Photo students struggle with lack of equipment

By Deborah Rafferty, Staff Writer

Ian Ramsrud spent $20,000 for photography equipment so he wouldn’t have to rely on the limited supplies the art department has available for students.

The senior in photography is one of 60 students in the department fighting to use 15 photo enlargers and other equipment for final projects outside of class time.

Like other departments on campus, the art department is struggling with a lack of funding.

“With the increases in class numbers, the times that are open are usually dedicated to that class specifically or an open time slot is packed with students who need to get work done,” Ramsrud said.

Even working in the dark room during class time has become difficult. With 20 to 25 students per class, there is simply not enough equipment for students to learn and experiment with their art, said Angela Edstrom, a senior in photography. The communication department has a larger dark room for student use, but for art photography students to be able to use equipment in the communication department, they would have to enroll in a communication photography class.

“The biggest problem we have is so many people trying to work in the lab,” Edstrom said. “The more heads they have in the class, the more money the school gets.”

However, administrators said the department doesn’t have enough money right now to increase the size of the dark room.

“It would have to be a major renovation,” said Joe Marotta, chairman of the photography department. “We would have to take over another room. It would be very expensive.”
While the department is struggling to find space for labs, the equipment available to students in the darkroom is 10 years old and has problems. Some students said the enlargers, which are used to print photos, are missing parts, have bad lenses and are generally outdated. In the studio, where students learn proper lighting for commercial and professional photography, the lighting is very limited. For digital photography students, the printers available to them are few in number and bad quality.

“It’s not required to have the state-of-the-art photographic equipment for students to learn on,” Ramsrud said. “The studio facility is quite laughable to be honest. It’s not anywhere near as used as the darkroom, but that’s because there isn’t really any dependable equipment available in it.”

Because of these problems, students have been outsourcing to local businesses to complete their projects. With the department only covering the basic needs of the students, such as chemicals to develop and process film and prints, having someone else print their work can become expensive.

Students spend on average anywhere between $300 and $500 a semester to complete their assignments. To combat the problem, Ramsrud purchased his own equipment.

“It’s a whole new world that would redefine anyone’s idea of what the starving college student is,” Ramsrud said. “That’s why we joke about being starving artists. We will starve to spend the money on making sure our vision will be seen the way we see it.”

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