Local Podcast interviews Will Connally, Photo Alum

Shockoe Artspeak, a local podcast started by Ryan Lauterio and Garreth Blackwell recently released an episode featuring , Will Connally, Photo MFA Alum. The episode focuses on Connally’s ongoing series, Lake Elster. Each photograph focuses on a different Lake Elster resident, although they are physically absent from the image. The photographs feature flat painted props of Connally’s own invention that come to life in his prints shot on medium format film. Check out Will Connally’s interview here!

Image from Will Connally’s “Lake Ester” Series

The podcast is run out of Shockoe Artspace, where Connally and other artists also share studios across the street. Nick Seitz, another Photo alum, is also involved with Shockoe Artspace. He helps them by volunteering and with photo documentation for shows. Shockoe Artspeak has interviewed other local artists, including Chino Amobi and Nikki Painter, both Painting and Printmaking alums.


You never really know what opportunities your peers may get you into.

Sculpture walk featuring “Domo” by Ensamble Studio. Image courtesy of Alex Coyle.

This was true for Alex Coyle (photo, ‘17) when she found herself working with Emily Rund (film, ‘17) at Tippet Rise Art Center in Montana this past February. Emily is currently working at the center as a filmmaker and production coordinator. While there, Alex assisted with editing and filming.

Image Courtesy of Alex Coyle.

“Everyone was  like, ‘How on Earth did you end up with that connection?’ And I was like, ‘school!’ I think we had maybe one class together during college? But seeing each other around Pollak and bumping heads at art events and projects here and there kept us in touch,” says Alex Coyle.

Emily Rund shooting during a sculpture tour at Tippet Rise. Image Courtesy of Alex Coyle.

Emily Rund lives at Tippet Rise all year round where she documents performances. The center hosts exhibitions by musicians, visual artists, poets, and others in Montana’s mountainous, rural environment.

Even coming from different concentrations, the mutual experience they had of going through VCUarts made this collaboration possible. Before Alex joined her in Montana, Emily helped bring in other alums to work at the center. This past summer she reached out to her former classmates, Alec Gary and Kai Qui to help her work on some larger film productions.

Pianist Michael Brown at Tippet Rise. Image Courtesy of Emily Rund.

“I knew I could count on my classmates- I’ve seen their work, collaborated with them, and felt comfortable bringing their talents to my professional work environment,” says Emily Rund.

Alex, coming from the photography concentration, has been working within the film industry in Richmond. She credits Shannon Castleman, a professor from the department, for helping her get her first big set job on Homeland and connecting her with Gearhead Camera, a rental house in town, where she now works as a camera prep technician. From the connections she made on set, she also had the amazing opportunity to work on Wonder Woman 1984 last summer!

Image Courtesy of Alex Coyle.

Alex and Emily both agree that their time at VCUarts has been valuable for them in different ways. Their collaboration with each other as well as with former students and faculty is proof of the power of networking. “Every interaction you make can be a future connection,” says Emily Rund.

There also is an undeniable value in the appreciation of photography and filmmaking as an artistic medium when moving into more industry based jobs. “…Being able to challenge my medium and think critically about how the camera functions in the context of whatever I’m doing is something I wouldn’t have been able to do without having gone through the photo/film program,” says Alex Coyle.

Beartooth Portal by Ensamble Studio. Image Courtesy of Emily Rund.

By Zephyr Sheedy. Images courtesy of Emily Rund and Alex Coyle.


Alumni Feature: Steven Casanova

Steven Casanova (BFA ’15)

Food Justice Educator & Documentary Photographer

Steven Casanova, BFA ’15, is the photographer for VCUarts, and an educator at ART180 and with the Richmond Food Corridor. He credits his success thus far to years of experience interning and working within the Richmond community. Being a working artist helped him network and meet people who could connect him to new opportunities, specifically to educate the public on political and social issues. 


Alumni Feature: Emily Rund

Emily Rund, BFA ’17, is currently the assistant editor/production coordinator for Tippet Rise Arts Center, where she primarily does film work, as well as some graphic design and creative media work. At Tippet Rise, there is the summer concert season and the “off season.”  Currently it is the off season, which means that Rund will be editing the footage from the previous season while preparing for the coming season. Recently she was given the opportunity to put her second major, kinetic imaging, to work – and has been animating the title sequence for one of the center’s films. During the summer Rund helps out anywhere and everywhere, picking up a camera when needed, giving tours of the center’s 10,000 acre sculpture park to special guests, or working directly with the musicians to help set the stage in the layout they prefer.  (more…)

MFA Alumni Feature: Naoko Wowsugi

Naoko Wowsugi shot by Chris Suspect.

Naoko Wowsugi, MFA ’11, is an artist of Korean-Japanese descent, who moved to the United States in 2001, leading her to explore conditions of identity and belonging in her work. Through a multidisciplinary practice including visual art, sound, local lore, horticulture, and community participation, she celebrates human connections by toying with interpersonal and sociopolitical norms. She currently lives and works in Washington, DC where she is an Professorial Lecturer at American University.

Notable recent exhibitions include “Ae Kai: A Culture Lab on Convergence,” presented by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center in Honolulu, HI (2017) and “The Outwin 2016: American Portraiture Today,” which is traveling from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City,  the Ackland Museum of Art, Chapel Hill, and many others.


Alumni Feature: Allison Bills

Allison Bills with NASA crew members. Photograph by NASA/Bill Stafford.

Allison Bills, BFA ’16, is currently working as a Digital Imaging Specialist/Photographer at NASA-Johnson Space Center. She began her career as a photographer before she came to VCU, shooting commission work.  While at VCU she was able to enrich her technical skills. Allison says the concept of “just keep shooting” brought her some of her best photographs and artistic growth.

In 2015 Bills landed an internship with NASA that she found out about through the department. This internship later led to her being hired to work for them full time. Her day to day on the job at NASA ranges from being out shooting to working in the photo lab. In the lab they are working towards digitizing all of the film shot for NASA before digital took over. It’s an estimated 30-year project to bring them up to speed on archiving the film digitally. Upon leaving school Bills had a strong portfolio, demonstrating all types of photography, which she says was a big part of what her supervisor at NASA liked about her work. Bills hard work allowed her to graduate with a job offer from NASA. The weekend following graduation she packed up her RVA home and moved to Texas to start her career and hasn’t looked back!


MFA Alumni Feature: Joseph Minek

Joseph Minek, Remnants, Installation View, Forum ArtSpace, Cleveland Ohio, Image Courtesy of the Artist.

Joseph Minek is an artist based in Cleveland Ohio. Joseph received his Masters of Fine Arts degree in Photography & Film from Virginia Commonwealth University and his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography from the Cleveland Institute of Art. He has exhibited nationally and internationally in spaces such as the Cleveland Museum of Art, Denny Gallery (New York), and Galerie Kornfeld (Berlin). Joseph is currently focusing on his studio practice dealing with the possibilities of photographic material while also teaching at the Cleveland Institute of Art and Cuyahoga Community College.


Alumni on Homeland

VCU Alumni, Alex Coyle and David Roberts on Homeland. Image courtesy of Alex Coyle. 2017

Showtime’s Homeland Season 7 is being filmed in Richmond VA and will premiere January 2018. Many of our Photo + Film alumni have landed themselves jobs on this production.

Natalie Kohlhepp, BFA ’16, is currently working as a Production Assistant for the Art department on the 7th season of Homeland for Fox Television. As a Production Assistant she serves as an extra pair of hands for everyone in the department, working directly under the Art Coordinator, and often  working one-on-one with the Graphic Designers, Set Designers, Set Decorators and Production Designer. In the past she has worked as a buyer and also photographed actors to help with set dressing needs. On the job she does a lot of deliveries, large format printing, supplies graphic design and photography needs, does research, and communications work.

“As an art student I learned to refine my own adaptability in any given context. You work with people, you work fast, you learn different creative programs, you learn the basics of lighting in school & then you just continue to draw on and expand that vocabulary of skills with each job. Constantly troubleshooting.” – Natalie Kohlhepp


Alumni Feature: Dominique Muñoz

Muñoz on the 60th floor to photograph Glaziers installing window units to the new Salesforce Tower in San Francisco. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Dominique Muñoz, BFA ’15, has just finished working as the first photographer in residence for Clark Construction. While there, he photographed the art of building – focusing on the social aspects of construction. He has traveled across the country photographing nearly 100 different Clark construction  sites ranging from residential buildings to underground tunnels. On these sites, Muñoz interacted with the men and women working on the construction process.

The team under Clark Construction preparing to expand the public transportation system in Seattle, Washington.  Copyright @ Clark Construction LLC

Muñoz’s role has unified the company by photographing the vast amount of job sites across the U.S. He produced new material for all internal and external advertising, marketing proposals and company wide quarterly meetings and conferences. While working with Clark Construction he also utilized his experience with filmmaking to produce content and assist in the marketing department. 


Alumni Feature: Austin Aviles

Austin Aviles’ Studio, Doha Qatar

Austin Aviles, BFA ’17, is currently participating in the 2017-2018 VCU Qatar Fellowship program, a 9 month residency at the VCUQ campus, based in their Painting and Printmaking Department. Aviles found out about the residency after the Tasmeem Doha 2017 Biennial earlier this year. In the past, the position has only been open to VCU’s Painting and Printmaking Department, but has recently also been opened up to the Department of Photography and Film. While participating as the Artist in Residency at VCU Qatar, he has also been given a job there as the Digital Print Lab Manager.

“The fact that I am able to travel for this opportunity just months following my undergrad is incredible and the idea is still continuing to sink in.” Aviles says when asked about how it feels to have been able to jump into this right after graduation. He has already had many cultural, political, and educational experiences that he would never have been privy to if he hadn’t received this residency. “…the chance to step out of my comfort zone and into a complex and unique environment such as this was too good to pass.”