© CRAIG STEVENS
Poetic Aims: ”My teaching philosophy is very simple,” says Stevens. “Find out what the student is interested in. Give them the craft to express themselves and the historic perspective to see themselves in context, and do this with an enthusiasm they can’t ignore.” Pictured here: Goose Rocks Beach, Maine, in the fog (1980).
Unlike most photo educators, Craig Stevens was a teacher before he became a photographer. While this distinction isn’t essential for success, it does point to the fact that Stevens’s roots comprise a deep passion for the educational process coupled with first-hand experience of just how personally fulfilling teaching can be.
After graduating from Colby College with a major in sociology, Stevens took a position teaching second graders all subjects but music. During this eye-opening experience, he became “amazed at the importance the learning process holds in our life experience, both individually and collectively” and invigorated by the fact that “the process was always new and exciting,” he says. Inspired by the newly developed Children’s Television Workshop, creator of Sesame Street, Stevens enrolled in a master of visual communications at Fairfield University to pursue a career in educational television. However, after taking his first formal photography class early in the program, “the die was cast. This is what I wanted to do, and this is what I would teach,” he recalls. Stevens furthered his photography studies at Ohio University, earning an MFA in 1975.
Craig Stevens headshot courtesy of Santa Fe Workshops
As testimony to his success, in 2013 Stevens received ASMP’s first annual Susan Carr Educator Prize, honoring the memory of ASMP’s former education director, for making a significant contribution to educating photography students and imaging professionals. Stevens was stunned when he learned of the accolade. “To be singled out for this honor is flattering, humbling and one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened to me,” he says.
His teaching philosophy? “Learning to function as a mirror rather than as a dictator.” Trying to give students answers about their work was “a dead end. I started learning how to ask interesting questions that opened new avenues of investigation, which expanded possibilities rather than closing them,” Stevens explains. He also emphasizes to students “that all artists face the same issues. Learning to cope with those things and move past them is part of the process. The poetic is right in front of us, but you have to be willing and able to see it.”