“I am here Instagramming”

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This January, Calvin Art Department Faculty member Jennifer Steensma Hoag is teaching Seeing Photographs*—an interim course that aims to explore  intentionality and discernment in both viewing and taking photos. The class is also a DCM (Developing a Christian Mind) course—and while DCMs are a standard requirement for first year Calvin students, this course is nothing but standard: Steensma Hoag encourages cellphone use in class; in fact, a smartphone and Instagram account are requirements for the course.

Throughout the month, students participate in both individual and team-based Instagram assignments. One project involves trips to the Calvin nature preserve: students are asked to first visit the preserve and Instagram their experience. Students then visit the preserve again, without taking photos or documenting their time. In-class discussion followed, comparing and contrasting their experiences: was one visit more “authentic” than the other? Does the experience change when photo-documentation isn’t allowed? Through readings, lectures and Instagram assignments, Steensma Hoag hopes students will grapple with questions surrounding the politics of looking and capturing images: As Christians, how should we think about photography? Why do we take photographs? How do we take them? Are there times when we should put our cameras and smartphones away? 

These questions and their implications are also explored in a recent story covering the photography policy at Washington DC’s Renwick gallery.

From the The Washington Post:

“The Renwick is suddenly Instagram famous. But what about the art?” The Washington Post (7 January 2016)

Author Maura Judkis writes:

The exhibition [at the Renwick] is about amazement, marvel and awe. But as droves of Renwick Gallery visitors gape at the large-scale installation art in “Wonder,” the newly reopened museum’s inaugural show, curator-in-charge Nicholas Bell is more amazed by something else: their phones.

Thanks to a few well-placed signs announcing “Photography Encouraged,” smartphones are omnipresent when you walk into the Renwick. It’s no surprise. Who wouldn’t want to photograph this show? Every artwork is an Instagrammer’s dream come true.

Renwick curator Nicholas Bell is “bewildered and grateful” for the visitor response to the show. Bell shares:

“I wonder, what are they even trying to say? ‘I am here Instagramming’? It’s like this new first-person narrative of the museum experience. I’m fascinated.”

Read the full article and see Renwick visitor Instagram posts here

*To see student work from the Seeing Photographs nature preserve assignment, search these hashtags on Instagram:  #dcm2016preserveT1, #dcm2016preserveT2, #dcm2016preserveT3, #dcm2016preserveT4

photo credit: https://www.instagram.com/p/BAR7FENmhhA/?taken-by=bushifilmco

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