HSA Concentrations: Photography

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A self portrait project. Photo Credit: Isabel MacGinnitie

Today’s HSA blog is a conversation with Isabel MacGinnitie, a senior concentrating in photography.

What made you pick photography as your concentration?

So, when I was in high school I was lucky to have the opportunity my senior year to take a dark room, black and white, photography class, just kind of randomly. It was an elective that I really enjoyed, and I got into it. Film cameras, you can buy them off Facebook and ebay and stuff–they’re really cheap. So financially it wasn’t that bad. And then I just really liked it. I had been thinking about doing it, or a government concentration at CMC. Over Covid, I took an Introduction to American politics class which I liked, but then at the same time I took a computational photography class, And I think the big thing for me was that I realized from the computational photography class that there was a lot of overlap between photography and computer science. That was really cool, and, you know, the government class was cool. Obviously, I live in the US, so knowing about politics is good, but I could see a path for myself in terms of a career that could combine both photography and computer science. I don’t want to say, “Oh, your concentration is not about fun. It’s about what’s the most practical,” but I like that I was able to enjoy it, and then also it felt like it had a little more purpose than just relaxing. Now, I’m applying to grad schools and stuff for computer vision and computational photo programs. 

A photo of Mudd from a project where it was colorized by neural nets. Photo Credit: Isabel MacGinnitie

What courses have you taken so far? Do you have a favorite? 

It’s hard to say. That one I really liked, but it was so computational. There’s two levels of it. Funnily, I took the second one last year and now I’m taking the intro class of it. But that one actually counted also as a computer science elective because it was so computational, which I think I hadn’t quite realized getting into it. It was less about photographic work, as much as the product of it, like digital photography and all the coding stuff. I felt like I learned a lot in that class, but I also really like doing photography for art, and more of a fine art style class. Junior fall and spring, I took Intro to Digital Photo and then the Intermediate/Advanced Digital Photo. I would definitely say the Intermediate/Advanced Digital Photo was my favorite. The intro class was really cool, but it was us all learning to use cameras. There’s like a lot of different levels in the class, some people who are just taking it for a fun elective and some people who are a little more into it. So the feedback you got on the work was just a little less strong, it was mostly smaller things. A lot of the projects were very free form. And then in the advanced class, something I really liked was that there were people in there who were fine art majors, whose goals were to become photographers as their full profession. It was extremely cool to be able to see their work and give feedback on the work and get both positive and negative comments from people who are at that level. Which I felt like I wasn’t really at, but being around them I feel like pushed me a lot harder than doing your own photography, or doing a more intro, chill class. I really liked that one. I’ll probably take it again next semester, if they run it, because you can take it again for credit.

A self portait project on Mudd’s campus. Photo Credit: Isabel MacGinnitie

How has your HSA advisor been helpful?

Photography isn’t technically a full concentration, it’s art with a specialty in photography. I felt like my advisor was able to give me a lot of good advice on what classes to take. For Mudd humanities classes, there’s not a large amount of photo-related classes. For example, last semester I took an Asian American art class that counted under my art photo concentration. I really liked that both because there was obviously photography that we looked at in the class, and then just generally having something focused in, like I talked about being Asian American in my work before, too. I thought that was helpful. Just in general, when I was choosing between concentrations, between government and photography, I felt like she was able to give me a lot of good feedback, or advice about what it would look like and what classes I could take at Mudd that would count for the Mudd humanities classes. I don’t know,I feel like it’s just nice to know someone who can give you advice, and in general has seen the advising process for what it might look like to have a photography concentration versus like a government concentration, or something like that.

Do you have a favorite class that you have taken for the breadth requirement?

I feel like one of the big ones I really liked to take was an Asian American studies class at Pitzer that was about Filipino-American experiences. I’m Filipino-American, so that I was really happy to take. The ability to actually try different concentrations, I feel like it was a big one. I really really enjoyed the Intro American Politics class that I took, and if I ever have free time in my schedule, I would definitely take another CMC Government class.

Do you have any advice for prefrosh in general?

One thing is to try to think about it early. If I did it again, I honestly would have tried to double major in fine art photography, or maybe it would have ended up being media studies or something.  I just didn’t really take any classes in photography until the end of my sophomore year, because I didn’t feel like I had enough room in my schedule. I was prioritizing other things. And if I did it again, I feel like I would have pursued it earlier, because I think I did have opportunities that I didn’t take. But, on the other hand, I don’t feel like I lost a lot by not doing the major, because to be a double major you have to have a lot of requirements. I feel like being able to, for the photo concentration, just do the classes I wanted to take was in some ways almost better. I guess my advice would be, think about taking classes, but also, take advantage of the flexibility a concentration has over a double major.

This blog was written by Malia Morgan '23. COmputer Science Major. Springfield, Mo