SFAI’s photography program asks students to unite strong ideas, technical mastery, and personal meaning, emphasizing the complexity and possibilities of this evolving medium.
Established in 1945 by Ansel Adams and Minor White, SFAI’s Photography Department was the first in the country dedicated to fine art photography, and the program continues to engage with aesthetic, theoretical, and technical issues surrounding contemporary photography.
The visual language of photography is central to our understanding of the world around us, and SFAI’s program considers photographs both as formal objects and as modes of communication, documentation, expression, and critique. Working in both analog and digital formats, students take approaches from personal narratives to documentary work to experimental abstractions. SFAI’s interdisciplinary emphasis encourages students to draw from areas such as film/video, printmaking, design, performance, and writing to imagine new forms of production and display. The Post-Baccalaureate curriculum facilitates this process of artistic development through small seminar classes, faculty tutorials, and critiques.
The Bay Area offers many resources to enhance a photographer’s practice. SFMOMA, the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, The Pilara Collection, the Prentice and Paul Sack Collection, and the California Historical Society all have extensive photographic holdings, and a large number of galleries exclusively show photo-based work. The organization Photo Alliance also programs a lecture series that brings nationally known photographers to San Francisco.
Graduate Photography students have studios in the Graduate Center, which also houses a darkroom. At the Chestnut Street campus, the Photography Department’s resources include a 12-station group darkroom and private darkrooms, all with Saunders and Beseler enlargers to print 35 mm to 8x10 inch negatives; a digital facility, fully color managed with Mac Pro towers; Epson V700 & 10000XL, Nikon 9000, and Imacon Precision III scanners; a 30x40 inch UV light exposure unit for historic processes; filtered and temperature controlled water for film processing; a fully equipped lighting studio with a green screen and lighting grid; mat-cutting facilities; and a classroom with Intel iMac computers and Epson printers. Digital and film cameras, including Canon SLRs with HD video capability and 35mm, medium format, and 4x5 cameras, are available to students for checkout.SFAI’s photography program asks students to unite strong ideas, technical mastery, and personal meaning, emphasizing the complexity and possibilities of this evolving medium.