We always love hearing about the diverse backgrounds and experiences of our students. In this interview, recent photography certificate graduate Joe Stehly talks about what he learned in the program, and where he’s hoping to take his work in the future.
How did you get interested in photography, and why did you choose the UCLA Extension Photography Certificate?
I am an aerospace engineer by trade, but also took many art classes growing up. I still really enjoy art and feel that it is very important to continue growing artistically. I have taken art classes focused other mediums since graduating college, but photography is the genre that speaks the loudest to me. My old roommate is a professional photographer and some of his black and white images sparked my interest. He taught me some basics and I continued to learn on my own until I reached the point where I could not progress any further. I needed professional instruction. Around this time I took a management class at UCLA Extension and saw a catalog for other class offerings during a break. While looking through the catalog the photography curriculum caught my eye. I decided to give Photography I a try and I really liked it so I enrolled in the certificate program.
For someone who is new to photography, what should they know about getting started?
I think the first thing to remember when starting the program is that everyone in the class with you is there for the same reason that you are: to become a better photographer. These classmates end up becoming close friends and people you can collaborate with on later projects.
Similarly, the instructors are focused on making you a better photographer. They have great real-world experience and teach you a lot about the business of photography and the creative process in addition to technical instruction.
What was your favorite UCLA Extension class and why?
Two classes that I took stood out as favorite of mine. The first was Lighting I with Kevin Merrill. I had never been in a studio before or attempted elaborate lighting setups. Both were intimidating to me prior to taking the course. However, after learning some basics I found that many creative avenues were opened to me by understanding how to use light. I found that many other classes, as well, pushed me out of my comfort zone and enabled me to round out my skill set. These new techniques that I was exposed to are not only interesting, but they allowed me to grow and expand creatively in ways that would not otherwise be possible.
The other class that really helped me grow was the Photographic Portfolio class. This was the final class that I took and I feel like it brought me full circle. The structure of the classes forces you to focus on one specific genre while creating a cohesive portfolio. I focused on Black and White Urban Landscape for the portfolio and was really able to fine-tune my skills. The instructor, David Daigle, is extremely detail oriented (every pixel matters) and this enabled me to better critique my own photos both compositionally and during post-processing. I learned an enormous amount in this class.
Where do you hope to take your practice in the future?
I plan to continue working on urban landscape photography while studying what the pioneers in the field, such as Julius Schulman, created. The UCLA extension courses helped me find my voice artistically in this area and I will continue to refine that through various projects. I have also started setting up a home studio and am excited about the opportunities that it will enable.
What are you working on right now?
I have a few projects that I am currently working on. One is a continuation of a project that I did for my Documentary and Landscape Photography class where I look at the public/private school divide in Pasadena through photography. I am also working capturing more buildings throughout Los Angeles and soon I am going to Europe for a vacation in order to get some new subject matter.