Julia Bradshaw’s projects often have an artful playfulness. Projects are responsive to her environment such as being a foreigner, flying, or reading. Other projects focus on photographic technologies and the intersection between science and art. She received her MFA in 2007 from San José State University with an emphasis on photography and video art. She is currently associate professor in the School of Arts and Communications at Oregon State University where she has taught photography and video-art for seven years.
Bradshaw’s video-art and photography projects exhibit throughout the United States, and in Guatemala, The Netherlands, Poland, and Germany. Her artist book “Flying” is in the Getty Research Collection. Her print “Working Back-Up” is in the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco collection and the Oakland Museum of Art. She is also a curator, most recently curating the exhibition “Totality” consisting of artworks relating to our human response to the cosmos at the Fairbanks Gallery at Oregon State University to coincide with the 2017 solar eclipse.
I am investigating early photographic scientific images and using the aesthetics of those historic images to inform my new work. Examining historical images of planets and other cosmic features, I note the language of astronomy and the scientific annotations; such as the alphanumeric designations, the mythological proper names of the bright stars, and the baffling descriptions of the image-content. In historic texts, I also note the speculative scientific theories and the archaic and florid language that perfectly expresses the enthusiasms of the scientists. Formally, I am interested in the indexical information: the fiducial markers, the handwritten observations, the image-joinery, and the overabundance of arrows.
Even though I use the aesthetics of scientific images to inform this project, all the artwork in the series ‘Survey’ is created using analogue processes and rudimentary tools. I use a cardboard box for a camera, and images are manipulated with knives, inks, joins, dyes, and reversals. This is a subtle poke at the vast gap between investment in science and investment in art. But it is also an attempt to honor both in time-commitment and materials, the silver-gelatin photographic processes used by the astronomers who informed this project.
To a certain extent I see myself as an explorer of my imagination; creating my own maps, diagrams, and places to discover. My intent is to make observations about scientific images and scientific annotations and to create delightful confusion through wit (most viewers ask me about my telescope). By using simple materials, pointing my camera at the most rudimentary and abundant of materials, I aim to empower imagination in conjunction with science. Thus, the project is not only my response to the language of astronomy but it also acknowledges the complicated relationship between photography and reality.
The project is a response to the historic use of photography in astronomy. The importance of photography in science cannot be understated. Photography of the 1919 solar eclipse was needed to prove Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and in 1923 photographs of a Cepheid variable star in Andromeda enabled Edwin Hubble to prove the existence of the universe beyond our galaxy. So, both artists and scientists produce visual material; one requiring extraordinary investment in science and engineering for its explorations, the other explores the richness of inner head-space.
Q&A: OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY
Why Oregon State University?
Students select Oregon State University’s Photography and Digital Studio program because the program offers professional skills courses alongside courses that focus on developing a student’s personal artistic vision and because they can complete their BFA or BA/BS degree in four years. The focus on undergraduate education ensures that all our courses are taught by full-time instructors with an MFA degree. We have four full-time professors/instructors teaching in the Photography and Digital Studio program; myself, Kerry Skarbakka, Lorenzo Triburgo (online only), and Evan Baden. Therefore, we are able to offer a broad range of courses for our students. The core courses include: Digital Photography, Darkroom Photography, Studio Lighting, Senior Portfolio, Time-Based Media, and History of Photography. Electives draw on the strengths of the faculty and include courses such as The Constructed Image, The Photographic Book, Historic Processes in Photography, Video Art, Concepts in Digital Imaging, and visual culture courses such as Gender, Sexuality, and the Photographic Image. We also offer some online courses and our summer programming includes on-campus courses or short courses in places such as Japan, New York, or at the Oregon Coast.
With respect to facilities we moved into newly refurbished darkroom, digital printing, and studio lighting spaces last year. We have a range of large-format digital printers and scanners, a wide-format laminating mounting press, a darkroom space, and a space for use by advanced darkroom students and students studying historic processes. Students also have exhibition spaces on campus.
The program is relatively interdisciplinary because often students will minor in photography; particularly those studying New Media Communications or Graphic Design. We also offer interdisciplinary courses in arts and technology and arts and entrepreneurship, which are offered to students in Theater Arts, Music, Graphic Design, New Media Communications and Art.
There is some funding for students administered at the university-level. In the art department, we have about a twenty named scholarships. These scholarships are competitive and awarded yearly and range from $400 to the offer of a full-tuition waiver. We also have a $2200 travel scholarship for students interested in art history and a $2500 scholarship for students interested in Art and Science.
Students select Oregon State University because it is an international public research university and a land, sea, space, and sun grant university; one of only two universities with that designation in the country. Therefore our students have access to a range of undergraduate research opportunities. In the past, these opportunities have enabled students to work as an artist on a week-long Ocean Research Cruise and to collaborate with other research focused units across the campus such as forestry, marine studies, robotics, or the natural sciences. I also really like the campus, originally designed by John Charles Olmsted it consists of a mix of buildings; some nearly 150 years old and others built in the past five years, which, alongside the green spaces and quads, makes it a stimulating campus to walk around. Corvallis is a college town of ca. 58,000 people. The climate is mild, the coast is ca. 50 miles away, and there are plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities.
What courses do you teach?
Each year, I teach a range of courses from the entry-level digital photography course, to the culminating portfolio course which is an intense course leading to the students’ thesis projects. We rotate teaching the portfolio course, so that students can have a different experience with each instructor. This year I will also teach Documentary Photography, Video Art, History of Photography, and Alternative Processes in Photography. We are on a quarter system here, so I teach 2 courses a quarter. We do not have a graduate program.
How does your program bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary photographic practices?
We recognize that to get jobs in the creative fields our students must have robust digital skills consisting of still and moving image capture and strong post-production skills. The ability to switch between video and still photography is now a characteristic in all new digital cameras, therefore all students must take an Introduction to Time-based Media course, and courses such as the Documentary Photography course also include an audio/moving image project. Furthermore, our Photographic Book class bridges the gap between design and photography by introducing students to InDesign and desktop publishing skills. We also offer courses in Video Art and post-photography classes that are heavy in image-manipulation.
However, all students must take at least one darkroom class and in some courses the students have the option to use either film or digital tools to complete their projects. Since our darkroom spaces were improved last year we have started to offer a course in historic processes and that is an area which I hope to build upon in the future. With the refurbishment, the darkroom and digital printing spaces are now adjacent to one another, so some students are creating digital negatives and then printing them in the darkroom. Others are processing film, and then scanning the film before completing their projects digitally.
So overall, we aim to offer the students a range of tools so that they can select the best tool for their creative expression.
Describe the process of output for photographs.
Print output is expected in all of our classes; except the classes taught completely online. We have a dedicated print output room with five printers and the ability to print and mount images up to 44” wide. We are able to dedicate one printer to matte inks and papers. We have a darkroom for 18 students and the ability to print in the darkroom up to 20” x 24”. We have an advanced darkroom which we also use for the historic processes course. Once students have been trained on the digital printing facility, the darkroom, and the studio lighting equipment, then they also have the opportunity to use those facilities outside of those dedicated classes.
Describe the critique format.
As our classes are solely undergraduate, the critique sessions are generally held within the classroom setting; although if a student has an exhibition in one of the student galleries, we will conduct the critique there. Each professor runs the critique sessions slightly differently; but in my classroom, I expect all the students to participate and to practice talking about their projects and the projects of the other students. My goal is to further the students’ ability to think and talk about their visual choices, improve their critical thinking skills, and to encourage the students to be more ambitious with their creative choices. We do have a robust Visiting Artists and Scholars program; bringing artists such as Cannupa Hanska Luger, Hank Willis Thomas, Ann Hamilton, Nigel Poor, and Hasan Elahi to campus. Students are given the opportunity to lunch with the artists and also to have one-on-one portfolio reviews with these artists.
Where can we keep up with your photo department online?
What other artists should we be keeping an eye on?
Take a look at my colleagues work: Kerry Skarbakka, Evan Baden, and Lorenzo Triburgo. In Portland, I am enjoying the curatorial work of Melanie Flood at Melanie Flood Projects and Bobbi Woods at Private Places.