A history of ArtCenter's Photography Department in the mid-twentieth century

C. K. Eaton discusses basic portrait lighting with a student.

Learning hands-on skills, developing creativity, and training to work in industry are some of points behind the initial philosphy of the Photography Department at the Art Center School (now ArtCenter College of Design). The Photography Department began in 1931 with photographer Will Connell leading the program and offering classes in technical aspects, design, and composition of photography. Soon other professional photographers joined the faculty, such as Albert King, Fred Archer, Charles Kerlee, and C.K. Eaton. Ansel Adams taught in the 1940s and led field trips to Yosemite. George Hoyningen-Huene taught in the 1950s. The focus, which remained for many years, was on advertising, fashion, portraiture, and publicity.

During World War II, the school was authorized by the War Department Engineering and Training Division to offer production illustration and photography for industry courses in collaboration with Caltech. During the war, faculty, students and alumni were photographers in the U.S. Navy and other photo units, including Charles Potts and Herman Wall, who photographed the Normandy landing.  

Although the 1950s brought an increase in student enrollment with the G.I. Bill and a move to a larger campus on Third Street. The Photography curriculum remained much the same. Majors were offered in Advertising Photography, Color Techniques, and Photo Journalism. During the 1960s and ‘70s, the importance of collaboration and working with a creative team was stressed so students took non-photography classes and often worked with advertising students. 

This online exhibit showcases ArtCenter Photography Department instruction and student work between 1931 and 1975 at its first two campuses in Los Angeles, before the move to the current location in Pasadena.