Emily Stuart Thomas is the Photography Instructor at Booker T. Washington Magnet High School (BTW) in Montgomery, AL. She received a BFA in Photography from the University of Alabama, a MA in Museum Studies from the University of Oklahoma, and her Teaching Certificate from Auburn University, Montgomery. Emily completed an internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Department of Photography in New York. She spent 6 years at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts as an Assistant Registrar, Photographer, and Curatorial Assistant. In addition to her museum and teaching experience, she has kept busy by volunteering for local non-profits and owning and operating her own commercial photography business.
This past August marks Emily’s seventh year teaching Photography at BTW. Her 9th -12th grade students work their way through levels 1 – 4, then AP Studio Art: 2D Design. All of her students start by learning traditional darkroom photography. In reference to her student’s curriculum, Emily said, “students spend the first weeks in my class making photograms, constructing pinhole cameras and working with manual 35mm SLR cameras. I love sharing my knowledge of film based Photography with students because it teaches them patience. It teaches them to process the world around, make decisions about their subject matter and carefully construct an image before they release the shutter. Using film teaches them to make each frame count.” Emily’s students develop their skills by producing works using a wide variety of photographic techniques like hand-coloring, sepia toning, image transfers and other historic alternative processes, as well as, studio lighting and digital image manipulation techniques in Adobe Photoshop. They also have the opportunity to utilize a wide variety of cameras including pinhole, 35mm, medium format, large format and digital SLRs.
“I want my students to have a life-long love of art. So every year, we take field trips to museums and art festivals. When students are struggling for inspiration, I point them to examples in Art History. If students can take inspiration from a photographer like Sally Mann or a painter like Andrew Wyeth, while expressing their viewpoints and maintaining technical proficiency, they will be successful artists. One of the biggest challenges I have with my beginning students is teaching them to think like artists. Once they get past the concept of a snapshot and begin to express themselves, they are well on their way. During critiques, it warms my heart when students try new things, challenge themselves, and can express their ideas in front of the class.
Emily’s students have gone on to study photography, photojournalism, and art history in college, as well as, work in commercial photography.
This video was produced for the 2014 BTW Showcase at the Davis Theatre and is used to highlight the Photography Program at BTW.
The Monthly Member Spotlight on our website is a great way to share stories of all the awesome work going on in art classrooms across the state of Alabama and to advocate the importance of visual arts education. If you would like to participate, please email high quality photos of yourself, your classroom, and student work samples as well as the name and location of your school and a short biography. Please include descriptions for the photos and a 1-2 paragraph summary of some of your recent accomplishments in your classroom and within the larger art education community. Please address content to: Lindsay Mouyal, firstname.lastname@example.org