Featured Photography Program: Daytona State College
By MOC staff
/ Published by MOCDaytona State College School of Photography Chair Daniel Biferie and faculty members talk with MAC-On-Campus about how DSC and the University of Central Florida have formed a partnership to benefit photography students, the program's extensive facilities, and its relationship with the Southeast Museum of Photography.
For more information about the Daytona State College School of Photography, and to see photos of the campus, visit the school's profile in the Prospectus.
MAC-On-Campus: What is distinctive about your program?
Daniel Biferie, School of Photography chair: Our Southeast Center for Photographic Studies is a consortium with Daytona State College, the University of Central Florida, and the Southeast Museum of Photography, and it’s designed to give photography students an unparalleled insight into the world of advanced photography. We offer a strong foundation in a variety of fields so that our graduates can find their places in the challenging and complex art of photography. As a comprehensive, fully integrated program, our Associate of Science degree leads to a Bachelor of Science degree that’s administered by the University of Central Florida. Students who go through our programs study in a state-of-the-art joint-use facility on our Daytona Beach campus.
Eric Breitenbach, senior professor: We have an excellent faculty. And we also have the Southeast Museum of Photography here on campus. The shows at the museum are on par with the shows that you find in New York or Los Angeles. We meet with all of the students before they register to make sure they know that our course of study is time consuming and demanding. State tuition, on the other hand, is inexpensive. We have a dedicated student body. There's a great community here, and it's just a very exciting place to explore photography.
Steve Benson, associate professor: I would add that the thrust of the program is to help students learn to be professional photographers. So we talk about aspects of business as well as about aesthetic concerns.
Jason Burrell, program coordinator for the UCF BS program: The type of photography we're teaching is real and immediate. The students can use it right away. They can begin their photography careers before they leave. The program is designed to enhance their futures. It's not only about being here; it's about what they'll do when they leave. Each course ends with each student making a portfolio, so they have very concrete measurements of their achievements.
Daniel Biferie: The faculty have distinguished themselves as artists, as photographers, and we're very proud of that. Everyone maintains currency in the field and is a practicing artist-educator. We are a very close group and work together to develop the curriculum and create a stimulating environment for the students.
MOC: What kinds of students does the program attract?
Jason Burrell: We have quite a range of students. Of course, most of our students are coming to us from high school or within a few years of graduating, but we have people who are changing careers and who are looking for satisfying and creative lifestyles.
Daniel Biferie: We have students who are coming here with advanced degrees in fine arts, and students who are coming to us from basically every corner of the earth. As a state college we have open entry and welcome anyone who's interested in photography, but we also have standards of progress that ensure students are working at advanced levels.
MOC: What kind of campus does your school have, and what is student life like?
Jason Burrell: It’s a traditional community-based campus, with lots of trimmings: We have a location called the News-Journal Center that houses a formal performing arts theater.
We've got a number of museums in the community, and the Peabody Auditorium brings in Broadway plays. By the way, the ocean is minutes away. Nearby cities include Jacksonville and Orlando. Our photography museum offers workshops, film series, and exhibitions. We have a student photographic association that brings in photographers to demonstrate things including digital imaging and studio lighting. The School has a variety of clubs that students can get involved with. And there are sports, including basketball, golf, baseball, and swimming teams. The School of Photography, though, is the heart of our community, and we do take the culture of the program very seriously. It's charged by some 250 full time photography majors and has a low student-to-faculty ratio. It’s highly personalized, so students know each other; they know the faculty. You can walk down the hall and just about everyone knows you by name.
MOC: Does the program have required courses or final requirements?
Daniel Biferie: Yes, the programs are designed to shepherd students from fundamental technical and aesthetic concerns to obtaining advanced skills and concepts. For the bachelor’s degree there are required classes that head towards capstone experiences, and these are diverse to ensure that each student can customize their educational experience. So students leave with an impressive body of work.
MOC: Do your students do internships?
Dan Biferie: Yes, they do in the bachelor’s program.
Jason Burrell: In the last semester of the fourth year. There is an elective class with internships at a museum or gallery. We also have a relationship with the Daytona Beach News-Journal and Orlando Sentinel newspapers for students wishing to enter editorial fields. We have internship opportunities with the Daytona International Speedway—the famed racetrack—for those wanting to explore this venue of sports photography. Steven Spencer, a faculty member, has internships available at a publishing company. We've had students that have had internships at Magnum and well-known galleries, as well as at commercial studios.
MOC: Do you hold special events for photography students?
Steven Benson: The museum brings in nationally recognized photographers and scholars. They organize two sets of shows a year and run a lighter summer exhibition schedule. And because the museum is spacious, there are two to four exhibitions running concurrently. If it's a fashion show, there’s an A-list New York fashion photographer. If it's an editorial show it would be someone who's distinguished in that area. Most of the students that volunteer at the museum reap the benefit of interacting with these artists. Over its 30-plus-year history, the museum has brought in major and aspiring photographers. All of our students can attend workshops and lectures that are provided by the museum, too.
Daniel Biferie: We have a travel program. Eric has taken students to India. Steven has taken students to Costa Rica.
Eric Breitenbach: We've taken students to the Society for Photographic Education national and regional conferences. There have been trips to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Haiti, and Trinidad.
MOC: Do your students get opportunities to show their work?
Daniel Biferie: Yes, we have a teaching gallery in our building; it is operated independently of our Museum of Photography. There is a yearly juried show where students may exhibit at the museum, too. There's an annual faculty exhibit and an alumni exhibit. We also have Portfolio Night, during which families gather at the end of every semester to see their children’s and other family members' portfolios. It’s quite a celebration of their accomplishments.
Steven Benson: Our teaching gallery is devoted to exhibiting student photography. We have a handful of shows there each semester. The students apply to exhibit recent work. A faculty member reviews it, and then every month there'll be a new exhibition.
MOC: What areas do graduates of your program go on to work in as professionals?
Daniel Biferie: Some become established professional photographers within a couple of years of graduating. Our students find opportunities in the editorial field, the commercial/illustration field, and certainly in the arts. They leave here well prepared. A lot of the students that work at the museum become interested in museum studies and end up in careers in arts management. Others go on to earn MFA degrees.
Eric Breitenbach: One recent trend is that students will be hired to work for a corporation and then they'll end up doing the photography and web design for that corporation. It might not be exactly what they were hired for, but given their skills, they end up doing quite a bit. Photography’s changing.
MOC: Could you name a few distinguished graduates?
Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Crowley, staff photographer for the New York Times
Travis Ruse, photo editor at Inc. Magazine;
Larry Cumbo, executive director of National Geographic TV & Film, Opera House LIVE
William Dunkley, photo editor, Prestige Hong Kong
Wendy Lynch, publisher and creative director, Under the Radar Magazine.
MOC: Does the program have any important new developments on the horizon?
Eric Breitenbach: We're incorporating more video into the program. The college has asked us to put together a new two-year, and possibly a four-year, program in interactive media production. It will incorporate journalism, photography, video, sound, set design, and production design. We'll be working with the School of Music, Entertainment and Art and the journalism department to create that program. We also have a full broadcast studio television station. That's where the program will be housed, and some of the work that students do will go out over the air and on the television station's website.
Jason Burrell: We're looking at starting an MFA program in photography as well. We see a need for it in the area, and we see it flourishing in this great facility given the skill and artistry of our faculty and the excellence of our students’ accomplishments. We enjoy a charged and inspirational environment.
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