‘We thrive in the creative and problem-solving part of the job’
“…Arts education, comprising a rich array of disciplines including dance, music, theatre, media arts, literature, design and visual arts, is a core academic subject and an essential element of a complete and balanced education for all students.”
July 25, 2010, U.S. House of Representatives Resolution
On a summer day in 2009, on a California beach, a recent Ohio high school graduate worked with one male and one female model, putting them in a series of poses with various expressions and different versions of natural light. She adjusted lens filters. She calculated f-stops. She complimented and cajoled her subjects. This occurred for six hours – from noon to 6 p.m. One of those many shots appeared in a book, Photography Vibes.
On a summer day in 2010, at a southwestern Ohio studio, another recent Ohio high school graduate worked with a teenage friend, placing him in various poses with multiple expressions and versions of artificial lighting. She studied how the lines of a prop – a portable, piano keyboard – fit with her subject’s face. She tried colored gel filters, finally choosing to turn the black background to green. While she planned an idea in her head the day before, she raced the clock with only a 90-minute time slot in the studio. One of her many shots was used for a grade in a college class; it will later be in a college graduation portfolio.
Image: Brandi Chambers
Best of the Best
Such are the lives of artists – particularly artists behind a camera lens. The artist on the beach was photographer Brandi Chambers, a 2005 graduate of Fairfield High School and the Butler Technology and Career Development Schools. The artist in the second scenario was Chelsea Grachek, a 2009 graduate of Carlisle High School and Miami Valley Career and Technology Center. And while neither was compensated financially for those photo shoots, they understand that patience and deadlines are necessary parts of their chosen careers. In a world of flip cameras and iPhones, they must do all they can to acquire visibility for the quality of their work on the beach or at the studio.
“That beach photo has to be my best ever,” Brandi said. “I felt good when it was over. But like all my photos, I got up the next day and told myself I could have done this differently or that differently to make it better.”
“Technically, that studio shot was one of my best acquired images,” Chelsea said. “Artistically, my best so far is one of a girl on a car with the sun behind her. It was really vintage. That one was shot this past July.”
Brandi and Chelsea are two of many reasons to celebrate Arts in Education Week Sept. 12-18, 2010. The commemoration is being heralded by various organizations, including the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education, and individuals, including Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, who has issued a resolution. Brandi and Chelsea are graduates of two of 40 Ohio career-technical programs in the Arts and Communication Career Field. The Butler Tech program where Brandi got the spark for her photography career is called Communications Broadcasting. After high school, she got an associate degree in Arts and Science at Antonelli College, Cincinnati. She has been accumulating awards, including as a recent Chairman Finalist in a Lifetouch-sponsored competition.
Chelsea says she got the “photo bug” at the start of her high school junior year in the Graphic Commercial Photography program at Miami Valley. She was accepted to Kaplan University in the spring of her high school junior year and plans to graduate with an associate’s degree in 2011. She has her sights on work along a seasoned portrait photographer before starting her own business. Much of what she shoots now is for college assignments.
Image: Chelsea Grachek
Both young ladies receive many accolades, including from their former high school instructors.
“Brandi impressed me early on with her maturity,” said Butler Tech teacher, John Ginter. “As a high school student she was on-task, dependable and produced quality work. As I have watched her grow professionally, her skills improve with each piece of work she creates.”
Miami Valley teacher, Jay Vada, uses terms such as “go getter” to describe Chelsea. He pointed to his former student’s first place state and second place national awards through the 2009 SkillsUSA competition. At nationals in Kansas City, she provided shots that included photojournalistic expressions of faces at a carnival.
Lifetouch Photography, best known for its services of taking annual student photos in schools, employs Brandi at its San Diego location. In the Chairman competition, she is one of 15 finalists who will compete for a top prize of $25,000 in Minnesota in mid-September.
Like other more experienced photographers, Brandi has a message about photographic quality. Professional photographers stand out from amateurs not only because of their “eye” for uniqueness, abilities and willingness to work with people but also for their technical expertise.
“We don’t take ‘no’ for an answer when the weather doesn’t cooperate or an 18-month-old has ‘stranger anxiety,’” she said. “We thrive in the creative and problem-solving part of the job.”
Professional photographers aren’t “point and shoot people,” Chelsea said. “We’re always working to be at the top of our game, always coming up with new ideas to make our photographs unique.”
Image: One of Chelsea’s best photos
The days of glorifying the “temperamental artist” are gone – if they ever actually existed, according to Ginter, who brought media advertising and product coordination experience to the classroom 20 years ago. The Butler Tech teacher incorporates not only the technical and academic aspects of still photography but also a wide range of media knowledge and skills into his Communications Broadcasting curriculum. Especially in today’s economic climate, the most valued employee is one who is multi-faceted with both independent and teamwork abilities, he said.
“You need to know more than the mechanics and to be more than singularly focused,” he said. “This is a career – a business. I push students to use and develop their talents in a variety of ways.”
Photography is one of many occupations in the Arts. In FY2010, there were more than 1,700 (excludes foundation class enrollment) Ohio high school students in Arts and Communication’s three pathways:
Media Arts (includes photography);
Visual Design and Imaging (includes graphic arts); and
Performing Arts (includes dancers and musicians).
Nationally, there are 152,000 individuals earning a living as photographers across the country last year. The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 12 percent growth in photographic careers over a 10-year period with 169,500 expected to be in the profession by 2018.
Like Brandi and Chelsea, many photographers work long, irregular hours for annual wages from $16,920 to $62,430. Most of them shoot memories – weddings, baptisms, reunions – among men, women, children and pets. A lesser-known career option in photography involves those who take pictures using knowledge of scientific procedures in the medical field. One upside for the business is the growth of Internet versions of magazines, journals and newspapers, requiring more photographers to provide digital images for companies and organizations. The downside to that growth is the widespread, common use of digital photography by those outside of the profession who can purchase digital cameras at little cost and may do these jobs but with lower quality results.
“Students in media arts should understand that there is power in what they are learning,” Ginter said, referring to the impact of photos connected to tragedy and jubilance throughout history. “They are gaining knowledge that can help topple nations or inspire others to great deeds. With this comes a great responsibility. Technology allows anyone to speak to the world, but this doesn’t make you a media professional. “
Students in Ohio high school career-tech Arts and Communication programs study ethics, including copyright laws; chemistry, including in chemicals for film; mathematics, such as photographic depth-of-field; business plans and more.
Image: One of Brandi’s best photos
In a Word – Innovation
“One of the biggest revolutions in this business is the movement from film to digital,” said Vada, who became a teacher after working in industrial scientific photography in the 1970s. “In our program, we teach students the wet film processing, which includes understanding chemistry, so that they grasp what happens to an image. . . . And we require them to breakdown the components of a camera so that if something goes wrong in the field, they will have a better understanding of how to fix it.”
Both instructors agree that if one single word could be used to describe the art of photography yesterday and today, it would be “innovation.”
One of Brandi’s most recent, innovative projects involves “painting with light.” She uses glow sticks to provide uniqueness to photos, business cards and other products.
“It’s not just snapping a picture; it really is work but amazing work that requires that you pull emotion in and out,” she said. “All the stuff you have to do to get it right – to keep that piece of hair from flying into the eye and shutting it – is worth it in the end.”
To view more of Brandi’s work, go to http://blphotography.vpweb.com/. To view Chelsea’s work, go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/chelseagrachekphotography/.
For more information about this story or about the Ohio Career-Technical Education Arts and Communication Career Field, contact Pat Huston at firstname.lastname@example.org.