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Hi all so I'm a first year photography grad and so far, putting it lightly, things have been a dumpster fire. Long story short, the head of the area (who is the only dedicated faculty atm for the dept) has been "retired" and the school has dumped everything on the visiting professor starting mid semester in the Fall. Due to all of this myself and the other grads haven't had much guidance; we've been kind of orphaned in a way.

My whole experience so far has been really awful, and I need some advice or feedback on my work. I went to a conference recently and had my portfolio reviewed; the general consensus is that I need some kind of research element to attach with my imagery. I am struggling to figure this out, I don't even know where to begin honestly. My subject matter is oriented around insects and small plant life, making work has been extra trifling this semester because I'm in Iowa and everything is hiding (I'm from the South so this hasn't been an issue in the past). 

 

Here is a link to my website for anyone interested in seeing my work. https://n3aphotography.weebly.com/

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I’m sorry to hear about your experience so far. Have you and your peers been able to address the faculty issue with any admin or the dean/chair of your program/department? Do you know if the problem will persist into your second year, or if some kind of hiring search is underway? It is worth getting together with your peers to see what can be done, and if the faculty is not available, you may have to get together and rely mostly on one another for support and advice, unfortunately. It is likely you aren’t the only one feeling orphaned and if your program is small enough an email around asking for an informal discussion / check in / dinner get-together to discuss either/both the problems in the program or the direction of one anothers work might be worthwhile.

As for your work, the first place I might start is your university library, and specifically I would talk to an actual human librarian. They are there to help, and at every library I have ever been to, public, private, college or otherwise, librarians are under-used and amazing resources. They are professional researchers and can help you find resources that will be interesting to your work as well has help you develop your research skills if you feel those need improvement. 

Because you’re dealing with plants and insects, there is likely a lot of science writing about plants/insect life generally, and also perhaps about the specific species you are looking at. I’m not sure what kind of science background you have, but texts about this kind of thing range from popular science to technical papers published in science journals. A librarian will help you navigate to sources that are understandable to you depending on your specific background/knowledge and also interesting for your practice. Personally, I know there are a lot of art/theory texts that are popular right now around the idea of “ecology” as it relates to the anthropocene, and that could be one research path to relate your work to a corner of the “contemporary art conversation” that is happening right now, but I think it’s important to conduct your research in a way where you are pulling on threads that are actually interesting to you, and not trying to project a thesis onto your work just because it sounds good. 

If your university has a biology department, I’d see if you can stop by the labs or reach out to professors or students in that department, particularly if there are entomologists or botany students, just to see what they’re working on, at a minimum. Perhaps you could even photograph specimens they are working with, or have them identify species in your photos? Idk, if I were in your shoes, I’d try to find a friendly biology student who seems knowledgable, offer to buy them a cup of coffee, bring some prints of your photos to the meeting and just kind of start talking and try to see what jumps out at you as interesting. 

Good Luck!!!

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On 3/21/2018 at 7:28 PM, cabot245 said:

I’m sorry to hear about your experience so far. Have you and your peers been able to address the faculty issue with any admin or the dean/chair of your program/department? Do you know if the problem will persist into your second year, or if some kind of hiring search is underway? It is worth getting together with your peers to see what can be done, and if the faculty is not available, you may have to get together and rely mostly on one another for support and advice, unfortunately. It is likely you aren’t the only one feeling orphaned and if your program is small enough an email around asking for an informal discussion / check in / dinner get-together to discuss either/both the problems in the program or the direction of one anothers work might be worthwhile.

As for your work, the first place I might start is your university library, and specifically I would talk to an actual human librarian. They are there to help, and at every library I have ever been to, public, private, college or otherwise, librarians are under-used and amazing resources. They are professional researchers and can help you find resources that will be interesting to your work as well has help you develop your research skills if you feel those need improvement. 

Because you’re dealing with plants and insects, there is likely a lot of science writing about plants/insect life generally, and also perhaps about the specific species you are looking at. I’m not sure what kind of science background you have, but texts about this kind of thing range from popular science to technical papers published in science journals. A librarian will help you navigate to sources that are understandable to you depending on your specific background/knowledge and also interesting for your practice. Personally, I know there are a lot of art/theory texts that are popular right now around the idea of “ecology” as it relates to the anthropocene, and that could be one research path to relate your work to a corner of the “contemporary art conversation” that is happening right now, but I think it’s important to conduct your research in a way where you are pulling on threads that are actually interesting to you, and not trying to project a thesis onto your work just because it sounds good. 

If your university has a biology department, I’d see if you can stop by the labs or reach out to professors or students in that department, particularly if there are entomologists or botany students, just to see what they’re working on, at a minimum. Perhaps you could even photograph specimens they are working with, or have them identify species in your photos? Idk, if I were in your shoes, I’d try to find a friendly biology student who seems knowledgable, offer to buy them a cup of coffee, bring some prints of your photos to the meeting and just kind of start talking and try to see what jumps out at you as interesting. 

Good Luck!!!

Thank you, this is immensely helpful!

To answer your question, yes they are currently trying to iron out a contract with one of three candidates for the tenure track position so Fall semester should be much better. Half of the grads are finishing up their thesis and on their way out. We do as a group have a workshop class together and have scheduled crit time twice in the semester so there is that at the very least. 

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  • 1 month later...

You could reach out to professional photographers organizations and get more outside help as well. PPA, ASMP and APA are a good start. 

ASMP and PPA have local chapters in almost every state. 

https://americanmediainstitute.com/journalism-resources/professional-journalism-organizations/

https://www.asmp.org

https://www.ppa.com

http://apanational.org

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