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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