Monthly Archives: May 2012
By Mackenzie Clark
Photos by Advanced Digital Photography students
After years of cutting through red tape, Advanced Digital Photography was offered for the first time and three students from the class won League for Innovation awards. Students say this is partially due to the leadership of Craig Sands, adjunct professor, Photography.
Sands didn’t get his start in photography until his second year of college.
“I kind of found it, or it found me,” he said, “and I just had a natural penchant for it, and I’ve just run with it my entire life.”
Sands started in the Art department at Washburn where he was also playing basketball. After an ankle injury ended his athletic career, he studied abroad in Denmark where he said he discovered photography was his calling. Upon his return, he attended the Journalism school at the University of Kansas.
“At KU things just kind of came to fruition,” he said. “I had a wonderful instructor named Gary Mason who I think I can truthfully say didn’t really teach me anything about photography, but he taught me a whole lot about compassion, and taught me about the type of photographer or storyteller I wanted to be.”
Sands did freelance work and internships for many publications including the Kansas City Star, Topeka Capital-Journal and The Baltimore Sun. On a whim, he applied for an internship at National Geographic.
“I really loved Geographic,” he said. “But their lag time between shooting and publication could be months and years, and I was into the immediate gratification of having a front page. I’d experienced that enough that I kept wanting it.”
Eventually he returned to Kansas City to work for the Star again, and later started his own business. The college contacted him twice to see if he was willing to teach here, and he has now been here for over nine years. He said he is very glad the college now offers this new class.
“This Advanced Digital class has been perfect,” he said. “It’s what a lot of students needed to take another step forward.”Sands explained the difference between his Basic class and the Advanced level course.
“In the Intro class I teach [students] how to do all the things the way I do them, which is pretty unconventional compared to the way studios and other photographers might do it,” he said. “I work as a journalist still. I teach them journalism, basically, without making them live by the credo of ‘effect nothing, just record.’”
Sands said that the class has gone well, although completely differently from how he had planned his curriculum.
“I’ve kind of figured out what I want to do with this class just by trial and error, and by throwing out things that I want them to do, and the matter I want them to do, and the professionalism I want them to display,” he said. “And this class has just run with it.”
Sands told his students he is not sure how much he’s taught them, but he has given them opportunities to succeed or fail, and “everybody’s been succeeding fabulously.”
“I’ve been so pleased with this class,” Sands said. “I’ve had everybody embrace what I’ve asked them to do and they, at different levels, have really focused hard on a few things and I’ve had to force them to do a few things. […] It really was gratifying, the League for Innovation.”
Gary Hunsicker, student winner of the League for Innovation award, described learning from Sands as “learning to see.”
“I started taking [Sands’] class off and on a couple years ago,” Hunsicker said. “So I started with the beginning stuff, and he does a very good job of, I think, the big picture. He concentrates on things you should be looking for when you’re trying to compose a shot or you’re trying to figure out what you want to take a picture of, like reflections and shapes.”
Hunsicker partially credits Sands with his victory in the League for Innovation.
“When I printed [the winning photo] he walked in […] and when he saw them on the table out there he immediately picked it up,” Hunsicker said. “Part of it is his eye, because I probably wouldn’t have picked that one.”
Contact Mackenzie Clark, editor-in-chief, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Student Rachel Berry, 20, and University of Kansas student Shawn Nelson, 19, formed a fire and glow dance duo called Luminescence in 2010, when they were seniors at Blue Valley North High School. They fire dance at events like birthday parties, Halloween parties, and in parks, as well as teaching others to fire dance.
“Fire dancing is a broad term to describe any kind of fire art that you can do,” Nelson said. “It is dancing in the way that you are choreographing it and moving to the music.”
In Berry’s case, she twirls a flaming hula-hoop around her torso.
“It has these metal prongs that are wrapped in Kevlar,” Berry said, “and I light those pieces on fire.”
Both Berry and Nelson began fire dancing in high school. For each of them, it took one exposure to a fire dancing performance to make them decide that it was for them. Fire dancing is a primary element for Luminescence.
“[Fire dancing] is exhilarating,” Nelson said. “It’s that knowledge that you are entertaining the crowd and making people happy. There’s always a thrill about doing things with fire and fire dancing, like a kind of added element of danger.”
“You can’t really see anything outside of the fire itself,” Berry said. “So it’s like being in the middle of a fire and light show that takes up all of your vision. It’s not about what you can see and what you can hear. The fire dancing is really purely physical. It’s all in the control that your body has.”
Both Berry and Nelson are mostly self-taught through YouTube, but they have attended fire safety classes taught by professional fire dancers. They are both involved in teaching others to perform. Nelson is in charge of the KU Performance Club.
“The fire dancing community is very inclusive,” Nelson said. “They’re really, really good people over all. They’ll invite you to things, and give you tips and tricks.”
Earlier this semester, Berry and her friend Steven Brown began meeting up on Tuesdays on campus as a way to hang out and practice. Now, 10 people or more can regularly be seen in the courtyard between the SCI and GEB buildings practicing with fire staffs and hula-hoops.
“We ran into some of the people you see here today,” Brown said. “And it just blossomed from there. As it got warmer, we just decided to form an unofficial club, and we just keep getting more people.”
Berry said that she is planning on talking with college administrators to make an official Performance Club, like Nelson’s club at KU. People are welcome to stop by and join their regular meetings Tuesdays from 3 to 6 p.m. They cannot practice with lit tools, but it is a way to start fire dancing.
“[Fire dancing] does have a very meditative aspect to it,” Berry added. “It’s one of those things where you can completely focus, and at the same time you get a huge adrenaline rush. Being sort of dangerous, it’s also very peaceful.”
Contact Christopher Khan, special to the Ledger, at email@example.com.