New Photo Instructor Brings Fresh Enthusiasm
As the newest addition to the MCC Art Department, photography instructor Justin Schmitz actively keeps one of the oldest traditions alive at McHenry County College – black and white darkroom photography. He’s one of the few community college instructors in the state to teach both darkroom photography and digital photography.
“Working in the darkroom is not nostalgic," Schmitz said. "It's a place for real discovery and understanding the photographic medium. It's a magical way to make pictures."
Schmitz said he is thrilled to be teaching at MCC because it provides an opportunity for him to talk to students about his passion of photography. In his classroom, he brings his enthusiasm, understanding and expertise from his artistic practice. Schmitz earned his MFA from Yale University and his BFA from Columbia College in Chicago. He was the Lamar Dodd School of Art artist in residency at University of Georgia in 2014.
Schmitz became interested in photography as a teenager, growing up in Central Illinois photographing friends and peers involved with skateboarding or punk bands.
“I use the camera as a way to experience and participate in that world; photography was a way for me to contribute,” he said.
It was in his introductory photography classes as an undergraduate that he was exposed to artists using the camera as a means of transforming the world visually.
“I saw the work of Diane Arbus and Robert Frank as a student, and started to understand photography as a means for personal expression.”
Whether students learn how to dodge and burn images in darkroom photography or how to make special effects in digital photography, Schmitz is hoping all of his students develop a personal voice or vision.
“I inspire my students by challenging and provoking them to make their own work by unlocking their own ability to create. I recognize their individuality and try to approach them as an individual,” he said. When they leave my classes, I would like them to become independent thinkers and to question the world,” he said.