Lauren Greenwald is a visual artist working primarily in photography and video. Her work focuses on landscape, perception, and the experiential. Ms. Greenwald received her M.F.A. in Studio Art, with a minor in Museum Studies, from the University of New Mexico and her B.A. in Art History and French from the College of Charleston. She lives in Columbia, SC, where she is Assistant Professor of Studio Art at the University of South Carolina (2014 to present).
2015 – present
Our perception of landscape is affected by how we move through it. Much of my work begins with movement - a journey. And with each voyage, the mode of travel becomes a vital element in the way I see and remember my surroundings. Using a range of tools from pinhole cameras to digital video, I employ both the still and the moving image to record, document, and re-explore these views, and to reproduce and describe the ephemeral quality of moving through a landscape. This body of work began with a month-long solo road trip of more than 7,000 miles. I tasked myself with traveling through parts of the United States I had never seen, and on roads I had not yet taken. Driving alone with no set route, watching the never-ending horizon, I was free to exist in the moment, to experience the space around me, and to anticipate the unknown just out of view. Primarily using a pinhole camera, I photographed from the roadside – scenic vistas, tourist spots, and miles of empty landscape. This most rudimentary of cameras, merely a box with a pinhole opening, it is perfect in its simplicity, and creates an image in which chance and imperfection, and a certain lack of control, are inherent - very much like the magic, the allure, and the exhilaration of the open road.
Why the University of South Carolina?
Our photography program is part of The School of Visual Art and Design (SVAD), and students can earn BA, BFA, and MFA degrees in Studio Art. We also have a fantastic Media Arts program, which offers courses in filmmaking, game design, animation, and new media, to list a few. The photography area has two full-time and one part-time faculty, and our curriculum emphasizes the personal exploration of ideas within contemporary art. My colleagues in photo, Kathleen Robbins and Ashley Kauschinger, are both wonderful artists and educators, and we all believe in the importance of interdisciplinary study and encourage our students to work with as many other professors as possible – our printmaking faculty are particularly great. Our facilities are quite comprehensive, and are organized around a large common classroom with print finishing and display areas. The labs include two black & white darkrooms with 20 enlargers between them - one large group lab and a smaller lab for advanced and alternative process work, a film development area, and two digital labs equipped with Mac workstations, film and flatbed scanners, and five Epson printers, two of which are large-format printers. We also share lighting and green screen studios with Media Arts, and students have a wide range of cameras and equipment they can check out through Media Services.
What courses do you teach?
I teach three courses in the fall and two in the spring, and cover the full range of our course offerings. I’m currently teaching our Photography for Non-Majors, a large lecture course, Introduction to Photography, a darkroom course, and Digital Photography, which focuses on the computer as an art-making tool. We offer Special Topics courses on a rotating basis, and in the past I’ve taught an interdisciplinary workshop with a printmaking professor, called Beyond Photography, and a summer course called On the Road, focusing on the road trip and large format photography. I’m also a big proponent of study abroad, and last summer I taught a photo course in Siena, Italy called Photography and the Italian Landscape. I’ll be returning there in May 2018 to teach another class, and I’m working on developing a broader art course for 2019 to be held in Paris, France.
How does your program bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary photographic practices?
We believe the students should have a solid foundation in traditional photographic practices while using the all of the tools of contemporary technology at their disposal. Interestingly enough, all of us photo faculty use hybrid approaches in our image making, and we encourage this flexibility of thinking in our students. Our classes are relatively small, fewer than 15 students, and every semester we offer several sections of our Introduction to Photography course, which is a black & white darkroom class, intermediate darkroom and digital courses, and our BFA capstone courses – a Portfolio class in the fall, and an Exhibition class in the spring, where students design and mount a group exhibition. Our Special Topics courses allow us to focus on more specific approaches – past courses have included Bookmaking, Alternative Process, Advanced Printing and Hybrid Workflow, among others. Students interested in video and the moving image have the option to take courses in our Media Arts department.
Describe the process of output for photographs.
All of our classes, with the exception of our Photography for Non-Majors class, are required to make prints. As I mentioned earlier, we have both analog and digital facilities – the Intro students shoot 35mm film and learn to make prints on RC paper, the Advanced Black and White students work with medium and large format film and focus on perfecting their darkroom printing and experimenting with paper, toning, and techniques, our students in the Digital Photography class learn to print with Epson 3880 printers and have the option of making larger prints on an Epson 7890, while our advanced students have a separate lab equipped with an Epson 9890. In our upper level classes, students use a combination of processes and output methods, but most choose digital output for their portfolio and exhibition prints.
Describe the critique format.
Like many photo programs, we hold regular critiques in our classes. Every project will generally have a full class session devoted to critique, while the upper level portfolio and exhibition classes hold regular critiques through the semester as the students develop a body of work. My colleagues and I think this is a crucial element in helping students to develop a personal vision, and we encourage them to seek out additional opportunities for critique outside of the classroom. Occasionally we will have other professors or visiting artists sit in on critiques, but more significantly, every fall semester we hold our annual USC Photo Festival. The BFA students take a Portfolio Workshop class, and spend all semester working on a specific body of work. The Photo Festival brings in one invited artist to give an artist talk, hold workshops, and jury a student show, but the highlight is an all-day portfolio review. We usually have around 15 professionals from the region who generously give their time and come to review - artists, educators, curators, publishers, etc. It’s a fantastic event for our students – they are held to very high standards and they get valuable feedback and experience. This year will be the 9th Annual USC Photo Festival, and our invited artist is Meggan Gould from UNM.
Where can we keep up with your photo department online?
What other photo programs and artists should we be keeping an eye on?
I’m biased, but UNM will always be at the top of my list. Patrick Manning and Meggan Gould are both brilliant artists and inspiring educators, and push the boundaries of how we look at and think about photography.
There are so many other professors and programs I admire, but to list a few: Julie Anand and Mark Klett at ASU, Byron Wolfe at Tyler, David Taylor at UA, Jason DeMarte at Eastern Michigan, Jacinda Russell at Ball State, Priya Kambli at Truman State, Daniel Coburn at KU, Justin Kimball at Amherst, Marni Shindelman and Michael Marshall at UGA, Daniel Kariko and Angela Franks Wells at ECU, Michael Borowski at Virginia Tech, Kally Malcom at UNF, and Joshua White at Appalachian State. A few people I don’t know personally but have long admired are: Paho Mann at North Texas, Andy Mattern at Oklahoma State, and Wes Kline at NMSU.
Some artists who I’ve been looking at recently are Alison Rossiter, Aaron Rothman, Karine Laval, and Noémie Goudal, and I’m a super-fan of Mishka Henner.