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Ace Lehner (2013 cohort) teaches Photography Now, in Summer 2015 and Winter 2016

“The professor has successfully done what every professor and teacher out there should be doing- inspiring others and feeding the passionate soul” (student comment)

Whether I am teaching studio courses or large art history style lectures I am dedicated to providing dynamic arts education and instilling a sense of critical and creative thinking in my students. I am also well versed in working across disciplines and with diverse populations. My approach to teaching, much like my approach to my scholarship and art making is conceptually driven and interdisciplinary. As an educator I bring both my artistic practice and my critical writing practices to the table. I strive to engage students in dynamic interdisciplinary discussions about photography, contemporary art and visual culture. I encourage students to think critically and creatively about the world around them, develop visual literacy skills and I help them to uncover and reflect on the questions that motivate them as scholars and artists.

My current research investigates ways in which both fine art and vernacular photography intersect with popular visual culture, the politics of representation and ways in which contemporary artists mobilize photography in an expanded field. My studio practice engages similar concerns and I find the questions I ask as a scholar and the investigations I make as an artist mutually inform one-another and deepen my understanding of contemporary photography from the perspective of a visual culture scholar and cultural producer. Having this double perspective on the material enriches my teaching and my students’ learning process in significant ways.  

In both classes it was readily apparent that video clips, blogs, visiting artists and field trips are of great value to students for they bring the course material to light in ways that allow students to more deeply engage and understand course material.

Teaching Photography Now has been a great privilege; the ability to teach a class originally designed by my dissertation advisor, mentor and exemplary scholar Derek Conrad Murray has been a great honor. Teaching this class I truly came to realize what a radical act teaching can be. In both the smaller summer session course and the large lecture class I was able to instill in the students a commitment to creative and critical thinking about the world around them and perhaps most importantly I was able talk with students about the way representations shape cultural beliefs about people far beyond the context of lectures on contemporary art. Having the pleasure of interacting with these students as they grew as thinkers and developed their visual literacy skills was immensely rewarding.

Course description:

This course exposes students to current debates in photography and challenges them to engage deeply with work being made by contemporary artists across an array of photographic disciplines. Through lectures, class discussions, field trips, scholarly texts, and guest artist talks we investigate current strategies and approaches employed by contemporary artists working in photography today. The course explores the contemporary landscape of photography (primarily, but not exclusively focused on works created in the U.S. from 1980 - present). We examine significant aesthetic, material and conceptual moves that have been made within photography in the last three decades.

Some overarching questions that we will engage throughout the course include: What is the social and political significance of pictures? How does the relationship between a photographer and their subject impact the resulting work? Is it possible for photographs and photographic projects to meaningfully impact the world? And if so, how do these interventions take place? This course is designed to enhance student understanding of the critical ideas and visual forms currently driving contemporary art discourse—a trajectory that includes an overview of the many socio-political, economic, and cultural forces that have continually inspired artists to articulate human experience in visual form. The course will engage with a diverse range of artists with multiple perspectives and consider photography in an expansive sense.

Student Comments:

“Professor Ace Lehner has greatly improved my understanding of photography and why it is as it is in today's day and age. Because of how friendly and easygoing the professor is, I was able to discuss topics in photography that I was interested in. The professor has successfully done what every professor and teacher out there should be doing- inspiring others and feeding the passionate soul.”

“Awesome teacher, very knowledgeable and clear lectures. Easy to follow and understand.”

“Ace was an amazing professor and I am very thankful to have taken their course. The videos, readings and guest speakers were all great and very insightful. The field trip was also great to be able to really experience the photos in real life.”

Ace is SICK!!! Ace facilitated a lot of great discourse amongst the students throughout this course. One of the best lecturers I have had in three years at the UC.”

“I like that you are very organized and that you are enthusiastic about the subject.”

“Professor Lehner's passion and enthusiasm for photography shines through in the lectures. Lehner is knowledgeable on the subject and is clear about what they expect from students. The frequent blog updates with the lecture slides were helpful in staying caught up, and the videos showed in class supplemented the material well.”

“Knowledgeable and enthusiastic, connected theory really well to tangible examples. The way the class was organized thematically was really helpful in expanding my notion of photography. I also really enjoyed the visiting lectures, it was a fun way to utilize the ideas from class.”

“Ace was very passionate about photography and inspired me to take more of an interest in the field. I also liked the style of teaching, with many visual aids and thought provoking questions. Overall very effective.”


HAVC 45 course blog


Image caption

Visiting artist Sofia Cordova talks about her interdisciplinary, photography driven practice as a Puerto Rican American, artist and musician and how her own identity-investigating work is influenced by popular culture, music and the Caribbean diaspora. Here she makes a comparison between her work on the right and how it is influenced by and making intervention into popular imaginary of representations of Caribbeans as exemplified by the highly intersectional, nuanced and problematic popular icon: Carmen Miranda.

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