As a volunteer public health educator with the Peace Corps in the early
2000’s, Claire Beckett learned a handy trick for conveying information.
Rather than lecturing folks about their mission in West Africa, she would ask
proactive questions like, “How do we get sick from malaria?” Someone would
inevitably know, and for the rest of the class she’d build on the concept.
Today Beckett is a full-time visiting artist at the School of the Museum
of Fine Arts (SMFA) at Tufts University, and she employs a similar approach
in her photography classes. Born and raised in Chicago, Beckett earned a
BA in Anthropology at Kenyon College and then went on to earn her MFA
in Photography from Massachusetts College of Art and Design, where she
first began teaching.
At Tufts, Beckett teaches the second and third courses in the photography
sequence as well as sessions about portraiture and social engagement in art.
“It’s about understanding that students have a lot of knowledge, and you want
to jump off from where that knowledge starts and expand upon it,” she says.
She also focuses extensively on helping students understand their interests
and what drives them as artists and people. Beckett may ask students to make
a body of work that is conceptually-rooted in a
news story they find interesting, for example.
Beckett has spent the last seven years at
SMFA, which became part of Tufts two years
ago. “It seemed like being an art professor
was something that really could dovetail well
with being a working artist,” she explains.
“There’s an equally sympathetic set of
interests and concerns.”
The educator specializes in art photography
and brings insights to class drawn from her own experiences, like how to
convince people to participate in shoots, what language is useful when
posing subjects, and the reality that subjects don’t always show up.
But, she doesn’t share much of her own photography in class. “I don’t
want to unfairly influence [students],” she says. “I would rather the students
be encouraged to make their best work.”
— Mindy Charski
Star Teacher: Claire Beckett
Since 1987, Condé Nast Traveler has been
inspiring wanderlusts with stories about some of
the world’s most well known and undiscovered
destination spots. Browse through the pages—
physically or digitally—and you’ll find detailed
descriptions about the foods, sights, museums
and nuances of top cities around the globe—all
accompanied with vivid media to give readers a
visual taste of the location. At the helm of the
photography department is visual director Linda Denahan. We asked
her about her role working with both images and image-makers from
around the world.
PDNedu: How did you get involved with Condé Nast Traveler?
Linda Denahan: I started at Traveler about three years ago after having
worked with both the editor-in-chief Pilar Guzman and creative director
Yolanda Edwards at two previous magazines. This is the first travel
magazine I’d worked on, and I quickly realized that travel photography
encompasses a variety of specialties—portraits, food, landscape,
architecture, etc.—which makes it especially interesting.
I actually began my career in photo editing right out of college. I
have a graduate degree in journalism from Colombia University with a
photojournalism focus. A professor recommended me for my first job,
which was as the photo assistant at InStyle Magazine.
PDNedu: What considerations doyou make when picking a photographer?
LD: For feature stories, we almost always assign a photographer and
will fly him or her to the location. It’s always about choosing the right
photographer for the right assignment. Is it epic landscapes in Uruguay
or sushi in Tokyo? We also consider what other stories will be in the
same issue. If we already have one feature with a dreamy light, perhaps
we’ll assign someone who uses a lot of flash for another, so the issue
has photographic variety.
PDNedu: Can you describe a recent assignment that you worked on?
LD: We recently did a story on Kamchatka, a peninsula in Russia, that
was fascinating. It’s an extremely remote area in the Far East, and
the itinerary includes a rugged land journey with lots of hiking and
extremely basic accommodations. Visually, the challenge was to show
that the experience itself is the real “luxury,” so it had to look both
epic and artful, and make people want to go on a not-so-cushy trip.
Derek Henderson shot the story and it turned out even better than I
had hoped! The images were beautiful, but also made you feel like you
were looking at another world.
PDNedu: How do you foresee the visual needs of Traveler evolving?
LD: Definitely, definitely video.
PDNedu: Do you have any advice for emerging travel shooters?
LD: Focus on how you can shoot a place that has been seen a million
times in a unique way. That’s always a challenge! I think Pari Dukovic
is the master of that. Once you have a body of work (and a website)
that you are proud of, start emailing photo editors. I always look at the
promos I’m sent. EDU
— Interview by Stacey Goldberg
Visual Director of Condé Nast Traveler