Class Profile: Students photograph with communication as lens

In a society in which photography is becoming more present in our everyday lives, it is important to distinguish features that make the photos attractive.

In COMN 388, Experimental: Photography as Visual Communication, associate professor of communication Atsushi Tajima mixes production and visual criticism to blend photography and the media.

Senior Jonathan Baek created the class as a directed study under Tajima's advisement. The project was to come up with the skeleton for the syllabus.

“We knew that we wanted it to be a two-fold class - one is kind of like a production-based class where students produce work with the cameras that we got funded for and use that knowledge and apply it to communications studies that we have already been taught,” Baek said.

The communication department received funding that allowed Tajima to purchase of nine new cameras for the class in February. Students therefore do not need their own cameras and there are no prerequisites for the class.

The class has an art aspect to it, but it is run through the communication department.  Because of this, there are strong ties to how the photos can be used to say different things.

“We want to give students an opportunity to practice theories that we have learned,” Baek said.

For the first few weeks of class, students learned how to use the camera and become familiar with different aspects of photography such as shutter speed, aperture, ISO and white balance.

After students become comfortable with using the camera, Tajima will introduce the communication side of the class - how photos tell stories. The students will learn to use technology to express a message.

“Photography and image production can be a very intentional act by you controlling various aspects of the camera,” Tajima said. There is a conscious message coming out of every photo. The aim of the class is to see a different side of photography.

“Often photography courses do portraits, studios, landscapes, etc., which are great, but I am aiming to see how you use the photography in media. For example, those who are going into public relations get to see how photography communicates,” he said.

The class is a mix of students, from those who are avid photographers to those who ordinarily just use their cell phones to take pictures.

Senior Lauren Costello is only three weeks into the class but said that she can already see its advantages. Like many students on campus, Costello said she was into photography in high school and did not continue on in college.

“The class is really fun because we actually get to play around with the cameras in class, and it's not just a lecture,” Costello said. “We get to see how aperture and ISO change images to portray what we want them to.”

Costello said she also enjoys how, as opposed to many other photography classes that will tell you to “shoot a landscape, shoot a cityscape and not tell you why,” she thinks that this course will “help students understand why we make these choices.”