Photographer of the Future
RIT's new 'visual media' program paves a thoroughly modern career path for photography students. Employers should take note.
Computer technology is driving swift changes in the photographic industry. Rochester Institute of Technology is responding to this trend by introducing a groundbreaking academic program designed to enhance the industry's evolution.
'Visual media' is the newest BFA (bachelor of fine arts) program within RIT's School of Photographic Arts and Sciences. In addition to the study of photography, visual media incorporates elements of graphic design, print media, and management.
With the overarching use of computers in imaging applications today, photographers are becoming much more involved with final image usage, far beyond the basic aspects of image creation.
Photographers are now working more closely with art directors, designers, and print media specialists. The computer has become an effective integrating tool for what had been narrowly focused career tracks.
When photographic images were first seen on the computer screen, photographers were skeptical of their potential impact on the future. As the digitization of imagery became widely accepted, photographers were better able to share information and data with collaborators.
Those colleagues were designers, printers, and artists worldwide. This broadening base of image users relies on the computer as the common vehicle for management, manipulation, transmission, and communication.
The computer brought these once related but disparate industries into a common arena. Professionals in each career field are now using the same tools for communication and production.
As a result of this creative cross-pollination, employers are looking for graduates with a strong base in photography, as well as the ability to work efficiently and effectively across multiple disciplines.
RIT's new visual media program enables photography students to expand their skill sets to include graphic design or print media, if not both. After completing the first two years of intensive photographic arts courses, students can decide to focus their studies on the visual media discipline, as opposed to one of our long-standing programs in advertising photography, fine art photography, or photojournalism.
Graduates are prepared for careers in the industries of photographic studio management, graphic design production management, and printing management. They become the professionals driving various projects and managing the budgets, while also speaking the differing lingoes of each industry. In essence, graduates become the conduits between the various creative forces and their clients.
With the computer fast becoming a common production tool in these three primary industries, there is greater work force convergence. New workgroups are coming together, and projects must be managed with a new understanding. RIT's new visual media program provides managers for these 21st century 'blended' companies to improve dialog and increase productivity as their businesses grow.
A cross-section of the industry, including small and large companies, is supporting the new visual media program. Employers are calling for graduates who understand the demands of printing and the capability of photography. These jobs will require the project manager to utilize the behind-the-scenes issues of the industry.
In addition, growing numbers of students want to work in a collaborative role that straddles the three distinct career fields of graphic design, print media, and photography. To be most effective in this role, these students need an education that's modern, diversified, and forward-looking in the imaging arena.
Over the past seven years, RIT's School of Photographic Arts and Sciences has identified a variety of avenues graduates have taken. This new career program became quite evident through this research. Plus, our contacts in the business community are asking us to provide graduates for this area. Using this information, we tailored a degree with skills that will be universally accepted.
RIT's visual media program is instituted in the third and fourth years of RIT's photographic arts curriculum. It culminates with the Capstone Project. Similar to an applied research thesis, the Capstone Project provides an opportunity for students to complete a major project indicative of their work in photography, management, and their selected focus area. Upon completion of all requirements, graduates earn a bachelor of fine arts degree.
In this, its inaugural season, 37 students have enrolled in visual media. By continuing to reevaluate and redefine our curriculum, RIT's School of Photographic Arts and Sciences ensures that the next generation of image makers hits the ground running, and is strongly positioned to lead their professions.
- Bill DuBois
Bill DuBois is photographic arts chair at RIT's School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, in Rochester, N.Y. He can be reached at WWDpph@RIT.edu.