Introducing the Photography Major: Black Eyes Have a Voice At Spelman


In 2017, Spelman college added a prestigious photography major to their course of studies. This is a major feat of a historically black woman’s college, considering that photography is usually relegated to a demographic that is white and male. Myra Greene, an accomplished photographer and artist is headlining the program, which enables students to learn every angle of photography. Here’s a brief background of the college if you’re interested in attending!

History of Spelman

Two educators, Harriet Giles and Sophia Packard had a dream to create an educational system for black freedwomen in Atlanta. So on April 11, 1881, they started their school in the basement of the Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta with $100 and eleven students in their charge. By the end of the quarter, they had a total of eighty students and the enrollment expanded rapidly. John D. Rockefeller was impressed by the vision the two women had for the college and paid the final balance that was due to solidify the college’s permanent location. Therefore, the college was officially deemed Spelman Seminary, named after his wife’s maiden name as a legacy to her and her parents as they had been avid anti-slavery activists.

From then on Spelman has had an illustrious legacy filled with women who have become pioneers in their own right with many of the alumni being successful in every field, including the gilded halls of Hollywood. Personally, I wish I had gone there! What a priceless environment to be in surrounded by black women learning and succeeding together. Below is an overview of what Spelman offers you as you embark on the degree. This information is taken directly from their website.

The photography major enables student to develop a critical understanding of how photographic practices shape and reflect our world. It considers the photograph as both a commodity of contemporary culture as well as its distinctive place as an artistic medium and recognizes its vast impact on culture.

Students learn to produce photographic images while thinking critically about visual culture. Students consider the ethics of image capturing and manipulation, and explore image archives to glean the history of contributions to photography, storytelling, and history.

Off-campus photography exhibitions in museums, galleries and site-specific venues and on-campus guest lectures by distinguished photographers contribute to students’ engagement with the field.

Visual Storytellers

Once you become comfortable with the equipment, techniques and elements of the craft, you will explore various genres of photography. You will also be challenged to use the camera to create personally driven documentary and fictive narratives. Beyond creating your own imagery, you will research the extensive history of photography in order to learn and articulate how images gain their strength and power. By learning of the history of photography (artistic, advertising, cultural and vernacular imagery) and image dissemination, you will engage in contextualization of the social and cultural impact of images.

Connections and Collaborations

The medium of photography intersects with many other programs on campus because it examines  history, politics, culture and society as it documents the times in which we live. Opportunities for interdisciplinary activity both in the arts (sculpture/installation performance, video and film) as well as creative writing, social justice, psychology, philosophy, education and computer science, are rich with possibilities. Collaborations will be driven by you conceptual interests, which will be guided by faculty in these areas of study. 

Course Sequence

First Year
Freshman Arts Division Seminar
Digital Foundations   
Photographic Visions

Second Year
Sophomore Arts Division Seminar
History of Art II
Fictive Photography
Basic Lighting Techniques
History of Photography
Documentary Photography
Art Process and Practice (pre-requisite for Portfolio Criticism I)

Third Year
Junior Arts Division Seminar
Contemporary Strategies in Photography
Creative Careers
Installation Art
Tech, Innovation Art

Fourth Year
Senior Arts Division Seminar
Portfolio Criticism I
Portfolio Criticism 2 (Pre-requisite Portfolio Criticism 1)

*Internships are a required part of the photography major.
**See the department for information on electives.

Comment below if you’re interested in taking the course!