Alumni Feature: Allison Bills

Allison Bills with NASA crew members. Photograph by NASA/Bill Stafford.

Allison Bills, BFA ’16, is currently working as a Digital Imaging Specialist/Photographer at NASA-Johnson Space Center. She began her career as a photographer before she came to VCU, shooting commission work.  While at VCU she was able to enrich her technical skills. Allison says the concept of “just keep shooting” brought her some of her best photographs and artistic growth.

In 2015 Bills landed an internship with NASA that she found out about through the department. This internship later led to her being hired to work for them full time. Her day to day on the job at NASA ranges from being out shooting to working in the photo lab. In the lab they are working towards digitizing all of the film shot for NASA before digital took over. It’s an estimated 30-year project to bring them up to speed on archiving the film digitally. Upon leaving school Bills had a strong portfolio, demonstrating all types of photography, which she says was a big part of what her supervisor at NASA liked about her work. Bills hard work allowed her to graduate with a job offer from NASA. The weekend following graduation she packed up her RVA home and moved to Texas to start her career and hasn’t looked back!


MFA Alumni Feature: Joseph Minek

Joseph Minek, Remnants, Installation View, Forum ArtSpace, Cleveland Ohio, Image Courtesy of the Artist.

Joseph Minek is an artist based in Cleveland Ohio. Joseph received his Masters of Fine Arts degree in Photography & Film from Virginia Commonwealth University and his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography from the Cleveland Institute of Art. He has exhibited nationally and internationally in spaces such as the Cleveland Museum of Art, Denny Gallery (New York), and Galerie Kornfeld (Berlin). Joseph is currently focusing on his studio practice dealing with the possibilities of photographic material while also teaching at the Cleveland Institute of Art and Cuyahoga Community College.



Invisible Light [four views] by Jon-Phillip Sheridan, 1708’s InLight 2017

Welcome back from the holiday break, and welcome 2018!  VCU Photo + Film has it going on this spring semester – keep reading to learn more!




In January, we begin accepting applications for our Summer Studio Program in Photography, Film + Media Art.  The Summer Studio is a 4-week artistic residency / post-baccalaureate experience, ideal for artists developing a portfolio for graduate school applications and those interested in an immersive, hands on studio experience.  The lead instructor for 2018 Summer Studio is artist and MFA alumni, Matthew Warren. Please see our website for a full list of visiting and associated faculty.


Matthew Warren gets all the fun jobs ­– he is also leading our summer intensive open to all VCUarts majors, the 6-credit Berlin: Studio & City course.  Over four weeks, from July 4 – August 5, 2018, students will be immersed in both expanding their studio practice and exploring the contemporary art community in this vibrant city.  Spots are still open, and the deadline for registration is April 1st.


Speaking of travel, in February, John Freyer and our awesome Photo + Film MFAs will spend four days in New York, visiting museums, galleries and artist studios, before they and we head to the Society for Photographic Education National Conference in Philadelphia in early March.  I’m slated to give a talk: “The Feminist and the Street Photographer” on Saturday, March 3rd, so if you plan to attend SPE, please come check it out.  Also please check out MFA alum Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa’s keynote lecture at SPE on Friday, March 2nd.


Amazing THANKS to Graduate Director Paul Thulin for serving as interim Chair of the department for the fall 2017 semester.  For spring, Paul will be dividing his time between the department and the VCUarts Dean’s Office where he will serve as interim Graduate Director for the School.


Alumni on Homeland

VCU Alumni, Alex Coyle and David Roberts on Homeland. Image courtesy of Alex Coyle. 2017

Showtime’s Homeland Season 7 is being filmed in Richmond VA and will premiere January 2018. Many of our Photo + Film alumni have landed themselves jobs on this production.

Natalie Kohlhepp, BFA ’16, is currently working as a Production Assistant for the Art department on the 7th season of Homeland for Fox Television. As a Production Assistant she serves as an extra pair of hands for everyone in the department, working directly under the Art Coordinator, and often  working one-on-one with the Graphic Designers, Set Designers, Set Decorators and Production Designer. In the past she has worked as a buyer and also photographed actors to help with set dressing needs. On the job she does a lot of deliveries, large format printing, supplies graphic design and photography needs, does research, and communications work.

“As an art student I learned to refine my own adaptability in any given context. You work with people, you work fast, you learn different creative programs, you learn the basics of lighting in school & then you just continue to draw on and expand that vocabulary of skills with each job. Constantly troubleshooting.” – Natalie Kohlhepp


Alumni Feature: Dominique Muñoz

Muñoz on the 60th floor to photograph Glaziers installing window units to the new Salesforce Tower in San Francisco. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Dominique Muñoz, BFA ’15, has just finished working as the first photographer in residence for Clark Construction. While there, he photographed the art of building – focusing on the social aspects of construction. He has traveled across the country photographing nearly 100 different Clark construction  sites ranging from residential buildings to underground tunnels. On these sites, Muñoz interacted with the men and women working on the construction process.

The team under Clark Construction preparing to expand the public transportation system in Seattle, Washington.  Copyright @ Clark Construction LLC

Muñoz’s role has unified the company by photographing the vast amount of job sites across the U.S. He produced new material for all internal and external advertising, marketing proposals and company wide quarterly meetings and conferences. While working with Clark Construction he also utilized his experience with filmmaking to produce content and assist in the marketing department. 


Alumni Feature: Sara Clarken

Sara with her work Smoke Signals, Los Angeles, 2017, Image Courtesy of the Artist

Sara Clarken, BFA ’15, wears many hats within the creative world, from being an Artist, Independent Exhibition Director, and Berlin Editor-at-Large of FOUNDATIONS Magazine. While in her undergrad at VCU Clarken kept very busy, taking all sorts of photo jobs, creating “look books” for Fashion Department students, working as the first assistant for fashion photographer Matt Licari and interning as a digital retoucher at Need Supply Co. Immediately after graduation Sara started work at MAMA gallery in Los Angeles, working her way up to Assistant Director. After gaining more experience in the LA Gallery world Sara was given the opportunity to direct an international satellite exhibition in Berlin for MAMA gallery, and then was invited to curate a massive, international group show of works on paper at The Dot Project in London. She now has a German Artist Visa for 2 years, and is living in Berlin researching, networking, and creating opportunities to unite creative capitals globally.

“I continue to depend on the support of my classmates and professors to critique, and evaluate executed ideas. VCU has offered endless opportunities for me to connect with working artists in all departments, both professors and students. The most valuable relationships I built have become the foundation of my professional practices.” says Clarken.


Alumni Feature: Austin Aviles

Austin Aviles’ Studio, Doha Qatar

Austin Aviles, BFA ’17, is currently participating in the 2017-2018 VCU Qatar Fellowship program, a 9 month residency at the VCUQ campus, based in their Painting and Printmaking Department. Aviles found out about the residency after the Tasmeem Doha 2017 Biennial earlier this year. In the past, the position has only been open to VCU’s Painting and Printmaking Department, but has recently also been opened up to the Department of Photography and Film. While participating as the Artist in Residency at VCU Qatar, he has also been given a job there as the Digital Print Lab Manager.

“The fact that I am able to travel for this opportunity just months following my undergrad is incredible and the idea is still continuing to sink in.” Aviles says when asked about how it feels to have been able to jump into this right after graduation. He has already had many cultural, political, and educational experiences that he would never have been privy to if he hadn’t received this residency. “…the chance to step out of my comfort zone and into a complex and unique environment such as this was too good to pass.”


Alumni Feature: Stephen Wozny

“If I can give one piece of advice to VCU Photo/Film students that I wish I’d known when I was there, it’s that the relationships you have with your classmates are just about the most important thing you’ve got for getting your careers started. Some people can jump right into solo freelancing, but most of us can’t. Getting started is tough, and collaboration is one of the best things you can do to start getting professional assignments.”

Stephen Wozny, BFA ’12, currently works as a photojournalist for five different local news stations in Michigan, covering state politics. Since he works in a bureau, he has a little more flexibility than the rest of the crew in the newsroom. They generally are able to know what story they are going to cover a couple days to a couple weeks in advance.

“What makes it interesting is finding people who are affected by the politics, for instance we recently talked to someone who was no longer able to afford the medication he needs to treat a serious condition, within the context of a Democratic member of the Michigan Senate who wants to regulate the process of prescription drug pricing to prevent gouging.”

He says that the work he is doing now for the news stations is a vital step towards his dream of being able to document NGOs and humanitarian work. He also hopes to one day work covering conflict zones.


Alumni Feature: Hunter Brumfield

Hunter Brumfield is currently working as a freelance director and editor. He works on regional and coastal Tv spots, brand anthems or web media. He is also always improving his craft through working on music videos and short films – which at the same time helps him increase his visibility. Hunter began working in the film industry freshman year at VCU when he heard there was a lifetime christmas movie being filmed in downtown Richmond. He jumped at the opportunity to be a production assistant on set. He wanted to get a real feel for how the world operated. “It felt a bit like a thankless job in a sense, but in hindsight it was an invaluable experience and one that everyone should go through as a student.” says Brumfield. “Being on set, even if it’s a schlocky christmas movie, humbles you to the mass amount of positions that a set requires.”

Above is the music video Brumfield directed for Lucy Dacus’ song I Don’t Wanna be Funny Anymore.


Summer Internship Highlight: Connor Gillooly

“What was great about the internship was being able to see all of the scripts that Hollywood was looking at, and be able to see if my writing would be able to hold up to them.”

In the bustle of New York City, Connor Gillooly – a film senior – interned for two production companies this summer. For both, Staygold Features and Red Crown Productions, he read  every script that came in as a proposal to the company. He then was able to suggest which scripts they should produce. Gillooly says that reading other people’s scripts was so useful for him because he was able to compare his own writing and also learn which types of scripts companies were looking at producing. His experience in VCU Photo+Film learning to work successfully in teams with so many other creative people helped improve his communication skills and prepared him for working professionally with other creatives at his internship.

While in NYC, Connor also wrote and directed a short film called Penumbra as a result of participating in a film intensive based in Greenport Long Island at the Manhattan Film Institute. The program is a privately run intensive with an international pull that brings together big name actors, producers, and writers etc. from the industry to teach and work with a group of aspiring filmmakers to make 25 films in the span of 2 weeks.

The film Penumbra is about exes who find themselves trapped in a cycle of habitual comfort. You can watch the film below.

He stayed extremely busy and was a key crew member on 6 other films as well as directed and edited a 7th film all this summer!

Follow Connor’s vimeo account and keep an eye out for new things coming soon!