Karey Walter has been teaching both analog and digital photography at the Lovett School for 24 years. Walter’s work is unique because she is teaching in ways that have been forgotten by many: historical photo printmaking.
While many schools have moved to digital photography and teach only Photoshop or other finishing software elements, Walter’s students learn black-and-white film photography, printmaking with ultraviolet light, daguerreotype and other historical methods of printing photography.
Walter also helps her students enter their photographs in competitions. In January, Walter and Lovett senior Kendall Greene displayed their works at Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the 10th annual exhibit “TAPPED: Artists and Their Professors,” a showcase of works by current and former teacher/artist pairs.
“The relationship between artists and their current or former instructors can be a powerful one,” an excerpt from Manifest Gallery’s website reads. “All of us who have been students carry forward our teachers’ legacy in one form or another.”
“I was more than excited to see that my months of shooting with a medium-format film camera, processing rolls of color negative film by hand, editing and scanning had paid off,” Kendall said of her work being displayed at Manifest. “I am so lucky to be learning from Ms. Walter and learning the fundamental skills of photography.”
Q: How did you get started with photography?
A: My journey in photography started with my love of horses as a 12-year-old attending summer camp. I would photograph with disposable cameras and I become fascinated with capturing my life experiences. While in high school, I had the opportunity to learn the darkroom process with black-and-white film. Studying the arts in high school led me to explore the arts in college and eventually receiving my master of fine arts from the University of Utah.
Q: How did you become the instructor of fine art photography at Lovett?
A: After graduate school, I returned to the South and was unclear about my goals as a photographer. I decided to hike the Appalachian trail with my dog to discover myself. Along the way, I met another photographer who informed me of a job opportunity teaching photography at the Lovett School. My trail experience was at a time before cellphones, so I hiked to the Nantahala Outdoor Center to use a payphone and called Lovett. They wanted me to come to Atlanta for an interview, so I left the trail and landed the job. Twenty-four years later, I am grateful to be educating students and exploring many techniques in the photographic arts with generous support in the arts at Lovett.
Q: What inspired you to begin teaching students about historical methods of photography versus the more common digital photography methods?
A: While in graduate school, I studied a variety of historical photo processes from the 1840s through the 1900s. In addition to historical processes, I am trained as a darkroom photographer and skilled in a variety of analog film and printing processes. Lovett is unique because we still operate a fully functional analog darkroom that allows me to educate the students in a variety of photographic processes. Twenty-first-century learners are intrigued with making and tactile materials, so the darkroom is a magical place to explore and to understand the complexities of photography. We also introduce the students to digital photography and learning Adobe editing, but being behind a computer all day does not have the same experience as the analog process.
Q: What is next for you and your students?
A: My advanced photography students are studying a photography project called PhotoArk, created by Joel Sartore, a photographer for National Geographic. The PhotoArk’s imagery is a documentary series highlighting animals and where they currently stand with extinction. We are traveling on an overnight photo retreat to the White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, Florida, to photograph a variety of animals and research the sustainability efforts of this organization. White Oak researches and breeds several animals such as rhinos, okapi, zebras, cheetahs, giraffes and Pere David’s deer. Offering experiential learning gives the students a real-life documentary photoshoot, which allows them an interactive experience while photographing on location.