Orange Coast College’s DSLR Photography Program has always been ahead of the curve — even when it wasn’t.
Blade Gillissen, chair of the college’s Photography department, has been teaching darkroom techniques for years, and maintained the courses even when digital photography threatened to replace film for good.
But now film photography is back in vogue and the program is ahead of the curve.
Gillissen has been the chair of the program for 15 years, and was a student when John Upton was teaching.
“In 1996 it (the program) was basically still very traditional. We really didn’t have digital photography at that time but slowly we made that transition,” Gillissen said.
Gillissen said that even though the program transitioned to digital, he decided to keep the darkroom and offer classes in traditional film.
Now that film is in vogue, “A lot of classes I teach are film and are filling up quickly. I hope it stays in fashion,” Gillissen said.
Gillissen said he sees film as more of an intricate art form than digital photography. The hand-crafted aspect of film is what he treasures most.
“With digital files we know what we do, we take a picture, look and delete. There is more at stake with film,” Gillissen said.
Film is more expensive than digital photography and the process is slower, but it helps people slow down and be mindful about the pictures they are taking.
In addition to traditional film classes, the department offers classes classes in basic photography, view camera, lighting, product, advanced darkroom techniques, the zone system, and alternative processes.
Gillissen also works as a consultant, technical writer, and editor. He most notably worked as a technical consultant for “Photography,” the textbook by Barbara London and John Upton.
The DSLR Photography Program has changed students’ lives by helping them find their passions, a hobby and even careers.
Chachala Singh, 40, said she is addicted to the photography program and has been in classes for eight semesters. She has her own photography business, but the classes at OCC helped her learn new techniques, she said.
Luisa Carrasco, 37, a photography major shares Gillissen’s passion for film.
“My favorite class is darkroom. It requires patience and learning technique. Some find it frustrating but I enjoy the silence and anticipation. Your image will always be an original,” she said.
Misha Pokusa, 20, a photography major, said she originally started the program with the mindset that it wasn’t necessary for her to turn photography into a career but said OCC has taught her that technique is a crucial part of photography and necessary in mastering the craft.
“The classes I’ve taken in the studio were the ones that were most out of my comfort zone but also the ones that allowed me to grow the most and expand my skills,” she said.
Pokusa said hers is the story of someone who was searching for a hobby found a career. She now plans to transfer to a four-year college and earn a bachelor’s degree in fine arts.
The OCC photography program has three certificates. First is the still photography certificate for the person who is serious about photography and wants to have a career as a photographer. The second is a digital photography technician certificate for those who want to take pictures and learn to successfully edit them. Finally, the digital SLR photography and videography certificate is a one-year certificate that combines both of the other certificates.