This class is an immersive study abroad class in Berlin using contemporary photography as the basis for investigation, production and research. It is a project-based class that requires diligent photographic inquiry into a specific aspect of Berlin life and/or culture.
This was my first class, so it was a challenge to fill the fourteen weeks prior to our arrival in Berlin. We were basically studying the city from afar. I knew that when we arrived, the students would be so influenced by the city and its vibrant life that they would want to change their ideas for their projects. As anticipated, most students wanted to change directions when they arrived. But some did complete the LA/Berlin concept.
Just Loomis is a portrait and fine art photographer working in Los Angeles and Berlin.He was a longtime assistant and friend of Helmut Newton.
I hope they have come to love Berlin and all it has to offer. I also hope they saw the importance of meeting other young photographers with similar interests and concerns. And I think there’s an enduring value in learning outside of the walls of the school, seeing how much is really out there.
I believe that immersion in the culture of Berlin helped students see new ways of looking at their work and thinking about themselves as artists. They were also exposed to a European way of looking at and interpreting photographs.
All my students had to complete a project that they started in LA. Many did complete this project but others found it very difficult because they felt differently about their work once they were on the ground in Berlin inspired by a whole new set of stimuli. So I allowed them to switch their focus and pursue a new path. I believe that this reevaluation helped them think about their work in new ways.
I think it is essential today. We all must be internationally aware of what is happening. The Internet has made us global, but often in name only. Physically travelling to a new city on a different continent makes that globalism real. The experiences became enduring. And students experienced the true nature of the artistic movements they’ve studied.
I saw students change the way they worked. And we talked about why they changed. I do think that if they had more time in Berlin, they would have made quite substantial progress. But I felt a sense freedom enter into their work. They took more chances and incorporated the relationships that they experienced in Berlin.
I think the time frame was challenging. We all felt they were just beginning to acclimate to the environment when it was time to leave. It takes a good two weeks just to relax and absorb the city.