AAU Scott Borrero

How Photography School Helps You Become a Visual Storyteller

Like any skillful painting, a great photograph tells a story, and a great series of photographs tells an epic story. Consider Walker Evans’ images of the Great Depression, published in the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. If you flip through the book’s images rapidly, a film like The Grapes of Wrath may start forming in your mind.

At Academy of Art University, we firmly believe that successful visual storytelling requires a strong background in photography. After all, students don’t go to photography school only to learn fancy techniques. They go to learn how to create meaningful, resonant work, like Walker Evans’ photography—or like the Sari Dress Tent at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum.

Weaving the Threads of a Story

Since 2007, the Academy’s Director of Photography Adrienne Pao has partnered with artist Robin Lasser to create Dress Tents. These Dress Tents are both photographic works and interactive installations in which a human model wears a huge dress the size of a tent.

In particular, the Sari Dress Tent “embodies stories of migration,” according to the Aisan Art Museum. It also notes that Pao and Lasser’s projects “use humor to raise critical questions about gender and society.” Other Dress Tents that touch on migration include a camouflage dress tent titled “Ms. Homeland Security,” photographed near the U.S.-Mexico border.

Photographing the dresses at key moments and locations increases their impact and helps viewers understand the story behind the art. For example, the Sari Dress Tent addresses immigration, assimilation, and identity. Using a government building like San Francisco City Hall as a backdrop highlights the tension between these concepts.

The Pros of Photography School

Thinking deeply about context and commentary while photographing can be more complicated than it seems. But, look at it this way: a movie director typically takes one to two hours and thousands of frames to share a story. Meanwhile, a photographer has to do the same in only one image.

To understand visual storytelling, it helps to have access to experts and industry professionals like Pao. In photography school, you’ll get firsthand advice on how to improve your art from instructors who truly understand the field. They know what it’s like to build a photography career from the ground-up. Most importantly, they know that you’re here to become a photographer who can make riveting photos that impact audiences.

You already have ideas and opinions about the world. Now let your instructors teach you how to capture and convey that with one click of the shutter.

The City by the Bay

By now, you’ve probably realized that location is just as important as subject in photography. Cities offer plentiful opportunities for observing people and the environment, as well as capturing brief yet compelling narratives.

Academy of Art University’s photography school isn’t in a confined setting. In fact, you might say our campus is San Francisco, because our facilities are spread throughout North Beach and surrounding neighborhoods. Aside from that, we also provide free shuttle service between our facilities, including classrooms, workshops, dorms, and campus cafes, so the world is your oyster.

Curious about other ways that the Academy can support your photography career? Visit our page or reach out to learn more.