Every student enrolling at Virginia Commonwealth University’s VCU Arts School spends
their first year in VCU’s Art Foundation program,
where they get an overview of the fields of art
and design. Before their sophomore year, visual
arts students can apply to the Photography and
Film BFA program with a concentration in either
photography or filmmaking. “It’s one degree—
BFA in Photography and Film—but students
choose a photo track or a film track,” says Sasha
Waters-Freyer, chair of the department of photography and film at VCU.
According to Waters-Freyer, both
concentrations have classes that overlap.
“Photo students are taking a digital video
class—it’s actually called ‘Moving Pixels’—and
film students are taking digital photography.”
This means that a lot of the students are
working together, but there are other classes
independent to each concentration as well.
Whether they intend to pursue work in
documentary, fine-art or commercial imagery,
students are exposed to a range of courses with
various learning objectives. “I think it’s really
valuable for students in one concentration to be
familiar with the tools and the technologies of
the other, so they are well-rounded when they
come out,” Waters-Freyer says. Of course, this is
fueled by the expectations of creatives who are
hiring talent. “The job market is such that having
a solid background that includes lighting for still
and moving-image photography, that includes
being able to accomplish both, that includes
maybe graphic design courses—all this helps
prepare them for whatever comes their way.”
Within the film and photography program,
students learn skills beyond the technical as
well. “The photo students are required to take a
history of photography class, but they can also
take film history classes,” Waters-Freyer says.
While studying with the VCU Arts faculty—
renowned professional image-makers—
students work toward a senior thesis project
aimed at a public audience. For film students,
that usually means making an independent film,
whether documentary, fiction or experimental.
For photo students, a thesis can be a photo-based or multimedia project that culminates in
a group gallery show. For their thesis, students
work with two supervising faculty members,
and they can also take a professional practices
class with another faculty member. This method
exposes them to a range of faculty working in
both photography and film.
For students who are interested in
traveling internationally, VCU accepts 12 to
15 photography and film students every year
for a study-abroad program in Berlin. “It’s a
combination of engaging with the rich artistic
resources of the city and having access to a
studio and making creative work, and going out
and seeing all the art and meeting with other
artists,” Waters-Freyer says.
Degree offered: Bachelor of Fine
Arts in Photography and Film
Length of Program: Four years
Annual tuition: $14,990 for
Virginia residents; $35,798 for
Housing: On-campus dorms; off-campus apartments
THIS PAGE: VCU Student
Kimin Kim performs
his piece “I Am Here
Yesterday You Are
Here Today” (top).
Photographs by student
Monica Escamila (right).