Department of Photography/Film Teaching

As my primary teaching appointment, the Department of Photography is where I have taught the vast majority of my courses. At the sophomore level, I have created new model teaching syllabi to align with a new departmental curriculum that went into effect in Fall 2015 (See RVA Stories) My graduate training in photography, my video-making and overall interdisciplinary practice allows me to teach in both the Photography and Film tracks.

In the Spring semester I regularly teach the Photography BFA projects class, Thesis 2. I work with students to produce exhibition ready thesis work, expand their professional practice, assist them with the preparation and installation of their final off campus BFA exhibition, as well as help them coordinate a professional portfolio review. This semester I am teaching the Graduate Workshop in Photography and Film for the second time. I have also served on MFA thesis committees and regularly do studio visits/critique with Photo/Film graduate students.

Brooke Marsh meets with Curator Lauren Ross at BFA Photography Portfolio Review 2016.

I successfully lobbied the School of the Arts and VCU Technology Services to pursue a university-wide site license to the software tutorial site and my students and I participated in the initial trial phase of the program. For the trial period, I introduced a flipped classroom model, replacing technically focused software textbooks with Lynda’s online tutorials and have continued to use the model across my teaching. The flipped classroom model creates more class time for in class critique and discussion, while allowing students of different skill levels access tutorials that range from the introductory to expert levels.

Sample Assignment - RVA Stories

RVA Stories Project -

“PLACE FOR ME IS THE LOCUS OF DESIRE. Places have influenced my life as much as, perhaps more than, people. I fall for (or into) places faster and less conditionally than I do for people.”

‐ Lucy Lippard

This multiple media (text, audio, still & motion picture) project will serve as meditation/exploration of “Place” as it exists in and around Richmond, Virginia. Students will create audio/visual portraits of local Arts Related places/businesses/phenomena/people that are unique to the Richmond Area, which may be unknown, underappreciated, secret, or iconic. This assignment will encompass audio interviews, script writing for audio/film, sound design, location scouting and HD filmmaking. The final product of the assignment will be a collection of “RVA Stories” and will result in a class organized public screening.

NPR Style Audio Postcard 10%

Students will produce 1‐3 minute audio portraits about specific Arts Related places/people in the Richmond Area. The final piece should be suitable for radio broadcast, include location audio and written narration and will serve as the base audio track for expanded audio visual pieces.

Final RVA Stories Portrait Project 30%

3-5 Minute HD Video Place Portraits built upon the original audio postcard, location, stills and locked down HD video components. Components from the Audio Postcard assignment MUST be included in the final piece.

Crew - Helping Classmates: 5%

You WILL need to have a crew with you on the final location shoot, and will be required to CREW for at least two other student's portrait projects.


Explore sound production both as an end in itself and as a rich component of film and video production. Aesthetically, you will investigate techniques of effective questioning and interviewing, sound editing to create specific meaning, and the construction of evocative acoustic environments. Technically, you will explore sound recording, editing sounds in a single track, layering sounds, and mixing multiple tracks. As with the 1 shot, this piece should function as a statement unto itself, with attention paid to the beginning, middle, and end of the piece.

TASK: Using a combination of sound recorded on the zoom during a spoken word interview and additional sound recorded for special effects and ambiance, create a non-fiction audio piece using at least 3 tracks of audio (3 stereo pairs=6 total tracks in Premiere/Audition).

Track 1 spoken voice of the interviewee only

Track 2 ambient sound of the space that adds realism and character to the setting

These can’t be captured during the interview, and so must be recorded in a separate pass

Track 3 will contain sound of your own choosing

This may be no sound at all, special effects, or additional voice or background elements No pre-recorded or non-diegetic music is allowed

The mix should mask edits as much as possible and edits to spoken voice tracks must be seamless.

The Interview-tips & strategies -

Interviewing is in many ways a form of displaced authorship that involves coaching others towards eloquence, particularly those unused to speaking before a camera. A good (edited) interview should have the elements of an exciting story, a successful oral tale. During the interview, you should maintain eye-contact as much as possible, and give visual (but not verbal) feedback and encouragement. Nodding, smiling, looking puzzled, signifying agreement or doubt are all vital forms of feedback. Know your questions inside-out in advance, so you aren't distracted from listening to your subject by constantly checking your notes. Try not to think about your next question, and always follow up on anything unexpected that the interviewee says that interests you.

Being relaxed and informal will set people at ease. But remember to prepare the interviewee for the occasional interruption or re-direction --as in, "Could we return to..." or "Could we move to...(new topic). This is your project and you are in the driver's seat! Other subtle ways to steer someone are to 1) briefly summarize what you have so far understood and ask the participant to continue from there, and 2) urge someone to further explore a topic by saying, "I was thinking you might have strong feelings about..." Simple rejoinders such as "How?," "Why was that?," and "How does/did that make you feel?" demonstrate that you are truly interested in what your subject has to offer. Don't settle for abstractions or generalities --remember that your audience has no prior knowledge of this person/subject so you must get comprehensive coverage. Make sure you prod your subject to include your question as a part of his/her answer (this is very important and will prevent major headaches in the editing room). Don't be afraid to ask questions more than once -perhaps rephrasing slightly each time. Keep exploring until you are satisfied with the response, and press for an example or story to illustrate worthwhile points.

ABOVE ALL listen for the subtext of what someone is saying AND don't be afraid of SILENCE. The most successful interviews capture a person living out a personal realization for the very first time and the expectant pause is your most powerful tool in encouraging your subject to go deeper. Watching someone confront something unfamiliar and important to him/her on camera is what Jean Rouch calls a "privileged moment" --it is what makes for the most dramatically satisfying interviews.


Before Interviewing:

__ Read your questions out loud and listen to see if there's room for misunderstanding

__ Have a clear idea about the minimum the interview must say/explain/contribute

__ Decide if the interviewer and/or his/her voice should ever be included

When Interviewing:

__ Make sure you have explained to your participant why you're doing this interview, and have given him/her a general idea of what to expect

__ Warn interviewees that you may interrupt or re-direct them

__ Listen not only for what you want to hear, but for what the subject is really saying __ Use the devil's advocate role to represent negative attitudes or disagreement

__ Always ask for specific examples or stories to back up any interesting statement

__ Remain silent whenever you expect there is something more to be said

__ Don't give undue control to the interviewee

__ Ask factual, non-threatening questions first, holding off on difficult, more personal matters until the interviewee becomes comfortable

This assignment was co-developed by John Freyer and Caroline Martel

Sample Assignment: Follow The Loop

In this collective project, we will consider in theory and practice the development and implementation of ‘cinematic photography,’ - a post-68 era practice which draws on conventions and techniques from Hollywood and the theater in the creation of elaborate, constructed pictorial tableau. We will look at the contemporary practices of artists such as Tina Barney, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Jeff Wall, Ana Gaskell and Gregory Crewdson, with special attention to how these artists deploy the large-scale production model of staging for theater and film. We will take inspiration from this contemporary art practice and return the still image to it’s motion picture roots creating hybrid images that are neither films or photographs. Students will apply for production positions and work collectively to produce a looping “still” flat panel or projection piece. Our practical, omnibus approach to the Cinematic Photo/Video Loop will allow us to address the technical challenges of large-scale production and think through the relationship between fine art photography, film and video production, the avant-garde and emerging markets for the photographic/video spectacle in the context of post-modernism’s impact on the field.