By Dan Fotou
Every semester dozens of students flock to the Beginning Black and White Photography class located in the Arts Building on the College of the Desert Campus.
With only two classes offered per semester, the number of students who are able to get in are few; between forty-eight and fifty to be more precise. Waitlisted students and crashers inevitably fail to make the cut and those whose art major requires the course are no more likely to score a seat than the simply “interested in” student.
The course instructor David Valenzuela, or Mr. V as students call him, has decades of experience as a professional photographer, and has spent the last twelve years teaching students at COD.
The affordability and the ease-of-use of digital cameras allow people to quickly share their experiences with little difficulty.
What was once an expensive and time consuming endeavor has morphed into a more ubiquitous means of expressing thoughts and sharing moments that impact communities.
One advantage of the class is the hands on experience of working in a dark room. The practice is becoming obsolete in public colleges across the country due to an unintended consequence of today’s digital era. COD is one of only a few that teaches students the basics of filming and includes access to a dark room.
But in addition to the practical reasons for studying photography, the black and white aspect cannot be overlooked.
“I began with black and white many years ago” said Mr. V. “I am fascinated and excited when working in the dark room. I am also fascinated with the digital world.”
The beginner class is in high demand and like many classes at COD, space is very limited. Mr. V expressed his concerns for the future of the COD print photography program.
“Few classes still teach black and white film photography.” The limited availability is likely “not budgetary, but technology related.They [school administrators] don’t want to teach something they think is obsolete.”
Mr. V acknowledges that though the Beginners class is in high demand, the future of the Photography II class is in constant jeopardy as fewer students who are not art or photography majors choose not to progress to the next level.