Friday, August 31, 2012

Introducing phoneography to the photojournalism curriculum

       A screen grab from Sam's cell pix on Twitter.  
   I introduced a new assignment on cell phone photography this week, and it was about time.
  Cell phone photography has become so popular in the 21st Century that it can no longer be ignored by photojournalism educators. Since the first consumer camera phone was released by Sharp in 2000, it only took seven years to reach a billion devices. By 2009, there were 4.6 billion mobile phones subscriptions (  
   Can you imagine a college student without one?
   Since nearly everyone has a mobile phone, I think it's safe to say they outnumber traditional cameras! All eight of the students in this class have cell phones, and nearly half of those are iPhones. So it's not a big surprise that they all use their cells to take photos.
  Yes, it’s time cell phone photography is covered in photojournalism classes everywhere!
  Using a cell phone to capture images is convenient for several reasons. First, it’s accessible. Cells are always in our pockets, purses and backpacks. We never leave home without them. Secondly, they are convenient; small enough to hide, and light enough to carry 24/7. But what’s really important is the ability to instantly share images using social media tools, like Facebook and Twitter.
   Together we are learning about cell camera apps, tools and features. There’s a lot to learn, but each student brings their own experience to the table. We also had a guest speaker tout his newspaper’s Mobile Blog, which is a trendsetter in phoneography. Enoch Wu demonstrated his ability to shoot and send an image to Twitter via his cell without needing a computer.
   The students are required to tweet five cell phone photos throughout the semester. Each photo must have enough caption information to explain the photo. We also viewed a tutorial by Richard Koci Hernandez.
  I'm happy to witness students, like Sam Ricker, are already tweeting cell photos and experimenting with different apps! I think it's going to be a very successful assignment, and one that's here to stay.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Creating a beat system to find stories is a win-win situation

   Now that the syllabus is handed out and the first day of school is over, it’s time to get to business. While the students complete their first homework assignment next week (learning about the history of news), I will be busy creating a beat system for the course.  
   A beat system is designed for journalists to hone their expertise on a particular topic or geographical area. For our purposes, each PJ student will be assigned a school (School of Technology, School of Health Sciences, etc.) to cover throughout the entire semester. This will allow them to get to know the instructors and students on their beats, making it easier for them to find good stories that would otherwise be overlooked.
   The students are responsible for finding stories, showing up to the event or classroom on time, documenting the event, gathering caption information, and ultimately posting their photos and essays on their blogs for a grade. Most of their shooting assignments, except for sports, will be derived from their beats.
   The beauty of this system is that anyone, particularly those they cover, can view the student blogs at any time!
   So, I'm actively comprising a list of deans and instructors willing to participate in this pilot beat system. I also need to figure out the best way of communication between the PJ students and the instructors. Coordinating the work of the PJ students with the Owens Outlook is another possibility.
   At this point, the College of Technology, the culinary program, and the EMS school are on board.  If this system works, the students can continue to cover these beats each semester!
   It's a win-win situation!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A welcome letter to new Intro to Photojournalism students

   Dear PHO245 students:
   Welcome to the Intro to Photojournalism Course! 
    I'm excited to begin another semester with a new crop of scholastic photojournalists. For the next 16 weeks you will be trained to think, act and shoot like a photojournalist. 
   My primary goal is to help you become a visual storyteller with a heightened sense of purpose and ethics. I also hope you gain an appreciation for the social responsibility photojournalists have in documenting life and death throughout the world.
   Because this is an introduction class, you will be taught a wide variety of subjects, including:
  • Law, ethics and copyright 
  • Caption writing
  • Photo editing tools (Photo Mechanic)
  • Social media tools (Twitter and blogging)
  • Using your camera to tell a story
   Ever semester I add something new to improve the course and keep up with technology. You will be the first PHO245 class to use your cell phone cameras as another way to tell visual stories. 
   You will be the first class to be on a beat system. This means you are responsible for covering a school (culinary, transportation, etc.) at Owens throughout the semester.
A sample of photos from Rust Wire's Flickr Group
   I'm also happy to announce that for your final individual project, this class is collaborating with Rust Wire is recruiting photographers in our area take part in a photo project attempting to capture the "unique essence of individual Rust Belt cities."
   We are privileged to have Kate Giammarise, one of the founders, guest speak with you Sept. 24 about the Big Urban Photography Project.
   Needless to say, this is a fast-paced course because there is so much to learn. Every week you will learn something new, and Dave Cantor and I are confident you'll benefit from nearly every assignment, no matter what photography career you choose.
   Again, welcome and have fun!