Brooks Institute Hosts Open House

Teens and Parents Explore Opportunities for an Education in Art

On July 16, a band of parents, their teenagers, and college-aged kids gathered in a room typically sectioned off into student photography studios. This Saturday, it was a makeshift auditorium, filled with school desks facing a projector. A photo montage was set up under some focal lighting to give attendees a better idea of students’ work at Brooks Institute of Photography.

Pictures made into advertisements looked as though they had been cut out of a high-end magazine. Among subjects frequented by Brooks are cars, fashion, food, and travel, which tend to be of interest to the students. This is one of the few open houses that Brooks will host this year, consisting of visual presentations of work by students, talks given by teachers, and a tour of the 25 East Mason Street campus. (The other Santa Barbara Brooks location, at 27 East Cota Street, will also hold tours.) The two Santa Barbara campuses focus primarily on still photography, while the Ventura campus zooms in on film.

I spoke with a couple teachers about their backgrounds and experiences. One, Dean DePhillipo, is a professional freelance photographer who teaches up to six classes at a time at Brooks Institute. He was a 1989 graduate of Brooks and has been teaching at the same school for 10 years now. Editing, lighting, and video are his specialties. DePhillipo stressed that photography and media arts are ever changing media, making it important that teachers at Brooks are also working professionals. DePhillipo said that graduates of Brooks have access to a large range of careers, depending on contacts and portfolio quality.

Program chair of the school of photography Bill Robbins told the group, “YouTube can’t teach you how to think.” He was referring to the fact that Brooks emphasizes critical thinking in its curriculum rather than the simple “how-to.” Robbins spoke of photography and the media arts from a business point of view, including the fact that five business courses are required as part of Brooks’ general education credits.

“Brooks adapts to the marketplace,” said Robbins. This is why the campuses have recently gone completely high-def. Robbins noted that with 8,000 alumni, Brooks is backed by some great professionals in the arts industry.

The Brooks Institute of Photography community appears to be tightly knit. The private college has an environment of creative stimulation. Brooks faculty member Chuck Place, whose resume includes work done for National Geographic, Smithsonian, and Time Magazine, said he learns every day from his students: “Students don’t know not to try things.”


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