Priya Kambli was born in India. She moved to the United States at age 18 carrying her entire life in one suitcase. She began her artistic career in the States and her work has always been informed by this experience as a migrant.
She completed her BFA degree in Graphic Design from the University of Louisiana in Lafayette and continued on to receive a MFA degree in Photography from the University of Houston. She is currently Professor of Art at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri where she has taught for the last 17 years. In 2008 PhotoLucida awarded her a book publication prize for her project Color Falls Down which was published in 2010.
Buttons For Eyes
Buttons for Eyes explores issues of loss, memory and my cultural hybrid identity by physically manipulating my old family photographs and then re-photographing those altered artifacts. In this series however the rules appear to be bending. Natural light, always a key ingredient in my work, becomes another material to manipulate; spilt into sparks, smeared into rainbows or shimmering back from the depths of powdered pigments, the light’s new-found mercurial nature is a clue to the rest. It tells us that though this work mythologizes the past and present it also plays game with them. It winks, pokes and inverts- suggesting joyousness, mixed with the loss and regret that accompanies us all.
Why Truman State University?
Truman State University is a liberal arts university dedicated to undergraduate education. The Art Department, which is part of the School of Arts and Letters, offers both a BA and BFA degrees in studio arts and a BFA degree in design.
Currently there are a lot of changes happening in the studio arts program, two examples of these changes are- offering a major in photography (we currently only offer a minor) and offering a revised interdisciplinary specialty for the studio arts program so the students can more flexibly pursue multiple disciplines for their creative endeavors.
Our department size is small, we currently have 13 faculty members in total for the three areas of Art History, Design and Studio (Fibers, Sculpture, Painting, Printmaking, Ceramics and soon - Photography).
What courses do you teach?
Each studio has an individual running the program and taking care of their respective studio. Since I am the only photography professor I cover everything in photography- at least everything that I can teach. Over the years I have taught and still teach: Darkroom photography, Digital Photography, Studio Photography, Alternative Process and Color Photography (although I haven’t taught this course in multiple years). All of us in studio also teach in the Foundation program, two of my favorite foundations classes to teach are figure drawing and three-dimensional design. We cater to undergraduate students only.
How does your program bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary photographic practices?
I bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary photographic practices by having the students undertake courses in both areas and then, when they master these tools, I have them push the traditional boundaries of each respective medium through experimentation. I also teach an Alternative Processes course which is hybrid course and which essentially requires the students to work fluidly between digital and analogue media.
Describe the process of output for photographs.
Students are constantly encouraged to make work and prints. In both the darkroom and the digital courses. It’s hard to understand how to make a successful print until you actually work towards making one; making a successful print is a hard and complex task to undertake and I make sure we undertake this task constantly.
Describe the critique format.
I am a firm believer of critical but constructive criticism. I feel it’s important for students to invest not only in their own work but also the work of their peers, and creating a safe space that allows for discussion and problem solving. All the critiques take place in the class. Anyone is free to attend, but only the students in that class are tend to be present. We try to host at least one visiting artist per semester and they do conduct studio visits.
Where can we keep up with your photo department online?