Craig Stevens, American, b. 1947
I became a teacher of photography on my way to meet Big Bird. Just removed from college I got my first adult job teaching second grade in a town in the woods of Maine. Teaching all subjects save music I became amazed at the importance the process of learning holds in our life experience both individually and collectively. Another fact that resounded for me was that the process was always new and exciting for the learner (or at least it should be). My experience coincided closely with the creation of the Children’s Television Workshop, the people who would create among other programs Sesame Street. This would be education carried out on the huge stage of television. I wanted to work with Big Bird. I may have actually wanted to be Big Bird and so I set myself on the path of Visual Communications by working toward a Master’s Degree at Fairfield University in Connecticut. Early in that program I took my first formal class in photography and the course of my life was set. I fell in love with the medium of photography and have done nothing else but practice photography and teach the craft to others for the past 38 years.
I followed my degree in Communications with an MFA in Photography from Ohio University in 1975 only to find that most of the full time teaching jobs in the medium were filled mostly by people a few years older than myself. They wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while. I took a summer position at the Maine Photographic Workshops in my old home state of Maine. The Workshop was in its second year and very much a seat of the pants operation. My God was it fun! Exciting people would come to the Maine Coast to spend one or two weeks immersing themselves in photography. I taught doctors, teachers, scientists, fishermen this wonderful craft that opened them up to what they never knew they really were.
I remained in this alternative world of photographic education for more than 12 years. Summers would be filled with Master Classes in Craft and Personal Vision. Fall through Spring the Residence Program would occupy my time. We also established a degree program in association with the University of Maine during this period. Ultimately I resigned from the year round teaching position and pursued other experiences including leading workshops in Japan and Europe as well as teaching at other workshops including the Anderson Ranch Art Center in Snowmass, Colorado and the Santa Fe Workshops. I also spent a good bit of time writing articles on vision and craft for a variety of publications.
In 1987 I was asked to join the faculty of the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. I have just finished my twentieth year as Professor of Photography. I was the third member of the department hired. We now have 18 faculty. The college was 900 students and now tops 8,000. Add to this startling growth the digital remaking of the medium and it can take your breath away.
My philosophy of teaching is very simple. Find out what the student is interested in. Give them the craft to express themselves and the historic perspective to see themselves in context and do this with an enthusiasm they can’t ignore.
Savannah, Georgia 2009