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Interview with photography student Donny DeBruno

Donny pic

Portrait by Arturo Gonzalez

We met Donny at our annual student show, where he had several beautiful pieces on display. Below, he talks about his experience in the Photography Certificate, and his goals for the future.

Tell us about how you got interested in photography, and why you chose the UCLA Extension Photography Certificate.

On an outdoor field trip in elementary school, I was handed a camcorder. The permanence and novelty of the recorded image captivated me and propelled me to a still camera.  Years later, after photographing a bird in flight next to the beach, I realized the pedestrian could be filled with anxious moments and the mundane often contained hidden potential that could be captured with a release of a shutter.  It was at this time that I began using a digital camera to interact with my environment instead of just observing it.

As I accumulated images, I sought a better way to evaluate and critique my work.  I discovered UCLA Extension which provided a path for technical and creative growth with the flexibility of online classes.  Although my fist classes were Photoshop 1 and Illustrator 1, with the intent of pursuing graphic and industrial design, I quickly gravitated to photography after signing up for the Portfolio Workshop class on whim.  It was this class that gave me structure to begin assembling photographs as a body of work and gave me the chance to present and have my photographs critiqued in front of a group.

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For someone who is new to photography, what should they know about getting started?

Everyone’s path into photography varies, however, for me I was seeking a way to effectively express and communicate my work. It was through the UCLA Extension certificate program that I was able to find my voice and the confidence to clearly critique my own work.

Those new to photography should know when getting started its not critical to have the latest and greatest cameras and lenses. I quickly learned when presenting my work in class or in a professional setting, that my work would be selected over others due to the quality and strength of the photograph and not what equipment was used.

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What was your favorite UCLA Extension class and why? 

Architectural Photography with Douglas Hill, Photography II with David Daigle and Lighting I and II with Kevin Merrill were some of my top classes, but History of Photography with Richard Langendorf was by far my favorite.  Don’t let the title of the class fool you, History of Photography was probably the hardest and most time-intensive class I have ever taken.  Throughout weekly assignments, Richard asks students to recreate famous photographs starting from the earliest known surviving photograph taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 to modern works taken by the likes of Andreas Gursky and Jeff Wall.  Finally, Richard has students present their work via PowerPoint presentations that reflect the original work, your interpretation of it, including before and after images of your edits in Photoshop.

What separated this class from the rest was it forced me to think about a photograph that I was going to take before taking it, and how I was going to present it in class.  In the end, this class made me a better photographer and was well worth the effort I put into it.

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Where do you hope to take your practice in the future?

 I aspire to be a full time photographer displaying my work in galleries, and also creating books and wearable art such as clothing. As I near the end of the UCLA Extension program, I have begun seeking opportunities with my current employer that would make photography my main focus.

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What are you working on right now.

 My web site, www.donnydebruno.com.

An illustrated book based on a poem I wrote in the 6th grade that relates to a  photograph I took last year.

Currently redesigning the next generation of point of purchase Skateboard racks that should come out later this year for the Arbor Collective. www.arborcollective.com

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