Chris Dant (b. 1989 Columbus, OH) is a visual artist who explores the ideas of empathy, shared experience, family history and loss through the use of the photographic medium. Chris received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of North Texas in 2012 and his Master in Fine Arts degree from the University of Notre Dame in 2016. In 2015, he was commissioned by the South Bend Museum of Art to travel around the state of Indiana and photographically document the still existing projects constructed by the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) in the 1930s and 40s. In addition, Dant has recently exhibited his work in New York City and received the Walter R. Beardsley Award for Best in Show, for his MFA Thesis Exhibition, Worthy Sons, from the Snite Museum of Art in Notre Dame, Indiana. After graduate school, Chris found his way back to the University of North Texas, where he held an adjunct position teaching the Advanced Darkroom course. In the Spring of 2017, he accepted the position of Assistant Professor of Photography at the University of North Georgia, in Dahlonega, Georgia, where he currently resides. You can find Chris hiking around the mountains of north Georgia, looking for rocks to climb and a good watering hole to swim in.
2014 - 2016
This body of work presents a group of teenagers I met through a youth organization I volunteered for in South Bend, Indiana in the Fall of 2013. All of these young men shared a passion for skateboarding. I learned, though, that this was not their only commonality; each of these boys lived in a home without their father present. I began to question how this group of teenagers navigated through the critical phase between boyhood and manhood without any sort of guidance. However, the more time I spent with them, the more I realized that these boys supported one another and their friendships helped to fill the void where their fathers were absent.
For over two years, I used the camera not only as a documentary tool but also as a means of affirming value. By turning the camera on them, the photographs give these teenagers an agency they've seldom had at home or in their neighborhood. A photograph is special when compared to other mediums because of the Importance it places on its subject, and for its ability to allow someone access to a place, a moment, a life which he or she has never experienced.
With these photographs, I invite the viewer to be present by placing them (you) in the locations where these boys are forming their identities. This body of work presents moments of stasis amidst the action occurring in the surrounding space, whether in the home, the neighborhood or the skatepark, and allows the for contemplation of one's own perspective on this complex and complicated chapter of teenage life. Through intentional shifts in how I photograph, from public to private views and the apparent passage of time, it is my hope that the work will encourage a familiarity that prompts empathy and compassion within you, not just for these boys, but also for your neighbor, the one who calls the town you live in "home."
Why the University of North Georgia?
The University of North Georgia is the school that I wish I knew about when I was first applying to college. Dahlonega, Georgia, "Home of America’s First Major Gold Rush" and home of the University of North Georgia, is simply incredible. Drive a half hour up the road and you enter into the Chattahoochee National Forest, in the thick of the Appalachian Mountains, and about an hour down the road, you are in the bustling city of Atlanta, where art, music and entertainment abound. The best of both worlds. UNG, an institution growing by the second, is filled with students who are eager to learn and soak up knowledge. The campus and its buildings seem to breath history, just like the quant and cozy town square up the street.
The Department of Visual Arts (DoVA) at the University of North Georgia is focused on its students, first and foremost. We offer a wide range of mediums for student to focus on, such as Photography, Ceramics, Sculpture, Textile Design, Weaving, Drawing, Painting, Graphic Design and Printmaking. Instructing each course are faculty with an extremely wide range of backgrounds and experience in each of their fields. Our studio course sizes are small, ranging from 8 to 12 spots, which provides an inviting and creative environment for each student. There are multiple galleries around campus, which consist of new exhibitions each month featuring artists from all over the country. The galleries in the art building provides space for instructors to showcase work made by students each semester, while the Bob Owens Gallery, located in the student center, features a juried student exhibition each semester which offer monetary awards for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place artists. In their final semester, students are enrolled in a Senior Capstone course, where they work for the entirety of the semester on a cohesive body of work, which they exhibit with their peers in a Senior Exhibition in our Library Gallery. One of the most recent achievements of DoVA was gaining accreditation by NASAD (National Association of Schools of Art and Design), which will allow us to offer a BFA degree (Bachelor of Fine Arts) starting in the fall, and an MFA program in the near future. We are extremely excited about this as it will give future students the ability to gain a crucial degree in the field of art.
What courses do you teach?
This semester I am teaching three courses: Film Photography I (Introductory, 35mm), Film Photography II (Advanced Darkroom, Medium and Large Format) and Digital Photography II (Advanced Digital course). However, I have taught Digital Photography I and will teach Alternative Processes eventually. This semester, my schedule is laid out in a way where my two Film Photography courses fall back to back, which means six hours of pure darkroom twice a week. My students love it. I love it. Myself and my colleague, Associate Professor of Photography, Paul Dunlap, both maintain a 3/3 course load (3 in the Fall, 3 in the Spring), which allows for a nice variety of photography courses for students to enroll in each semester.
Currently, we only offer undergraduate Studio Art degrees. Like I said above, our program is young and thriving, and with our recent accreditation from NASAD, we will be able to offer an MFA in Studio Art down the road.
How does your program bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary photographic practices?
One of the most attractive and unique characteristics of the Department of Visual Arts at UNG is the wide spectrum of mediums that are taught. The rich history of Appalachia is embedded in the department (and the rest of the university; we do offer a Minor in Appalachian Studies), while we also strive to educate our students in the most advanced 2D and 3D digital technology on the market. With such a wide spectrum, students choosing to study photography can take full advantage of all types of imaging, from alternative process printing to non-referential image creation and everything in between. We offer multiple Digital Photography courses (Digital Photography I & II), which begin with the basics of learning the camera and printing, and then move into more advanced techniques of image manipulation and collaging, studio lighting as well as focusing on conceptual growth. We also offer multiple analog classes (Film Photography I & II), a 35mm introductory darkroom course, where students learn the processes of film development and silver gelatin printing, as well as an advanced Medium and Large Format course, where students are given their own Toyo View Field Camera to check out and use for the semester. We also offer a Night Photography course in the summer, and an Alternative Process course.
Describe the process of output for photographs.
Our photography program offers an extremely wide range of photographic output, which allows students to make physical prints for each project they are assigned. We have a selection of Canon and Epson inkjet printers for small scale (up to 13” wide) digital printing, as well as a selection of large format printers, for large scale work to be printed on roll paper. Also located in our Digital Photography Lab are multiple Epson V800 flatbed scanners for film digitization. We have a fully equipped black and white darkroom, housing 10 Beseler 45MXT and 45V-XL enlargers with Dichro 45S color heads, light safe closets for film loading, and sink stations for silver gelatin printing, as well as film development for 35mm, 120 and 4x5 formats. Color film development is also available. We offer a variety of 35mm film cameras and DSLRs, as well as 3 Mamiya 645 Digital Medium Format Cameras and 14 Toyo View 4x5 Field Cameras, all available for students to check out. I should mention too that we also offer a variety of alternative process outputs, with contact print frames available. All of the equipment in our labs are accessible to students throughout the week and on weekends.
Describe the critique format.
In the photography courses offered at UNG, a student can expect a minimum of 4-5 projects each semester, which are introduced in a lecture format, where they are shown artists throughout the canon of photography who have used similar techiques or focused on similar subjects. Entire class periods are often designated for a critique, which gives ample time for the student’s peers and myself to asses and respond to the work presented. As stated above, physical prints are made and then presented. Each student is normally asked to write an artist statement (depending on the level of course) to present with their photographic work.
Working artists and art educators will visit periodically throughout each semester to give artist talks, give demos in the studios and hold exhibitions. Students in DoVA are invited to participate in the demos held by visiting artists (no matter if the artist works in their specific medium or not) and during that time are able to get feedback about their own work. Each one of the faculty in DoVA works hard to invite at least one visiting artist to speak to their students each semester.
Where can we keep up with your photo department online?
What other photo programs and artists should we be keeping an eye on?
Having lived in the Midwest (Indiana), the Southwest (Texas) and now the Southeast (Georgia) all within the past 5 years, I’ve been exposed to, and have worked with, some great programs and image makers. One of my mentors and colleagues from the University of North Texas, Dornith Doherty, just released her monograph “Archiving Eden”, which documents the role seed banks play in the face of a changing climate. I was really excited about this release, as it was a time consuming and expansive project, which took Dornith over eight years to complete. Zachary Dean Norman, along with his collaborative group, Everything Is Collective (E.I.C.), is always creating fantastic work. I’m also extremely impressed and inspired by the work of Jessie Parks, a Georgia native, who uses her camera to document the stories of migrants and refugees in Georgia and abroad. As for programs, the Department of Art, Art History and Design at the University of Notre Dame is one that played a pivotal role in my growth as an artist. Martina Lopez, Richard Gray, Jayson Bimber, and others do a phenomenal job showing students who have interests outside of the arts, ways to weave those interests into their art making.