It has never been one medium, but several adjacent media with roots in both the arts and sciences. Practiced by professionals and amateurs alike, photography is foundational to our social and political lives. At Cranbrook, we embrace this history and use it as common ground for makers of all kinds to explore how technical images mediate our experience of the world. Our commitment to thinking through making supports an experiential approach to photography as a medium for physical and social engagement.
Photography is a rich and contested field with uncertain boundaries.
Ricky Weaver, 2018
The Photography Department is a place where theory and dialogue feed practice.
Our program is structured to promote self-directed investigation and participatory learning. To fuel discovery and ensure our diversity enriches the experience for all, we prioritize students’ unique experiences and empower them to take charge of dialogue, of creating and sharing content, of bringing their histories to the conversation. The result, in the best case, is a learning environment that fosters autonomy – that asks a lot, but in a supportive context – ensuring that students are not isolated from the full consequence of art making and critical thought.
Artist in Residence
Artist in Residence
Chris Fraser is an artist and educator who comes to Cranbrook from Oakland, California. He constructs environments modeled on historical image-making technologies, from the camera obscura to the magic lantern, that put objects in dialogue with their images, sacrificing broad distribution for an experience of the image that is local and ephemeral.
Fraser has exhibited projects in North America, Europe, and Asia, at venues including the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco; Disjecta in Portland, Oregon; the D-Museum in Seoul, South Korea; and the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany. His awards include a Eureka Fellowship from the Fleishhacker Foundation and an Irvine Fellowship. He has completed residencies at Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, CA; Awagami Artist-in-Residence Program in Yoshinogawa, Japan; and Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, CA. His work is included in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the San Jose Museum of Art, and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Fraser received his Bachelor’s Degree in History from the University of California, Davis and his MFA from Mills College.
Megan Kelley, 2017
Dialogue, participation, and investigation thrive in community. Our shared experiences, from critiques to meals, create space for collaborative growth.
Questioning is central to our approach to learning. We begin every week with a question and answer session. Students bring questions to the group, and together we work to answer them based on our experiences. We seek a vulnerable space in which no topic, no matter how taboo or embarrassing, should go unexamined.
We tailor critique to the needs and goals of individuals. We dedicate time at the start of each year to investigate the concept of critique together, and we honor each student’s wishes regarding how we will conduct critique for their practice.
Second-year graduate students curate the fall visiting artists series. This is an opportunity to bring artists they admire into their studios, to expand their research agendas through real-world encounters, and to develop skills important to maintaining an independent studio practice.
At the heart of our community-building project is our weekly meal. It is not enough debate and critique. To be a supportive community, we take time to get to know each other. We eat together and enjoy each others’ company.
Chris Cox, Future Research (revisited), 2016
Each MFA candidate is awarded a studio space. Cranbrook Photography houses both a digital lab and traditional darkrooms. The digital lab workspace includes iMacs equipped with the latest version of the Adobe Creative Suite, an Epson 10000XL flatbed scanner for opaque and transparent media, and an Epson P20000 large-format printer running Caldera RIP software. The Photography department offers students the use of a Mamiya Leaf Credo digital medium format camera with 80 megapixels for both studio and field work. The lighting studio is fully equipped with Profoto strobes with various sized light modifiers, stands, and backdrops. The Central Media Lab houses a studio with infinity walls, and provides additional digital cameras, lights, and sound equipment for check out.