Photography and the power to connect us to ourselves: A conversation with Carolina Muñoz
Enthusiasm and curiosity are key for starting up with photography, and that entails keeping our senses open to styles, visions, and ways of processing images. All along the way, guidance is fundamental for developing our own visual style and language.
To facilitate the creation of images, a team of professionals has gathered at MIP in order to work on a program suitable for everybody’s needs. Carolina Muñoz is one of the experts engaged in this demanding task.
Trained as a graphic designer and as a photographer, Muñoz has developed her own techniques and methods to fulfill students’ needs and lead the creative and learning processes, beyond the basic techniques on how to use a camera.
For photography beginners wanting to unveil their own essence as image makers, and also for those interested in working with their accumulated photos, there is a variety of workshops carefully thought out to guide their learning desire into the right track. According to Muñoz, “there is a workshop at MIP for anyone wanting to incorporate photography to their lives, be it for self-expression or for professional practice”.
In the following conversation Muñoz talks about the workshops she teaches at MIP but also gives useful tips for image makers based on her experience as a commercial photographer since 2006. Moreover, she provides a general view of MIP and its academic offer.
How would you describe MIP in terms of its academic offer?
MIP strives to give its students a wide range of workshops to include beyond the technical aspects of how to take photographs. Photography needs to be understood as a practice which holds many subfields of study; for example, it is a common problem for people to accumulate photographs and not have a method to organize them in a productive way. Using the right software for this is crucial in improving a workflow. Analog photography and the magic of developing and printing one’s own images in a traditional darkroom offers the student an appreciation of older photographic processes, as a contrast to the ubiquitous nature of digital photography. More advanced courses challenge the student to further develop their practice and learn about portraiture, food photography, real estate and fashion photography. Kids will also be exposed to the wonders of creating exciting images with workshops designed just for them. Lecture courses about the history of photography and contemporary art practices are a necessary complement to technical workshops.
Tell us about your previous professional and teaching experience.
I have been working as a commercial photographer since 2006 specializing in food photography, portraiture and product/still life. Photo retouching and image processing is another field I have been working on since my days as a graphic designer. My clients include ad agencies, magazines, and personal clients such as business entrepreneurs, musicians, artists and others. In 2011 I was invited to teach at CIEF (Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Fotográficos) in Caracas where I taught Lightroom, Photoshop, Lighting, Food Photography, and a Color Theory and Practice workshop. As of 2017, I have been teaching photography as a personal tutor, short workshops at IMAGO Art in Action in Coral Gables and more recently as part of the staff at MIP. I also have experience with online teaching at CIEF and at the ONG (Organización Nelson Garrido).
How does your profile fit in as an instructor?
I came to photography after having worked as a graphic designer for many years, I realized it was my true vocation so I quit my job as an art director in advertising and began to work as a freelancer. It was a smooth transition from one visual field to the other in that I felt my previous profession continued to inform my photographic style. In parallel, I have been combining the artistic and commercial practice, my experience in both fields gives me a well-rounded background whenever I teach photography. I believe we need to create, perceive and interpret photographs from many angles, that is the richness photography offers us. When I create a photograph I am a bit closer to understanding some aspect about myself or my surroundings.
Mip recently opened in Miami. What are your expectations of the school?
I believe MIP offers the best of two worlds: a spacious professional location where photographing has purpose and meaning, and a relaxed and supportive environment where committed instructors share their experience and passion. My hope in the near future is for MIP to have many students creating inspiring and engaging images for themselves, for a gallery or for a client. MIP will also be a place to engage in thoughtful conversations about photography, it’s important for students to understand what drives them to photograph something and learn to interpret and analyze their work and the work of others too also.
What workshops do you offer and what are the enrollment requirements?
After pressing the camera shutter comes a second important part: processing one’s photographs to visually strengthen the ideas and narratives we aim to express or depict. For this purpose I teach Lightroom for organizing and developing photographs and Photoshop for expanding the techniques of image processing into the art of retouching. Both softwares complement each other and can also be incorporated into a sequential workflow. My advice is to first start with Lightroom to organize photographs and find out all the possible image adjustments it offers, and then go into Photoshop for in depth retouching and image manipulation. The basic requirements are basic computer literacy of Mac or PC systems, a laptop with the installed software prior to the first class and 20 to 25 RAW images stored in a pen drive or a memory card.
And what are the requirements for advanced students?
I also teach an introduction to food photography, a popular field nowadays with social media, blogs and the public’s interest in gastronomy. Photographing ingredients and prepared food is a field for students interested in making visually appetizing images to stimulate the senses. I feel food is such an interesting subject to photograph because it reflects who we are as a culture, it celebrates the idea of eating as a family or community and it shows the creativity of recipes.
Are there any tips you would like to share with your potential students?
Students should come to class with enthusiasm and curiosity for all the possibilities photography offers, and feel motivated to ask questions. It helps if beforehand students identify what type of photography they like, while also being open to discovering new ways of photographing. Two tips I would like to share are: a great way to train the eye is to watch a movie as a sequence of photographs and identify what sparks their attention; also, museums and galleries have websites with great photographic material from which to build a folder of favorite photographs.