Earlier this week I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days in San Francisco for the Academy of Art University 2012 Spring Show. I’m not sure I had even heard of the school when I got a call from them a few weeks ago, so I was surprised to learn that they’ve been around since 1929. They have over 18,000 students studying everything from acting to web design, in addition to a really solid photography program judging by the high quality of student work. The university attracts aspiring artists from all over the world (I met some from Iran, Luxembourg, Mexico, Japan and Thailand), and about 1/3 of their overall enrollment is online students.
My main task was to meet with graduating seniors to give them feedback on their portfolios and to help them understand what might be in store for them when they enter the real world. I was one of about 20 photography professionals (including fellow Wonderful Machine photographer Robert Houser), each of us meeting with 10 − 15 students for about 15 minutes each.
I find that most photography programs tend to push students either in a fine art direction or along a commercial track like a trade school. But the students I met all seemed to bridge that gap really well by showing artful photographs but with an eye towards a career in photography. I was also very impressed with the fact that they already had all their marketing materials in place, including print portfolios, websites, business cards and promotional mailers.
There was no shortage of strong work, but some of my favorites were fine art photographer Golnaz Sharhmirzadi, photojournalist Alexandra Farias, still life photographer Dan Simmons, landscape photographer Nan-Yee Shon and perhaps my favorite favorites – fashion photographers Martine Pinnel and Caro Ramirez.
The portfolio reviews and the senior show were held at The Cannery near Fisherman’s Wharf, which is a restored Del Monte peach cannery built in 1907. Afterwards, there was a big party for all of the attendees in an open air courtyard. There I got to talk to some of the faculty that have helped raise the profile of the school in recent years – including Executive Director of Photography James Wood, Graduate Director of Photography Will Mosgrove, Director of Online Photography Ryan Baldwin instructor Erik Butler and administrator Adrienne Pao.
And since I was in town, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to visit with some of our Wonderful Machine photographers. I met Sherry Heck and James Wirth for breakfast at Mama’s on Washington Square. (I can enthusiastically recommend the Nelson’s Rancheros.)
I met Winni Wintermeyer, Laura Flippen, Anthony Lindsey, Ted Thomas, Tai Power Seef, Lianne Milton and Corey Lesh at Kennedy’s Irish Pub & Indian Curry House where we drank beer (2 for 1 happy hour), ate curry and played Tuesday Night Trivia. I then made it all the way to my hotel before realizing that I had left my camera under the table at the restaurant. Thankfully it was there when I got back!