Christine Garceau


Artist Statement

Photography has always allowed me to experience the world on multiple levels. At an early age the camera became an extension of my creative need to share my ideas with others. Later on, the culture of photography became my identity and the images I generated began to mark the memory of my progression as a photographer, fine artist, and traveler of the world. I consider my photographs to be cultural artifacts because they simultaneously reference and signify the journey I have taken and the evidence I will leave behind when I am gone.

The images in this portfolio offer a preview of the multiple ways I use photography to communicate my vision of the world with others. The black and white images from the Black Portfolio provide a glimpse into my curiosity about the cultural formation of human identity. Experienced close up, they also give evidence to my developed experience and understanding of lighting ratios, film density, and traditional black and white printing techniques. Similarly, some of the color images in this portfolio enhance and convey to others my memory of the places and people I encounter as I travel the world using digital imaging technologies. My work embraces traditional film practice and digital technologies on multiple levels as a way to communicate with the many audiences I negotiate as a visual artist.

Recently I began a new photography research project titled Food for Life. The project springs from a personal passion to understand how food contributes to our cultural, political, and economic identities. Starting in the summer of 2010 I began photographing several community gardens in the Marquette area. One of the gardeners working the plots turned 93 while the youngest members of group often rode on the backs of their mother’s stooped in the process of weeding. During the winter months, friends, family members, and even strangers I have met at the local food co-op have come to my studio with the ‘one’ food they could not live without. In the spring of 2011 I traveled to Austria and Germany where I photographic individuals laboring in their kitchens and in their communities intent on  preserving food traditions typical of their cultural heritage.

In February of 2012 I will begin the next phase of my visual research as I join the Decolonizing Diet Project at the Center for Native American Studies at Northern Michigan University. Over the course of one year, I will document with still and moving images members of local tribes as they transform their lives by consuming only the foods found in the Midwest prior to the arrival of Europeans.

Many of the digital still and moving images I am capturing for these projects are informed by documentary photography and testimonio narratives (an interdisciplinary academic discipline that mixes history and literature),   infused with methods of qualitative and scientific research.  On its basic level this project seeks to explore our human connection to the land we inhabit and to the human communities we build upon it. I look forward to the process of transformation this new journey will bring.


Teaching Interests and Philosophy

My philosophy of teaching evolved from many years of engagement with photography students in diverse academic and community based teaching and learning experiences. Regardless of the technology used to generate photographs, I believe that it is my responsibility as a facilitator to engage, challenge and inspire the students in my classrooms to become knowledgeable members in the culture of photographic practice and production. It is my hope that every student will gain the confidence and technical skills necessary to sustain successes in their academic courses as well as their professional careers before they leave my classroom.

Inspiration: My first goal as a teacher and mentor is to inspire young photographers to stretch their technical and conceptual skills through the process of visual exploration and theoretical problem solving. To help demystify the world of lens culture for students of photography, I have developed a series of guided assignments that ask students to focus on inquiry and discovery while they are learning to use the cameras, calculate ratios in the lighting studio, or learning traditional and alternative print processing techniques in the darkroom and on a computer.  Since no one experiences a person or a place in the same way, I challenge students to use their cameras in tandem with the available and or artificial light available to help render their unique visional compositions. I want students to feel entitled to inspire me and their peers with their photographic designs while being mindful of the rigor required for a successful outcome.

Cultural diversity, group and individual learning styles: I believe that learning the techniques and practices of photography should be fun, and students who are active participants throughout the course of the semester learn skills and concepts more successfully than passive non-participants. Understanding the learning styles of the individuals in the class or group helps me facilitate effective strategies that engage everyone in the learning process. Students are also required to meet with me individually throughout the semester. This helps them take responsibility for their engagement in the classroom and foster a desire to complete their assignments on time.

Pedagogy and instructional planning: My approach to teaching includes media enhanced lectures that are reinforced with demonstrations. These include how to operate analogue or digital cameras, how to use light meters and histograms to calculate lighting ratios, how to process film in the darkroom, how to manage workflow of digital files in Adobe Bridge, Photoshop or Lightroom, and how to generate fine art prints with chemicals or inject printers. I also use mixed-media presentations to help reinforce the conceptual and theoretical concepts of the weekly readings they are assigned. I require students to write their responses to articles and essay on contemporary theories and historical perspectives. These academic exercises help them contribute more effectively to class discussions and critiques. Since my goal is to foster confidence in learning, I believe I can best serve my students by providing them with effective tools that will help them continue the discovery process of learning after they leave my classroom. I also believe that it is important for students to collaborate on projects, and these interactions help everyone become more confident and energized members of the community while being respectful of differing preferences and perspectives. Depending on the dynamics of the class, I routinely redesign my instruction methods and assignment goals to accommodate the changing needs of individual learners without jeopardizing the technical and conceptual goals that must be accounted for during assessments at the end of the semester.

As the discipline of photography continues to transform and change with the introduction of new technologies for image rendering and dissemination, I am constantly striving to expand my own knowledge and interactions with these technologies in order to successfully realize the goals I envision for my students at the beginning of each academic year. Introducing students to the infinite possibilities for discovery and invention that both analogue and digital technologies have brought to photographic practices and production can only be relevant if the information can be connected to the historical place photography has had and continues to hold in social, political and cultural contexts.  In summary, I am committed to providing an engaged, enthusiastic and empowering learning environment that emphasizes rigor while fostering individual confidence to become lifelong learners.