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Introducing Photo Instructor Van Ditthavong

Ditthavong_Bio PICThis upcoming spring quarter, we’re excited to welcome Van Ditthavong as our new instructor for Photographic Portraiture.  From his lauded short films which have been screened at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, The Independent Filmmakers Showcase, and more – to his range of editorial photographic work featured in Stern Magazine, Men’s Health, Psychology Today, Texas Monthly, Ladies Home Journal, and many others, Ditthavong is an accomplished image creator who brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to the classroom.  We took a moment to ask Ditthavong a few questions about his background and career, and what students can expect from his Portraiture course.

Ditthavong Work_Family at home

What drew you to photography and how did you get started?

Growing up I really didn’t think about being a professional photographer. I didn’t even realize the possibilities that photography had to offer until I bought my first camera at 25. Once I got my first roll developed and saw how awful they looked, I was completely obsessed on trying to improve. It’s been well over 10 years now and I’m so thankful I didn’t throw the camera out the window with those pictures that day… and believe me I was very tempted. Photography has become a great vehicle to tell my stories. It has given me the opportunity to think differently. It has allowed me to observe the world with an open mind while seeing people and places from different angles and perspectives – and for that, I am extremely grateful.

Much of your work deals with critical social issues of today.  What role do you feel photographers or artists have in advocating for positive social change?

It’s an amazing time to be a visual artist. Photographers today have a great opportunity to push for social change and awareness through their work – especially with the multiple outlets available out there. I have always thought that language can only describe so much – and that visual images often can leave more of an impact. The wonderful humanitarian Bill Gates, Sr. has said that success is directly correlated to showing up for people you love and causes you believe in – “we are all in this life together and we need each other.”  I truly believe him. I believe photographers and storytellers can really make a difference with the stories they tell and create.

Ditthavong Work_Park RangerTell us about an especially rewarding project you’ve worked on and why you enjoyed it so much.

One of the most rewarding project I worked on was commissioned by Texas Monthly Magazine. They wanted me to do a photo essay consisting of portraits of people on all sides of the polarizing issue of Immigration. I traveled 5,000 miles all over Texas in 21 days and made 18 portraits. As a refugee, I have always been interested in the issue of immigration and the pursuit of the American Dream and its definition. What made this assignment so amazing, besides seeing every nook and cranny of Texas, it was that I was able to spend time with people who had strong opinions about their position on the issue. I got to see the passion from both sides and learn a ton from them. Personally, that’s one thing I find important – the ultimate goal isn’t really to make a pretty picture but to learn. For that month I learned a great deal from a mayor, a sheriff, a high school teacher, an ER doctor, a Latina republican, an undocumented worker, a border patrol agent, a rancher, a pastor, an immigrant worker and a student. It was terrific.

What can students expect from your approach to Photographic Portraiture this spring?

I’m excited to be teaching Photographic Portraiture this spring.  I hope that students will not only increase their understanding of camera and lighting techniques but more importantly, expand their conceptual approaches and methods to produce compelling images. Through a series of discussions and assignments that cover emotional content, subject matter, lighting, intent, mood and personal vision – students will develop the ability and confidence to create impactful portraits from his/her own unique voice. But most importantly, I hope we will all be able to learn and get inspired by one another – and have fun in the process.

Ditthavong Work_Contractor in HomeAny advice for budding photographers just starting out?

Everyone has a unique voice and their own personal and life experiences. It is that essence that will make your images “yours” – so continue being curious, making mistakes, and asking questions. Once you understand the technical aspects and basics of photography and light – then all you have to do is focus on what it is you want to say. When that happens your photos will soar to greater heights and your voice we be stronger and clearer.

For more of Ditthavong’s work, please visit his website here.

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Feb. 4th | Michael Lejeune talk @ USC Roski

Micheal LeJeune_Metro Creative Director_Billboard Campaign

On February 4th, USC Roski School of Art and Design hosts Michael Lejuene, Creative Director for Metro (Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority) for a talk on his design career and current projects with Metro.  Metro’s 30-person Creative Services group creates award-winning core communications elements for the nation’s third-largest transit agency, including advertising, wayfinding and environmental graphics, timetables, maps, fare media and customer information, bus and rail fleet design, web and mobile presence, and merchandising.

Prior to joining Metro, Michael was Project Director at KBDA, the award-winning design and branding studio in West Los Angeles. He managed projects for Acura, Nike, 3Com, UCLA and Hilton Hotels, as well as writing for the City of Monterey, La Opinion and MicroTherapeutics. He also served as Creative Director for the 32-member in-house marketing agency of City of Hope Cancer Center. Freelance projects include work with The Music Center, The Natural History Museum of LA County, Crossroads School and The Brentwood School.

February 4, 2014
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
University Park Campus
Gin. D. Wong Auditorium
Harris Hall

For more information, visit USC Roski’s Calendar of Events.

Spring Enrollment began Feb. 3rd

Edgar Degas_Woman Seated besides a Vase of Flowers_1865

Edgar Degas, “Woman Seated besides a Vase of Flowers” 1865 via The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Why wait until the last minute?

Spring quarter courses open for enrollment on Monday, February 3rd.  We encourage students to enroll early not only to guarantee your spot in a course, but also to take advantage of our early enrollment period – which offers a 10% discount on most course fees.  Please visit our website to browse Spring courses and enroll.

Spring quarter begins March 31st and concludes on June 22nd.

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