This month, we are hosting visiting teachers and students of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore for a second consecutive year. Rated one of the top 10 universities in the U. S., the institution has chosen Photography Studies College and Melbourne to run a three-credit Humanities course in digital photography. It's designed to imbue JHU's science major students with a creative skill set for when they graduate as doctors and scientists.
We talk to one of JHU's program leaders, Phyllis Arbesman Berger from the Centre of Visual Arts at JHU, and Jim Davidson, PSC's Higher Education Council Chair, who explain this exciting initiative and growing relationship.
JHU's visting students
Tell us about the program?
PB: Our program in Australia is a three credit Humanities course in digital photography. Students will not only learn the basics of camera operation , but will expand their creativity with assignments such as putting together a photographic series inspired by art, culture, an Australian artist and the history of Australia.
What are these students studying at JHU?
PB: Our students are mostly from the sciences although we do have a film and media/writing student and one studying English. We hope that by flexing their creative muscles in Australia, they will bring these same new skills and ways of thinking into their future work as doctors, scientists, and filmmakers.
Phyllis Berger and Jim Davidson at JHU in Baltimore.
How did you initially connect with PSC?
PB: After meeting Photography Studies College's Managing Director Julie Moss by chance at a conference in Las Vegas, we talked about what the possibilities for a JHU program in Melbourne might look like.
Then Howard Ehrenfeld (also a lecturer at JHU's Centre for Visual Arts and co-), and I made a research trip to Melbourne in 2018, where we saw the phenomenal facilities at PSC – and had time to get to know Julie and Jim. There was no doubt in our minds after that visit that this was the place for us.
What was PSC's Managing Director Julie Moss doing in Las Vegas?
JD: PSC is a member of a group called the Society of Photographic Education (SPE), which is an American based organisation. It basically comprises, mainly US and Canadian universities and colleges, involved in photography education, and they have an annual conference. We are the only Australian member of the SPE.
Phyllis, Howard and their students at PSC with renowned Australian photojournalist and PSC's Senior Fellow Michael Coyne.
Why did PSC pursue this relationship with JHU?
JD: For us it was great because we get to showcase our facilities, which are designed specifically for photographic education. The JHU unit could walk in here, and use all our fully-equipped college including the digital labs with the latest photography editing software, fine art print shop and lecture rooms.
This relationship seems to be growing, tell us about how the second year of hosting JHU came about?
JD: Last year was the pilot, we had 6 students and two teachers, and it went down really well. I visited Baltimore last March, and spoke to Phyllis, Howard and JHU's overseas study team – and we agreed to do it again this year with refinements to the syllabus. This year we have double the amount of students.
The other benefit is the mixing of our students. Not only did they get to learn where the best party spots were, but there was a chance for them to talk to each other about their experiences.
JHU students at Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre - Geelong.
Why did you choose Melbourne for this program, and how does our city compare to Baltimore?
PB: Melbourne has amazing opportunities to experience the art and culture of Australia along with the gorgeous landscape of the Ocean Road.
It's hard to compare Melbourne to Baltimore, which is a much smaller city. Although in one way they are similar, in that the arts are very important to both cities. Baltimore has murals everywhere and very quirky sense of humour.
What are one of the highlights of this program?
JD: One of the main features is putting putting together a public exhibition of the students work on the last day that they are here. It great for us because we get to view how they see Australia. The last time I was in Baltimore they replicated the exhibition at JHU when I was visiting.
JHU students outside the Koorie Heritage Trust.
What are the JHU students enjoying so far?
PB: There are so many highlights! Mainly that the facilities are so much better at PSC. We love working in the fantastic labs and lecture hall. We took a trip to Healesville sanctuary yesterday and the students were thrilled with the experience.