The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Students question lack of photography resources

By Matea Wasend

For students interested in film photography, Macalester offers very few resources. The school has no photography classes. The only photography club, MacPics, was recently re-chartered after it fell apart last year. And right now, there is no functioning darkroom on campus.”I did AP Photography in high school and absolutely loved it,” said Lauryn Gutierrez ’11, one of the students who revived MacPics this year. “It surprised me that Macalester offered no photography.”

Gutierrez said the darkroom MacPics formerly used in the basement of 30Mac was recently deemed unsafe because of “ventilation issues.” She and a few other students are currently cleaning out the darkroom in the humanities building, though she said that is a long process.

“We are trying to get it organized and up and running,” Gutierrez said. “It’s unfortunately taking a while because of all the steps and processes it takes to have a quality, functional darkroom.”

For students like Gutierrez, the upcoming renovation of the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center, the first phase of which will cost $31 million, might seem like the perfect opportunity for Macalester to reach out to students interested in photography. At present, however, the plans for the new building do not include a darkroom.

“At this point, the drawings move us in the direction of digital photography,” said Provost Kathleen Murray, who heads the renovation project.

Murray emphasized that the plans are still in the early stages. Construction, which is divided into two phases, is planned to begin at the end of fall 2010. At that point, the music building and what Murray called the “central core” of the art building will be completely gutted and rebuilt to include more offices and rehearsal spaces.

The decision about whether to include a darkroom is not affected by the phase-one plans. The fine arts spaces will not be renovated until phase two of construction, which Murray said is “still down the road.”

In Murray’s words, to state that the new building will not have a darkroom might be assuming too much. There is plenty of time, she said, for students to voice any issues with the project.

To encourage student feedback, Murray is collaborating with Academic Affairs Commission chair Aaron Brown ’10. Brown and Murray have devised a plan to display blown-up images of the construction plans on the second floor of the Campus Center. Sticky notes will be available with which students can post ideas and concerns directly on the plans.

Brown also sent an e-mail to every student organization on campus affiliated with the arts, asking for input on the new building. Gutierrez immediately contacted him, expressing her hope that the new art building would have “a space set aside for photography.”

Brown, a self-described “photography geek,” said that he wants to see a darkroom in the building and that he guesses a lot of students feel the same way.

“I want to keep the student demand for a darkroom front and center,” Brown said.

Rose Holdorf ’11 is another student who hopes plans will change to include a darkroom. Holdorf, who came to Macalester with three years of photography experience, said the college’s limited photography resources were a disappointment.

“Photography is a really important art medium because it’s so accessible to everyone,” Holdorf said. “But film photography is fading in the digital era.”

Though Holdorf joined MacPics as a freshman, she said keeping up with film photography has been challenging since the club fell apart last year.

“It’s hard to do without a community,” she said.

Like Brown and Gutierrez, Holdorf said she hopes a new darkroom in the art building could be a common space for students interested in photography.

Brown pointed out that many of the students who want a darkroom might not be directly involved with the art department, since Macalester offers no photography classes. But he said that because creating spaces for the existing art departments is the priority, there has been little institutional support for a darkroom.

“For whom are we building this building?” Brown said. “Not just the art majors. Let’s find a way to get student opinion out about this.”

Murray agreed the renovations should be geared toward the student body as a whole. She said the new building will be a “gathering space” that will make art accessible to all students.

She also said students have been encouraged to voice their opinions throughout the entire planning process.

“We have engaged students at every stage, and not just art majors,” Murray said. “We will continue to figure out ways to have others weigh in.”

The phase-one drawings will be put on display in the next few weeks. The plans for phase two will be made available to students soon after they are completed, which Murray said will be early next semester.

Holdorf said she hopes Brown and Murray advertise this opportunity for students to give feedback effectively.

“I think it’s important that they make this accessible to all students,” Holdorf said. “A lot of the time, [opportunities for] student input aren’t very well advertised.”

Brown said that in addition to posting ideas in the Campus Center, students should contact MCSG or attend their meetings on Tuesday evenings in the Weyerhaeuser Board Room.

He also recommended contacting Murray directly.

“It only takes a couple e-mails to make an impact that could shift the debate,” Brown said.

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