When it comes to having your accomplishments acknowledged, being a college junior can be like that of a middle child. “The seniors have a graduating show. The associate degree students have a show. What the juniors need is feedback,” says Photography Prof. Curtis Willocks. “They had this intense year. They learned a lot, applied a lot. They just need feedback from the outside world on what they’re producing.”
Each of Willocks’ Projects in Advanced Style and Media students “produced” a book or magazine based on a 15-week personal project, work from a large-scale Coney Island photo shoot, and much more.
On May 15 a total of 16 critics arrived. The industry professionals from American Society of Media Professionals (ASMP), American Photographic Artist (APA) and elsewhere, holed up for the afternoon to confer with students about their semester-long body of work.
“My experience with the industry critique was amazing,” says Alejandra Lopez, who has a strong focus on fashion. “It was a great opportunity for us students. I got so much feedback on my work from industry professionals, which will definitely help me improve my work,” she said.
“I met inspiring people who shared new insights with me. It was very beneficial,” said Alex Golshani, whose work details daily occurrences of New York City life. “I made a contact with someone interested in my work whom I’ll be meeting with again this summer,” he said.
“I was very impressed with the students’ ability to describe their work and photography goals,” says Jennifer Permutter, Creative Consultant for Agency Access who came to critique. “There are so many ways to be involved in the photographic community upon graduation and all of the students had a good handle on that.”
“I believe that to make it in this industry you need a strong vision that represents the work you want to create, not what others want you to create,” she says.
The Advaced Styling and Media class, for which Willocks developed the syllabus, focuses strongly on networking with industry and within the School itself. For one project, students created portfolios that were distributed to Fashion, Accessories and Packaging Design students. Those students in turn chose photographers who were right for photographing their own creative work.
Then there was the fashion photo shoot that started at 7 am in the dead of winter. And then the Coney Island extravaganza. “We had a stylist, six dancers and models. Profoto brought location lights, Phaseone brought high-end, medium format cameras,” says Willocks who still seems in awe of the enormity of it. (Watch for an upcoming post with video about this event.)
“Professor Willocks’ class was remarkably extensive,” says Golshani. “We really connected with industry. We visited the Richard Avadon Foundation, Penumbra Foundation, Aperture and Jack Studios. It was a great class.”
“Their work as a whole displayed a wide range of styles and skill levels,” said Steven Hellerstein, another of the critics. “There was an abundance of individuality. The work was very representative of each student’s vision and how they see the world. I got the feeling that the students are very ‘in the moment’ and figuring out how the skills that they are learning will benefit them longer term,” he said.
“I got tips and advice about how the industry works,” says Lopez. “I talked to amazing, interesting people willing to answer any question I had. They gave me advice on moving forward with my work once I graduate. I increased my knowledge of how the industry works and whom to approach in different situations.”
Says Perlmutter, “I look forward to seeing how these students progress including those who are still fine-tuning their artistic vision. It is clear Curtis has given these students direction and they are eager to take it and run with it.”
Photos by Brad Farwell