Thursday, March 31, 2011
Disclosure: I teach photography at Monterey Peninsula College. MPC is currently facing deep budget cuts to a number of programs, including my own. While the potential loss of my teaching position is certainly mournful, it pales in comparison to the startling proposal to completely eliminate the entire photography program. Such an act would be a tragedy for our whole community and its unique legacy as the spiritual home of West Coast fine art photography.
MPC made a decision to eliminate 11 whole departments including Photography, Dance, and American Sign Language – all programs that are flourishing and serve our community in innumerable valuable ways.
But there is hope. A final determination will not be made till early June. Community support is vital.
I also teach photography at Cabrillo College, which is responding to budget cuts in a very different way. On March 26, a local radio station featured Cabrillo history instructor Michael Mangin, who said that Cabrillo College has been planning in a way that makes it “one of the most financially solvent community colleges in California.” Cabrillo has to make cuts too, but is doing so in a way that keeps as many programs as possible intact.
Cabrillo has been making numerous small cuts for the past four years. Reductions come in part from reconfiguring certain programs. But bottom line: No faculty cuts. Cabrillo wants to weather the economic crisis by leaving important programs in place so that when economic recovery happens, those programs will be able to quickly rebound and offer all of their valuable services to the community.
Let me remind Weekly readers about the great – and continuing – photographic legacy of the Monterey Peninsula. Inspired by the visual richness of this area, painters, poets and photographers flocked to the Monterey Peninsula in the 1930s and ‘40s. It’s been so well known for its photography that in the ‘30s, a letter from Europe addressed simply “To Edward Weston, World’s Greatest Photographer” found its way to his doorstep in the Carmel Highlands. This story is related in the documentary film The Roots of California Photography: The Monterey Legacy.
“WE NEED TO EDUCATE INTELLIGENT, INDEPENDENT-THINKING CITIZENS.”
Edward Weston was the first photographer ever to win a Guggenheim Fellowship, in 1937. Two of Weston’s sons, Brett and Cole Weston, became well-known photographers and also made their homes here. Edward Weston’s grandson Kim Weston became a noted photographer as well, and lives in Edward Weston’s original home at Wildcat Creek. Kim and his wife Gina created the Weston Scholarship Fund, and each year it bestows many scholarships to local high school and MPC photography students. The Weston Gallery in Carmel is one of the oldest and most successful galleries on the West Coast.
Ansel Adams, perhaps the only photographer in the world to become a household name, moved to the Peninsula in 1961. Though he never taught at MPC, he served on an advisory committee for the MPC photo deptartment, donated equipment and welcomed MPC students to his home down the coast. His son and daughter-in-law live in that home, dividing their time between the Peninsula and Fresno while running the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite.
Jeanne Adams laments these budget cuts – especially to the arts – which are “so crucial to civility.” Observing that “colleges have too often become trade schools,” she emails me, “We need to educate intelligent, independent-thinking citizens and well-rounded people who care for the environment and each other, participating fully in life, beyond mere survival.”
Eliminating the photo department at MPC is like closing the Steinbeck Library in Salinas. With the photographic legacy of the Monterey Peninsula known world-wide, it will be profoundly embarrassing for the state of California if it allows the photography department at the only public, affordable place of higher education on the Peninsula to vanish.
The number of people in our community who have passed through the doors of the MPC photo department, as students, teachers, guest lecturers (or all three) is incalculable. The owner of Photography West Gallery in Carmel is a former MPC photography student. Noted photographers Brad Cole and Ryuijie, are among many who’ve benefited from photography courses at MPC.
We need support. Keep the ‘community’ in community college. Make your voice heard for the great legacy of our community and future generations of photographers.
Martha Casanave is a photographer, educator and writer whose work has been shown and collected nationally and internationally.