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Photography –Storytelling, Documentary Studies, and the Material Image   

What is photography? A Way of Seeing. Chance. Perspective. Inquiry. Action. A relationship with materials. Surface. Frame. Knowing through making. Exposure. Simultaneity. Stage. Wet collodion. Crimea. Peace. Civil War. Geographical survey. Landscape. Map. Travel. Paris streets. Dryplate. Darkroom. Dark cloth. Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns. Native. Branded. Stereoscope. Archive. From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried. Album. Magic. Pyramids. Sundial. Camera obscura. Albumen. Developer. Observation. Judgment. Water stop. Gentrification. Sprawl. Fix. Conservation. New Topographics. Hypoclear. White flight. Safe light. Carceral state. Surveillance. Slavery. Reparations. Loss. Memory. Townships. De Beers. Ritual. Community. The Ganges. Artifact. Shaman. Ancestor. Human rights. Enduring Justice. Relic. Still life. Object. Bamako. Tapestry. Shroud. Subversive. Agitate. Trespass. The Piers. Vanguard. Revolutionary. Antlitz Der Zeit. Catalogue. Portrait. Propaganda. Visible. Montage. Evidence. Dialectic. Civil rights. Infinity. Hyperfocal distance. Phenomenology. Digital. Anthropological. Uncertainty. Advertising. Internet. Museum. Gallop. The Decisive Moment. Neutrality. Journalism. Display. Earth/body. Art. Kurdistan. Ethnography. Comedy. Catharsis. Queer gaze. Daybooks. Binding. Role. Masculinity. Flux. Diary. The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. Relational. Identity. Simulacrum. Print. Feminism. Narrative. Experiment. Color. Silence Equals Death. Light. Black-and-white. Provoke. America. Time/Life. Home. New Documents. Place. Lens. Atomic. Studio. Deep space. Writing. Exploration. Exploitation. Gaming. Decolonialization. Minomata. Mercury. Silver. Halide. Reclaim. Perform. Subjectivity. Faces and Phases. Freedom. News. Poem. Pinprick. Mother. Mirrors and Windows. Story. Repetition. Song. Discipline. Philosophy. Witness. Passport.     

               Analogy. As dance is to walking, so photography is to....

What will happen while I am a student?

Doors open through the study of photography, beginning with your time as a student. Through an education in photography and documentary studies, you learn not only critical inquiry and technical process, but you gain entry into communities, institutions, and cultures. You work y on and off campus to develop research methods and practices, and to formulate your artistic ideas and goals. You may explore the role of photography and imaging in art, medicine, and social media, as well as race, gender, the environment, personal history, and any number of topics. You may use photographs and video to glean evidence about invasive species of mollusks on the Lake Erie floor. You may endeavor to understand the effects of incarceration, eviction, and poverty on women and families through photo essays and long-form narrative. You may make a video about solitude and reverie, set in the forest, for which you compose your own electronic music. Or about smoking, the body, and lacerated instant sheet film. You may become enraptured by darkroom practice and print production. And then photographs farms and meat processing in medium-format black-and-white film. You might make DSLR portraits of refugee teenagers, contemplating their new forms of leisure, and your own trans-national identity. And then, you might participate in an exhibition about conservation and the environment, for which you make photographs, video, installation, and an artist’s book.     

You will build multiple portfolios, write, edit, curate, discuss, and develop a new role for yourself. You will learn how to trouble-shoot all aspects of digital workflow, solving problems collaboratively. You will invest in the work of peers, forming a community of artists. You may build cameras, tweaking existing technologies and and pioneering new ones. You will learn exposure, chemistry and optics, and turn digital processes inside-out. You will study book layout, and to work with typography and design. You will produce large-scale prints and mount exhibitions. You will explore methods in darkroom craft, Adobe Creative Cloud and other software, the lighting studio, and the street. You will gain discipline, and learn to speak a new language.

What can I expect to do with a Photography degree?

As a result, you might go on to work at (or found) a tech company, auction house, nongovernmental organization, research foundation, museum, publishing venture, aid organization, real-estate business, fashion label, news agency, public-relations firm, design studio, or gallery. You may continue on to graduate school. You may find yourself in a field that aligns closely with the practice of photography. Or, instead, the modes of critical inquiry, creativity, discipline, collaboration, technical confidence, community engagement, generosity and ethics acquired here will take you on other paths, while guiding you as a thinker, doer, maker.

Distinctive Program Features

Buffalo State’s Photography B.F.A. program starts with a solid foundation in the darkroom, as students work with a 35mm film camera and black-and-white film. Students learn film exposure, development, and print production, and the language of photography criticism. They go on to take a course in the history of photography, and continue to intermediate-level courses that build skills in color photography, film scanning, inkjet printing, DSLR photography, and digital workflow. Here, they also develop long-form projects and personal strategies for their work, which engage with the critical and technical history of the expanded discipline of photography, imaging, publishing and exhibitions. Through study of research methods, technical strategies, and rigorous work, students train and tune their individual voices. In a series of advanced courses, they become exposed to specific opportunities for deep engagement with technical strategies in photography and other media, such as video, animation, and book production, as well as topics, ranging from the social issues of our day and place, to conceptual engagement with representation, cultural criticism and participation. 

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Admission Requirements

High school students applying for admission to the B.F.A. photography major need only state his/her intent to major in photography to be accepted to the major. A portfolio is not required. 

A transfer student who has studied photography elsewhere seeking advanced placement may be accepted directly into the major, but must show a portfolio of photographs to be evaluated by the Area Coordinator for appropriate placement in this program.  The portfolio must contain: 10, silver black-and-white, 8”x10” prints enlarged from film, and 10, 8.5”x11” color ink jet prints.  These prints should represent the applicant’s strongest pictures.

Portfolio should be mailed to:

Art & Design Department
SUNY Buffalo State, Attn: Photography Coordinator


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Art and Design Department

1300 Elmwood Ave  •  Upton Hall 402 •  Buffalo, NY 14222
Phone: (716) 878-6032 •  Fax: (716) 878-4231