Chad White: Photographer on and off campus

Chad White alsocropped

Chad White began his photography career as a practicing community college student unsure whether he wanted to attend a university of the arts. “That pretty much solidified that I did want to go ahead and learn more of the craft,” White said.

He later earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of New Mexico, and went on to get a master’s at Arizona State University. Throughout that time, he occasionally worked as an assistant to international artists and photographers, from which he “gained a little bit of business experience as well as academic experience.”

He often began internships as a result of networking with his professions who had connections in the field. “Stay involved,” White said as advice to photography and liberal arts students. “Keep [your] head in the game.”

White is now a professor at BC, head of the photography department, director of the campus’ art gallery and adviser to multiple clubs on campus including photography club and art club.

“You have to be dedicated to the craft and the business,” he said, “I’m dedicated.” His more recent projects have become long-term.

“I’ve become more focused and I’ve found my voice and my interests. Because of that, seemingly naturally, my projects have extended in terms of how long I work on them.”

“I’m still probably considered a young professional in the field,” he said, “but I’ve been in the field long enough to see it go through multiple changes,” including the widespread transition from analog to digital.

White described good photography as being oriented on the artist’s personal vision, laced with their opinions. He described forming and expressing opinions in photography as “an opportunity for especially students to flex their emerging intellects.” Superior photography is not only a form of personal expression, but is made because the artists have something to say.

“Aspiring photographers should expand their knowledge of materials. They should take workshops, classes that are not the everyday norm for how we understand photography,” he suggested.

He said, “My love-hate relationship with photography mostly exists in how large the profession has gotten and what it all encompasses now. The art market has definitely changed.”

White said, “It’s never been easier to be a photographer,” which is a good thing for his profession and for educating, but it also makes it difficult to teach students because “the playing field is not as even as it used to be,” he said of his love for photography. “It’s much more difficult to make your mark and to be successful.”

In order to be successful in the world of photography these days, one has to be a “go-getter.” Photographers generally have to have the mindset of a small business owner in addition to working as an artist, having to take on their own marketing and advertising efforts as well as building portfolios. “You have to occasionally take on your own marketing and advertising efforts as well as build a really great portfolio,” White explained.

“My hate side of photography is more how the inner-workings are involved with what makes good photography these days, or what’s deemed as good photography,” White explained. “Anybody can have a project these days and that’s been both good and bad for photography.”

Photography has gained exposure via the Internet, which has served as a platform for anyone with access to internet to view photography—something that wasn’t possible a couple generations ago.

Photography nowadays is progressing to become something easier or more obtainable. White described photography has having an “uncanny ability to always be within the most contemporary circles in one way or another.”

“Photography has always had one line in art, one line in science; being a document and a holder of non-truths.” Within the digital age, White described photography as “pushing even more into this insane level of non-truth, yet we’re holding onto it tighter as this document at the same time.”

There are other materials involved in photography, aside from basic analog or digital work. “Students need to recognize that photography education is not just about learning how to use a camera, but also learning how to understand the vocabulary of it, and that opens up for new materials and methods.”

He described the BC photography department as the “black sheep of the Northwest community.  We’re trying to expand our horizons on what we can offer.”

He said, “Most people would probably think that my favorite thing would be the amazement of when they have it in their hands, but I actually like when they’re disappointed.” He thinks that when students recognize and understand their disappointments in photography, it gives them something to work against, and they might have something to say about it.

“My favorite thing about students in photography classes is when they realize that photographs exist as physical objects. Because it’s an object, they can hold it and it has this physicality, it then has a life to it. You don’t know how long it’s going to exist, or whose hands it’s going to trade off into or who it may communicate to.”