Jason Andrescavage is an alumni of the Photography Department at City College of San Francisco and earned a Masters Degree in Photography from Kingston University in London in 2014. He has been creating photographs for 10 years concentrating on traditional film and analog wet darkroom techniques. Jason also shares his knowledge at Harvey Milk Photo Center in San Francisco, CA where he teaches photography and darkroom techniques. See our interview with him below:
Jason – how do you think the Photography Program at CCSF help prepare you for a masters program in photography?
I think the CCSF Program is a great first step on the road to a graduate degree because of the intensive technical courses on offer throughout the curriculum. If you are willing to put in the time as a student, there is absolutely no limit to what you can accomplish there. Between the facility and the amazing faculty I was always able to grow as an artist and a practitioner during my time there. In addition to the technical courses, the artistic development classes, business courses, and comprehensive history curriculum I always felt like I was well prepared for a graduate-level education.
Was graduate school always your goal?
No! I started at CCSF as a pure hobbyist looking to get some instruction and improve my photography. It’s hard to understate how important my time at CCSF was in changing my mind in regards to photography as a profession and academic pursuit versus a pleasant pastime. The steady pace of advancing skills and knowledge through the curriculum was addicting and led me to want to continue on to the next level.
PUT IN THE WORK! The CCSF Photo Department as a resource is second to none, and someone who is truly serious about growing as a photographer would have no excuse not to exploit it to the fullest. When I was a student at CCSF, I would frequently be at class or in the darkroom 4 nights a week, and Saturdays. If I wasn’t at work or on location shooting photos, there was a good chance I was on campus. And I was a part time student! When I got to my Masters Program, I was already used to the serious work commitment required and I was able to enjoy the experience all the more thanks to the reduction in stress that meant for me.
What made you focus on traditional film and darkroom techniques?
It wasn’t specifically a “film-vs-digital” choice to continue on with traditional film. I started photography with an inexpensive 35mm SLR I bought on Ebay. At the time, the first class in the CCSF Program was Photo51, and it was still a film-only course. As I worked up through all the classes in the Program and became more competent behind the lens and in the darkroom, my style and choices evolved around the medium. At some point, the look I got was so tied up in traditional wet photography that a digital practice just wasn’t an option for my personal work. Since then I’ve gone even farther down that rabbit hole, shooting my most recent project with an 8×10 camera and paper negatives.
Do you have a go-to camera and lens?
I shot with a 35mm Leica R4 SLR for many years with the occasional medium format roll here and there. Right before I went to grad school I bought a medium format camera for the work I would be doing there and have since then not shot any 35mm besides for backup purposes. During my grad program in in the years since I have moved up to large format 8×10 for specific projects while doing my typical work in medium format.
The two cameras in my bag are:
-Hasselblad 500C with 80mm and 150mm lenses.
-AGFA Ansco 8×10 from old timey times with a newer Schneider 300mm lens.
What is your main source of ideas or inspiration for your work?
It really depends on the project, but for the last few years inspiration for my large format project has come from early artist photographers such as Henry Peach Robinson and Julia Margaret Cameron, up through the Pictorialists- and especially California Pictorialist Anne Brigman. My inspirations for my typical work include the works of Lillian Bassman, Dan Winters, Richard Avedon, and Tim Walker.
I don’t shoot socially-themed works, mostly concentrating on portraiture and themes that excite me within the world of photography, such as the interaction of photographer and subject.
Finally – Do you have any advice for our film & darkroom students wanting to pursue fine art traditional photography?
Have a reason to use traditional wet photography and make it your own as a reflection of your artistic concepts. Have the traditional process be as much of the “why” as the subject matter itself. The fact is, the medium is a choice- make it an interesting one.
Working at a fine art practice is a difficult and your work may go unnoticed for a long time. I’ve had many works dear to my heart get no attention at all when others are unexpectedly selected for exhibitions all over the place. Work with a style and subject matter that excites you, and you will have the enthusiasm to constantly improve and evolve your work.
For more Jason Andrescavage: www.andrescavage.com
Jason’s workshops and class offerings at Harvey Milk Photo Center
Robyn Kessler, co-owner of Vertié Photography and CCSF Photo Alumni turned department Industry Advisor – recently shared her latest “shoot” with us. Read more about the engagement session, her photo business and Robyn below. When we asked Robyn what she suggest studying more of at CCSF to help prepare for a freelance business, she said that “business classes are a must”! For example “PH99 Business Practice for Photographers” offered each semester by Prof. Ken Light. She added that while photographic technique is also important – running a business is full of surprises to be prepared for. She also suggested becoming active in organizations such as WPPI and ASMP to help network and find good examples.
About the Shoot “Christina and Antonio Engaged! 8/28/2012”
Here’s how our epic and fabulous Engagement Session with C and A went:
We started this session at the de Young (where Maria and I actually showed up early so we could check out the Gaultier exhibit, and holy amazeballs! We’ve decided we need to step our shooting outfits up a notch!). Anyway, we watched Antonio and Christina kiss and hold hands in the midst of all the beauty and it was like a real-life Ferris Bueller and Sloane Peterson- playing hookey from work and hanging out at the art museum! So romantic.
Then we head across town to the Car Wash, which doesn’t sound as romantic, but au contraire– it’s where they met!! How’s that for a pick-up joint!
And so, we were able to sum up their life in one afternoon- Car Wash Art Ice Cream. They decided that will be the name of their band 🙂
I earned a degree in photography ten years ago, but it wasn’t until some time later that I thought more seriously about it as a career path. While I continued to photograph for enjoyment and as I traveled, I had also gone back to school. I received a degree in psychology and non-profit organization management, and was in the midst of applying to grad school. A career in photography was not in the plans, but then we adopted Tatanka. Tatanka changed everything. He was the fiercest, craziest, ugliest, and cutest small brown Pug/Chihuahua mix either my husband or I had ever known, and I fell madly in love with him. He delighted and inspired me, and before long I was taking pictures of him on a daily basis. Around this time, I photographed a couple of weddings for friends which I found to be fulfilling as well as great fun. I realized I was so incredibly happy using my camera in these new found ways that I was spending more time doing that and less time preparing for school. One day, as I was driving from Golden Gate Park, I became so excited at the sudden idea of dropping my grad school plans and becoming a wedding and dog photographer that I almost got in an accident. I called my husband Shawn right then, who, in his usual supportive way, said, “Go for it!”
Now here I am, four years after that fateful day, photographing dogs and weddings, and I love it with all my heart. I feel that this is what I was meant to do, for nothing is quite so thrilling as knowing that I preserved a moment of great meaning to somebody.As I enter people’s homes and they let me into their lives for an afternoon, sharing the stories and history of their furry companion, I am continually reminded that I have one of the greatest jobs in the world. It is such a treat to be able to catch these glimpses of devotion and friendship, each one unique, each one the cause of so much happiness in someone’s life.
I am grateful I took crucial time and explored different paths to realize where I belong. My studies of non-profit organizations instilled in me a strong sense of volunteerism and giving back to one’s community. Because of this I try to run a socially and environmentally responsible business by donating, along with my clients’ input, a percentage of my proceeds to various charities. Click here to meet the ones we focus on.
Shawn and I currently live in San Francisco with the aforementioned crazy Tatanka and a very silly but charming Husky/Cattle Dog Morgan. We have become partners in our photography business and together we live a very blessed life