Holliday Letter From The Chair



Dear students, parents, teachers, alumni and friends VCU’s Department of Photography & Film,

I write to share special highlights of the Fall 2013 semester as we head into winter break.  Please read all the way down to see the many students, faculty and alumni to whom I say “Hats Off!” for your recent awards and honors!


In an effort to reach out the community of VCU students and alumni, as well as all arts-lovers in Richmond, the Department of Photography & Film is delighted to announce a series of Weekend Workshops in Photography, Sound, Multimedia, & Community Engagement, scheduled for March and April 2014.  These 10-hour, intensive courses are offered by wildly popular instructors and artists Dana Ollestad and Shannon Castleman, visiting photographer, Chicago-based Jess Dugan, and VCUarts alum Mark Strandquist.  Please see the “Opportunities” page on our website to sign up soon!  Discounts for all VCU students and alumni.

This fall, the department’s excellent Visiting Artist series, coordinated by everyone’s favorite Graduate Director, Paul Thulin, brought together students, faculty and members of the public with visitors such as photographic artist Courtney Johnson, one of the leading scholars on the photographic cliché-verre technique; photographer and member of the Piece of Cake network, Doug Dubois, and Dutch artist Anouk Kruithof, who in 2012 was the recipient of the Infinity Award from the International Center for Photography in NYC.  We were also delighted to welcome Shannon Silva, Associate Professor of Film at UNC Wilmington and her students to present selections from their student-run Visions Film Festival –filmmakers remember: the FINAL DEADLINE to submit is Jan. 28th, 2014 and the entry fee for all VCU students is waived!

The excitement continues next spring, when we welcome the Los Angeles County Museum of Art curator and critic Charlotte Cotton, and in conjunction with the Department of Kinetic Imaging, the distinguished experimental documentarian Lynne Sachs, whose award-winning 2013 film, Your Day is My Night, was scored by KI faculty, Stephen Vitiello.  All of these events are free and open to the public, so please check the department web or FB pages for details on future programming.  We are also thrilled to welcome Montreal-based documentary artist Caroline Martel as an inaugural Global Education Visiting Scholar.  Caroline will teach three film classes and present her work publically in the spring 2014 semester.


Fall 2013 saw the creation of our first departmental Student Advisory Council. This council of six students, two from each class, meet with me to serve as a sounding board for new directions and initiatives in the department, and to share with me and one another the ideas, concerns and needs of our undergraduate majors.  Members of this council, chosen for their community engagement, communication skills and leadership potential, include Graham OhmerPaige SniderAlexander KreherSarah MattozziShelby Hastings and Carson Parris, so please both congratulate these students and share with them any issues or ideas for improvement you may have.

Finally, we are grateful to the School of the Arts for approving our Student Technology request. With this money, we will be able to purchase two multi-format negative scanners, as well as 20×24 contact printing frames.  Fingers remain crossed that we will soon be able to add to our Equipment Checkout a prime lens kit, as we know this is a top priority for Photo and Film students alike!


Assistant Professor Mary Beth Reed and I are busily preparing to offer the department’s first ever Summer Abroad course – Experimental & Documentary Arts in Sicily, May 13-June 14, 2014.  This 3-credit course can be taken independently, or in conjunction with film studies courses The Mediterranean as Screen (3 credits) and/or World Filmmakers: Taormina Film Festival (3 credits).  To learn more about this and other VCU faculty-led programs abroad, please visit the Global Education website.

We are in the Very Early Stages of developing a Summer Alumni Residency Program that we hope to launch in 2015.  Ideally, this program will provide housing and access to our facilities and equipment for one or morePhoto & Film alum for focused, creative work up to 4 weeks between May and August, and include a public presentation once classes commence.  If you have ideas you’d like to contribute or would simply like to learn more, please reach out by email.  And, if in this season of giving, you wish to support this initiative, please feel free to send a check made out to “VCU Photography & Film,” or contact me for a paypal link to make a donation.

Finally, the entire faculty has worked tirelessly for nearly a year to overhaul our undergraduate curricula and I thank them and the many students who made thoughtful, engaged suggestions, for their efforts.  With a bit of luck and more than a bit of paperwork, we can expect to begin our new tracks in Photography and Film in the fall of 2014.


Sonali Gulati for her feature documentary I AM included in Comcast’s Video-on-Demand (VOD) service, Cinema Asian America throughout November 2013; Paul Thulin for his show at the Arlington Arts Center, Pine Tree Ballads: Labor Omnia Vincit, a multi-sensory installation about family and myth. This show is open NOW, until December 22nd, so if you are anywhere near Arlington, don’t miss it!  Jon-Phillip Sheridan for his sensational exhibition of photographs The Follys at the Reynolds Gallery in Richmond.   Brian Ulrich for his show Copia – Retail, Thrift, and Dark Stores at the North Carolina Museum of Art – also on view right NOW, through January 5th, 2014.  Brian’s work was also recently featured on the national website, Politico.  Justin James Reed for the publication of his new book, Mystic Places, by Horses Think Press, and for his eerie, enchanting “Untitled” tunnel filled with fog and light at this year’s InLight Festival.  Mary Beth Reed for the World Premiere of After Creation, After Icebergs at the 51st New York Film Festival.   Equipment & Facilities Manager Matthew Warren for his photo series, Unlinked, at the Richmond International Airport.  Matthew is also a 2013 recipient of a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship Award.  Visiting Instructor Brittany Nelson for her showing at Art Miami in conjunction with her recent solo exhibit at David Klein Gallery.

Congratulations are due to many current students, including Connor Burke and Hunter Brumfeld for their participation in the James River Shorts Film Festival and Filmmaker Forum ­– Connor has an active Indiegogo campaignfor his Senior Thesis Film, Outside of Virginia, produced by Tyler Kirby – independent film-lovers out there, please check it out.   Congrats to senior Zoe Dehmer for her music video screening at the Cucalorus Film Festival in Wilmington, N.C.  AND this amazing news just in: of the six School of the Arts Undergraduate Research Awards this fall, THREE went to projects led by students in Photography & Film, with awards totaling $14,500!  Lauren CronanKim McNameeGabby NammCody HuffAlex KreherDavid Resinger, Inga Schunn are working on some truly sensational interdisciplinary endeavors.  The entire department applauds their efforts and looks forward to seeing the exhibitions, publications and films that follow.

The latest in alumni achievements include Kate Fowler, featured in the popular photo magazine Feature Shoot, for her documentary film With Signs FollowingMel Kobran’s show Other Places on view at the Richmond International Airport through February 2014; Lauren Lyon for her photographic work featured on the GQ website; Michael Lease, for his collaborative, multimedia project Driving Richmond on display at the Richmond Street Art Festival in September and gaining national attention; Naoko Wowsugi, for her October exhibition Make Believe at the Black Iris Gallery and for her new job as a Studio Arts Lecturer at American University in D.C. – we miss you Naoko!  Next month, graduating senior James Mattise begins a competitive, year-long internship/residency at Mass MoCA in North Adams, MA; we wish him luck and remind him to pack wool socks.

Students & alumni please send me your news, always.

Finally, I write to you from Tucson, where I am spending the week at the Center for Creative Photography developing, in partnership with Atlanta-based Changing Images LLC, the first feature documentary film about major American photographer Garry Winogrand, who famously left behind over 100,000 unseen negatives when he died suddenly three decades ago.  Winogrand’s work – both well-known and posthumous – is the subject of a major traveling show that opens at the National Gallery of Art in March 2014.  Yesterday’s discoveries include reference to a 1961 memo from Edward Steichen, then Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, who wrote about Winogrand: “Dangerously close to snapshots but have collective impact.  Buy 3 at $10 each.”

Have a safe, warm and wonderful holiday season!