Thursday, April 02, 2020


One way that life has changed for artists since I got started in this field is the use of slides, 35 mm transparencies.  Decades ago, they were a necessity and everywhere.  Now they are completely gone. We adapt.

In my student days they were commonly used in classrooms, in studio classes professors showed them to show art examples. In art history classes, it's how we saw the art.  Everyone could see it at once.  We also learned how to shoot slides of our own artwork.  Don't recall it getting covered in a class, just one of those things you picked up.  Slides were how you sent work to galleries, applied to shows, applied to graduate schools or for jobs. When I started teaching, I started shooting slides of work by my students, something I would need when applying for other teaching jobs, plus useful for teaching the classes I had.  When I finished my last degree, the internet had just been invented and wasn't universal yet.

Besides the school needs, slides were the way artists sent work to galleries, applied for fellowships, entered juried shows, except for those places who insisted on seeing the actual work itself. inconvenient if you live far away.  When I started my current college job, slides were still the standard. Showed them in my classes, shot them of my students' works. At my university, we had an extensive slide library, and at busy times slide projectors had to be reserved.  I didn't even own a digital camera- very expensive.  At one of my jobs they invested in one to make photo ID's, cost several hundred dollars, so they kept it locked up.

Then all that changed.  Digital photography got much cheaper. And film kind of disappeared. Kodak pretty much got out of the business.  Colleges dropped their traditional photography classes, despite still begin popular. A lot of professional photographers closed their shops- no more business.

Meanwhile, I had accumulated a considerable collection of slides- historical, and student work, plus my own work.  I was still shooting student work in slide format for showing, jobs, etc.  One service provided by the slide librarian at my university was to make slides of artworks (shot from books, etc), and I got a bunch made over the years,  things I'd want students to see.  I also got a digital camera, so I could use the internet as part of my teaching.

Now, the slide librarian has been let go, and while the slide library is still there, the room is mostly used to hold computer and DVD carts.  I still use slides in my classes, still the easiest way to show a whole class something. Often my current students look at it with confusion, wondering how such a thing works.  Of course, when I asked them recently how a camera works, none could tell me.  They use them all the time but have no curiosity about how it happens.  Very worrisome.

Right now we have the problem that faculty and students are banned from coming to campus, so all classes are being taught online, so slides are not possible.  For my class this week I have slides that demonstrate the idea quite well, but I can't show them. What to do? Actually I figured this out years ago, when I had student artwork on slides and needed to show it on the class blog.  Project the slide, take a digital photo of the projection, and now I have a digital photo of the artwork.  Not the clearest, but suitable for my needs.  So I did that last night, taking advantage of the dark in my apartment, taking digital photos of a bunch of Mondrian slides I have, putting them on the site I am teaching from on Friday.  I'd rather be there in person, but this is where we are at these days.  Changes occur, we adapt.


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