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RISD Photo Department

The photographic image is the fundamental unit of visual meaning in contemporary culture today. Whether it is contextualized within commercial media, embedded in the stream of images which make up film or video or singled out as a fine art print, the photograph’s power and ubiquity are indisputable. It is therefore our responsibility and our passion to explore this medium fully, in order to understand how the photographic image functions as a primary conduit of culture.

Within this exploration, photography is examined both as language and as craft. The language of photography addresses the use of cultural signifiers, symbols and metaphors in the content and structure of the image. Photography students are taught to “read” images in order to develop the visual literacy which will guide them in the making of their own work. They are also taught to examine the social, cultural and historical contexts within which their work resides. No photograph exists in a vacuum. Every photograph comes from the world and in turn inhabits it. Understanding a photograph furthers our understanding of the world, one picture at a time. This understanding enables the expression of meaningful communication, both personal and shared. It is the goal of this department to foster an understanding of the world through the study of photography, in order to engage with the world in a meaningful way.