Why did you choose to take classes in the Photography Department at CCSF?
I originally planned on doing all four years of my degree at the School of Visual Arts in New York, but it turned out to be quite a bit more money than I expected. I had already moved out to Brooklyn, so I spent some time exploring and shooting photos before realizing that CCSF would financially be a much better way to cut costs for the first two years towards a degree. A few friends who spent time at CCSF told me that the photo department has some really great teachers and I ended up moving back to San Francisco to get an Associate’s Degree here at City College, and will be making the move back to New York.
You are an international exhibiting artist – Please tell us more about your recent international exhibition and your upcoming one.
Back in April, me and a few friends had the opportunity to present an exhibition at “Rainbow So” in the Shimokitazawa district of Tokyo. This was all thanks to Carson Lancaster who owns Book and Job Gallery in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco. He’s had previous solo exhibitions in Tokyo and basically told me that they hit him up to do a group show, so we ended up collaborating together for it. I’d never been to Asia before, so that was a really exciting, but I had to learn a really hard lesson: never lose your passport! I booked a cheaper ticket and had a layover in Shanghai for what was supposed to be six hours; when I lost my passport there and it took a week before I was actually on my way to Tokyo. I was extremely lucky because I flew in the day before the show. It could’ve easily been too late and I would have missed the whole exhibition. That was such an amazing trip and experience in the end because it was the first time I’d been part of any exhibition internationally. To be there with friends, shooting and exploring, there’s honestly nothing better than that.
In January, i’ll be joining my friend in London for his own solo exhibition, and after that I’ll be traveling back to Tokyo for another exhibition in February. This time it’s at an even bigger gallery, “B Gallery” in the Harajuku district of Tokyo, so I’m even more excited for the second go around. It feels like it’s all coming full circle because I’ll be presenting a series from my road trip across the US to Brooklyn, back when I moved thinking I’d be staying for good to go to School of Visual Arts. I’m getting zines made now and I have everything ready to go print wise for Tokyo early this time. If there’s anything I’ve learned from the exhibitions i’ve been able to be a part of, it’s that you should have your ideas, prints, frames, and everything done early. If not it’s just a whirlpool of anxiety for you and the curator, you should always be ready to go early. That’s one of the best parts about studying photography here, you get photo projects that you end up shooting and printing with a deadline, its good practice for when you get an opportunity to present your work outside of school.
What is your photographic process and what direction you would like to take with your photography?
My own process is probably a bit different in that I’m really only shooting film for my personal work. I love to shoot color film, but black and white is my go-to because I can process it myself and print in essentially any darkroom. I spent most of this summer working at Rayko Photo Center before it finally closed its doors, giving me an opportunity to print basically every color negative through an actual color enlarger. That’s another huge factor in why I shoot black and white a lot these days, there’s literally nowhere to produce C-prints from a communal space in San Francisco anymore. With my process of shooting, I’m always trying to capture moods and emotions as inconspicuously as possible. If I’m traveling somewhere new, I try and take some time to just walk around the city and shoot everyday life outside the touristy areas. You really get a feel for the actual city at that point, and the more patient you are, the stronger your photographs will be. As far as the direction I’m headed, essentially I want to end up as an Editorial Photographer, so I’m just trying to learn as much as I can from everyone and everything I do photographically. I’m currently assisting a Commercial Photographer, and even though commercial work isn’t exactly my cup of tea, it’s an incredible learning experience to be apart of.
Do you have a go-to camera and lens?
My go-to camera is definitely my Hasselblad 500 c/m, it’s my baby. I have quite a few lenses, but my favorite to throw on and shoot just about anything would be the 80mm, 2.8 Zeiss lens. It’s a super fast and surprisingly light weight lens that’s great from portraits to just about everything, If I have to switch to 35mm, I go with the Leica M5 with the dual range Summicron f/2 50mm, the perfect focal range for everyday shooting.
Any advice you can give to other students who also working their way towards An Associate in Science Degree with Major in Photography?
All I can really say is patience goes a long way, that goes for school and photography in general. It’s been a long journey so far, but I know theres much more to do and learn in life, so I just try to take it easy and keep shooting consistently. You don’t get anywhere in life by expecting something to happen overnight, take your time and stay patient. Also, if you want your photography to go somewhere you have to put it out there in the world. Connections can go a long way, so start to build friendships within the photo community, meet a ton of curators and ask as many questions as possible. Always have a business card on you and have a website that you keep up to date, its all about the little things.
Chase is one of our CCSF Photography Peer Mentors!
To check out more of his work:
Ruth Landy is a strategic communication consultant with worldwide experience advocating for UNICEF and other global development organizations. She was thrilled to upgrade her photography skills in a CCSF PHOT51 Beginning Photography Summer intensive course. Below, Ruth shares some of the work she examined at the “Visa Pour L’Image,” Southern France’s premiere annual photojournalism festival which takes place every September.
Walking in their shoes
Women photojournalists break new ground
by Ruth Landy
In the Intensive Care Unit of a California hospital, a distraught mother holds vigil for her young son after his surgery for a grave head injury. The woman, Malalai Rafi, is an Afghan refugee resettled to the Sacramento area with her family. The photographer, Renée Byer, spent two years chronicling the ordeals facing Malalai and other Afghans who risked their lives to support US and coalition forces in their native country. Granted special visas because of their service, these refugees arrived full of hope, only to find danger and heartbreak in the United States, their country of adoption.
Describing her long journey to record No Safe Place, Byer shared her many challenges, including barriers to photographing at the hospital. She was allowed two frames, then ushered out.
Compassion. Sorrow. Anger. Inspiration.
A deep dive into the world of photojournalism today is truly an emotional roller coaster. The venue – Visa pour L’Image – is France’s premier annual photojournalism festival. In the Mediterranean town of Perpignan news and documentary photographers and photo agencies gather to exhibit their stories — witnesses to our turbulent world. They also grapple with the dramatic changes upending their industry: so many opportunities to share images, such an uncertain future.
Photojournalism is still a man’s world. Between 80 to 100 percent of major publications’ significant images of 2016 carried male photographers’ credits.
But this is changing. In the US, the top photo editors of National Geographic, Time, The Washington Post, The New York Times and many other American publications are now female.
What does visual storytelling through a gender lens mean in 2017? At Visa pour l’Image, three award-winning American photojournalists shared what it takes to shoot their complex and compelling subjects in the U.S. and around the world:
- Based in Caracas, Meridith Kohut is a regular contributor to The New York Times covering the collapse of Venezuela and other hard-hitting stories in the region:
“ Because I’m blonde and female, the soldiers in Caracas don’t think I’m as tough as them. Venezuela is a very machista culture but they don’t see me as a threat whereas male photojournalists might get caught up. I try to really feel the story so it comes across in my work. This is a story that is so unseen. I draw a lot of strength knowing that what I’m doing is actually making a difference.”
- Photojournalist Amy Toensing is a regular contributor to National Geographic magazine. At Visa to present her reportage on Widowhood, Toensing shared her experience covering the intimate stories of women in India, Bosnia and Uganda:
“One cool thing about being female and traveling is a certain camaraderie that happens. You don’t have to speak the same language and you can make that connection with body language. It’s such a collaboration to tell their story. What I have experienced with these women is ‘we did it, we worked together and told my story.’ That in itself has been powerful.”
- Renée Byer, a Pulitzer prize winning photographer for the Sacramento Bee, came to Visa to present No Safe Place. It’s a searing witness to the struggles of Afghan refugees resettled to California under special visas granted because of their support for the U.S. war effort in their country, and the deadly risks they faced at home.
“ Photojournalism is about telling stories. As a photojournalist, I spend a lot of time with my subjects — sometimes a year, two years. We are all more the same than we are different. We all have the same emotions, want the best for our children. Many of the Afghan refugees just want an opportunity, they don’t want a handout. I just want their story to be told, in their own words. ”
Much of Byer, Kohut and Toensing’s photojournalism embodies best practices of the profession, which they share with their male colleagues:
- A fierce commitment to a code of journalistic ethics – accuracy, context, no manipulation of images.
- Deep engagement with those they are photographing — before, during and after they put down their cameras.
- Mentorship of young photographers, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Yet their work also reveals the contours of a new visual landscape in the making: our world seen through women’s eyes, a gender lens keenly attuned to social exclusion, but also to signs of social transformation as women and girls come into their power in the 21st century.
The word photography comes from the Greek, meaning “writing with light”. As Byer, Kohut, Toensing and other women blaze new trails in their profession, their fearlessness, determination and empathy illuminates the path ahead:
Meridith Kohut, on managing feelings while photographing tough stories:
“A lot of photojournalists will block out trauma when shooting difficult subjects. When I was at the funeral of the four kids with the moms crying, I was bawling right along with them. Whenever I have strong emotions, I feel them in the moment. Maybe that’s easier for me because I’m a woman, but I try to use whatever I’m feeling not only for my mental health, but also for my work.”
Renée Byer, on what it takes to make it in photojournalism:
“There aren’t as many women in the profession, but their involvement is growing in leaps and bounds. If I were to give advice to young women aspiring to be photojournalists, it would be about the determination you need — about shooting every single day. It’s not something where you just pick up a camera and become a great photographer. You have to go the extra mile.”
Amy Toensing, on the value of educating girls in low-income countries:
“It’s important to look to the future, and that’s the essence of this. It’s about girls’ education. And these places really need to start prioritizing that.
“You give these girls something to work with, empower them and this (the social exclusion experienced by widows) won’t happen.
When you educate girls, look out – because they’re going to kick ass!”
PLAN your schedule
Here is the Spring photography schedule. Apply and register as soon as you can to ensure your spot.
To see student work samples visit the virtual gallery.
If you have any questions about pre-requisites – please ask an Instructor. Some classes that require a beginning darkroom class (like Documentary) will allow registration with an equivalent second semester class such as Photoshop – just ask the Instructor! You may waive certain per-requisites by taking a challenge test or presenting college level course equivalence/transcripts to the Dept. Chair, Bob Nishihira.
Need a Challenge Test? – make an appointment asap:
QUESTIONS? visit our list of Faculty and Staff to schedule a one-on-one appointment or ask a question.