlier than later.”

Cinelli recognizes this concern in students, but he says that the department is not completely discarding the traditional techniques.

“We are moving into future, while at the same time allowing students to keep a traditional approach as well,” he said.

“We haven’t abandoned our dark room, but the emphasis has changed.”

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