RA Friedman, Figurative Artist and Pratt SCPS Faculty

Courtesy of RA Friedman

For the month of October we are spotlighting Pratt Institute School of Continuing and Professional Studies, Faculty member, RA Friedman. RA is a figurative artist who works at the crossroads of drawing and photography. Intrigued by the idea building bridges to the past and experimenting with older forms in order to find new relationships and relevant expression, his studio practice is informed by a background in science, theater set design, and fine arts. A regular contributor to The Laboratory Arts Collective Magazine and faculty member at Pratt Manhattan as well as continuing education instructor at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, he recently completed a suite of nine multi-figure compositions created with a pinhole camera. Keep reading to learn more about RA Friedman’s professional achievements and his journey as an educator at Pratt Institute.

Pratt SCPS: What motivated you to pursue a career in the creative world?

RA Friedman: I gradually and more or less naturally gravitated to it. I started out in science/engineering but found myself pulled first into theater and then the visual arts. I just felt there was something very primary in this field that I needed to have in my life. Little did I know where it would lead!

Pratt SCPS: What would you say has been your greatest professional achievement so far?

RA Friedman: I have been working on a set of complex multi-figure photographic montages for about eight years and I just created the ninth image. They were made with a camera that uses a very small aperture, often called a “pinhole,” instead of a lens. I have been invited to exhibit these and do a short residency at Lewis and Clark College in Lewiston, Idaho where I will do a number of workshops, including one demonstrating the unique methodology I use that falls between photography and drawing/printmaking.

Pratt SCPS: When did your Pratt journey begin and what has it been like?

RA Friedman: It began by chance. I met Suzanne de Vegh, the director of Continuing Education and Professional Studies, while I was running a vintage portrait booth. We stayed in touch, shared ideas and I taught my first class, Analog Photography in the summer of 2017. As an undergrad, I had been a Pratt student for one year when Pratt still had an engineering program and I ended up teaching in the same wing where I had studied thermodynamics!

Teaching has really been a joy. What I love about the classes at Pratt is the students are extremely creatively and intellectually sharp; not only do they delve into the material, their energy and ideas open up my thinking.

Pratt SCPS: What has been the most important lesson for you as an educator in this field?

RA Friedman: What I have long believed has shown to be true: As a teaching artist, the creative and technical inquiries I invite my students to experiment with need to be parallel to my own ongoing student practice. The educator’s “homework” is to put in as much quality time in the studio as possible, pose the hard problems and dig for resolutions so they can share that journey with their students. On the practical level, I’ve learned not to make assumptions, think ahead, and to always be a little over-prepared.

Pratt SCPS: What upcoming courses will you be teaching at Pratt?

RA Friedman: In the fall, I will be teaching for the first time The Visual Nature of Photography. The goal of the course is to evolve new ways of thinking about what photography can be. In five, three-hour workshops we’ll explore the connections between the technical and process-related aspects of photography and the resulting outcomes. Students will engage with ways of working that will shift their perspective, such as photographing with pinhole cameras made out of cardboard and plastic “toy” cameras.

If you’re interested in learning more about RA Friedman’s upcoming course in the Fine Art Certificate program visit our main website.

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Thais Aquino’s Artistry, Inspirations & Journey through Pratt Institute

Courtesy of Thais Aquino

Thais Aquino is a Brazilian Photographer and Content Creator who had the opportunity to study in the Fashion New Media certificate program at Pratt Institute’s School of Continuing Studies. She is based in between New York and California and has spent her professional career working with some of the biggest brands from around the world, across a plethora of industries which include: lifestyle, commercial, beauty, hotel, food and beverage.

She co-founded The Lobby Life, which is a content producing partnership that works directly with hotels to create innovative and heart centered brand story lines and content. As a content creator and artist, Thais’ passion is rooted in the exploration of nature, culture and the development of consciousness. Keep reading to learn all about Thais Aquino’s journey through Pratt, her inspirations, and the vital lessons she has learned as a photographer and content creator.

Pratt SCPS: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Thais Aquino: Harmony. In life, I’ve figured it all originates and goes back to the law of harmonics. Seeing so much disconnection, disparity and unbalance circling humanity got me arrested, I had no other way of pursuing life but finding balance and harmony within my art expression. That was only possible through deep observation of the world.

Courtesy of Thais Aquino

The moments that I feel truly inspired to create are moments of spiritual awakening, where I realized that what we really have to offer in this world is our presence and our own being, if we show up in everything in life from a loving truthful point, we will be inviting harmony in, and when harmony is doing its thing you are in the flow of all things. Universal dance. My inspiration comes from observation. Truly observing how it all connects – and trust me, it is a lifelong journey full of bumps and blind spots. But I figured that what really was motivating me to create art were the simplest things, that moment where the dance of light, color and shape is the only thing there is, and that ‘isness’ is a reflection of the ONE.

Pratt SCPS: What motivated you to pursue a career in art and design?

Thais Aquino: Seeing that is possible to be an aesthete and make money. I thought that if making art and making a living was an option that was what I wanted, so I figured out a way of making that work without becoming a prisoner of the industry and/or capitalism. It was purely aesthetic and emotional reasons that brought me into the arts. I’ve started to see everything in shapes, colors, texture and flow. I thought that playing with those elements will bring me aesthetic pleasure and would allow me to be. And it did. Still does. Forever will. Art and design is just another way of expressing the realness of your being, I never knew any other way of communicating the ‘inexpressible’ and photography allowed me to go deeper and quest my emotional self in order to release tension and gain clarity. Until today my career in the arts is one of the most profound ways I find to see the meaning of life, followed by the depth of my relationships and nature realization.

Courtesy of Thais Aquino

Pratt SCPS: What would you consider the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in pursuing this aspiration?

Thais Aquino: Understanding that your values need to come first. No matter how much money you are making or how well connected, plugged in and party invited you are, if that is not in alignment with your principles, values and better good of the whole world than you are doing something out of alignment, or at least not contributing to the harmony of it all. So many times I had to sit with the idea that the world of fashion, art and photography (that I had chosen) was extremely superficial, disposable and abusive; yet, there I was, in the midst of it all. It’s a hard one. My biggest challenge was to overcome that realization and redesign my whole career.

Pratt SCPS: What part of the Pratt experience do you reflect on the most? 

Thais Aquino: Pratt is a portal. I had a lot of real life/industry insight while studying Fashion New Media at Pratt, the best thing you can do for yourself there is to truly connect with your professors and gain perspective. I knew I was held and supported, and those are very important things when you are on the path of self-discovery and creative pursuits. It almost felt mystical to be part of the Pratt experience. When I think of Pratt I see focus and excellence, they don’t have time for bull crap there, when you walk down the hall and peak into class rooms you get the sense that everybody in there is putting their lives in a well thought out direction. You feel big there. You feel like you made the right choice.

Courtesy of Thais Aquino

Pratt SCPS: What advice do you have for creative professionals who desire to launch their own art and design careers or companies in the future?

Know where your values lie. Map it all out before taking the first step. Understand the function of the world and have clarity of what your role within humanity is. Then you think how you can make THAT profitable. Not the other way around. And remember, nature has the answer for all things, just get quiet and witness the universe within you.

To learn more about the Fashion New Media Certificate Program visit the SCPS website. To view more of Thais Aquino’s incredible work visit her website: Thais Aquino.

Make sure to follow both Pratt SCPS and Thais Aquino on social media.