You may not know that in addition to our regular courses, we also offer a mentorship option, for students who have a specific project in mind and would like one-on-one time with an instructor to get individualized guidance and feedback. Students can pick an instructor they have studied with before, or whose work they admire. They spend six hours with their mentor over the course of the quarter.
Recently, photography student Pauline Batista completed a mentorship with instructor Roxann Arwen Mills. Pauline was kind enough to share some of her work and thoughts on the mentorship process.
Why did you decide to do this mentorship?
It was crucial to me to have someone’s input on my work that I could trust. The only way in my mind to do so was to find someone whose work I respected and who I thought would be able to understand where I was coming from.
I believe I was at a point in my work where I needed guidance that went beyond just another class.
The one-on-one time framework of a mentorship was exactly what I was looking for and needed. I have taken many UCLA Extension classes but each has their own assignments and parameters that weren’t always in tune with the kind of work I was looking to produce. The great feature of the mentorship class is that it allows you to pick a mentor and work with him/her to develop your project and yourself as a photographer.
Can you describe your project and what your goals for the mentorship were?
I began working on the series “Stumbling towards Oblivion” last year with a desire to leave the concrete jungle and explore our relationship to the natural environment.
I wanted to place my subjects as objects within a landscape but not to objectify them.
Personally the biggest challenges and rewards surrounding the project were the actual shoots. Although clearly staged scenarios, it was important to me to convey the excitements and fears surrounding such a explorations. Being out there for the shoots elicit many (opposing) feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, but also a strange feeling of peace and serenity.
I aimed to create a dream state removed from social expectations, and my goal with the mentorship was to translate that into photographs.
How did you and Roxann approach your work? What was she able to offer you in terms of guidance and critique?
As I mentioned I had already begun the work and therefore had my own ideas of what the project was and what I wanted it to convey to others.
In a way I was already determined to follow a certain path and aesthetics, which I believed, would communicate that.
Roxann being a well-rounded artist, who has also worked extensively with the human body was able to help me step back and analyze the work through a different lens. She questioned (and in turn made me question) the decisions I was making and the work I was choosing during the editing process. She offered me honest critique and was not hesitant to say when something did not work.
I think this is the best quality in a mentor. After all you are not trying to get someone who simply agrees with everything you produce and say but rather can bring constructive criticism that may steer the work in an unexpected direction.
How did your project change based on your work with Roxann?
It is very easy to get stuck within your own vision or ideas. Roxann enabled me to step back and be more critical of the work and from there evolve it. I began experimenting with different times of day and including dawn as opposed to just nighttime and also experimented more with lighting. The guidance with editing was tremendous.
The biggest contribution I would say came in terms of identifying where it was that the work could fit within the history of nude photography but also having something new to say about it. She encouraged me to study the history of it and what has been done in this field.
I can say with certainty that this mentorship has in more ways than one shaped the final body of work.