JHU course introduces first-year students to Baltimore through photography

Under the direction of Howard Ehrenfeld, a professional photographer and instructor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Visual Arts, a group of first-year students from Johns Hopkins University set out to explore Baltimore this winter through the eye of a camera as part of the Intersession course "Seeing Baltimore with a Camera–Beyond Tourism."

With cameras in tow, they explored the diverse neighborhoods of Baltimore, from the stately streets of Mount Vernon to historic Federal Hill and beyond.

"I heard someone talking about how art is about expanding the canvas. B'More is about that quote on a number of levels," Ehrenfeld said. "Many JHU students do not venture out into a lot of Baltimore beyond the campus. They do not know about important things happening culturally beyond Hopkins nor a general enjoyment of the city. Right here, B'More helps to introduce the new students to a wider vision of Baltimore. Photography can refine our experience of what we see and give us a multifaceted view. The goal of this class is to do all of this."

The course is offered as part of the immersive B'More program, which introduces new students to the city they will call home for the next few years. Each course is designed to help students navigate Baltimore and gain access to the city's civic and cultural resources. It was inspired by a similar Intersession course, "Charm City Through the Lens," launched in 2009 by professional photographer and JHU alumna Monica López-González.

We asked the students to share some of their work and talk about what they learned.

Image credit: Kim Gonzalez

"This picture was taken at Fort McHenry on the last day of my B'more class. It was extremely windy and cold, which made it difficult to take the photographs because I did not want to take my hands out of my pockets. I love this photograph because it encapsulates what 'taking the shot at the right moment' means. One of my fellow classmates happened to be walking right through the middle of the arch formed by the branches of the tree as I turned around to face her way. I feel that the symmetry and angle of this picture are interesting because it gives the viewer the feeling that they are looking up toward the walker. In addition to that, I believe that capturing the human in the photograph really illustrates how grandiose nature is."

Kim Gonzalez, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences

Image credit: Calvin Qian

"This shot was taken looking down a back street in Fell's Point on Day 2 of B'More. While it may not be the most aesthetically pleasing photo I have taken, what strikes me most is that this picture freezes a moment of action in a typically lifeless back street. The dominant lines of the street draw the eye through the photo, from the empty sidewalks to the neglected, deteriorating walls. Then there's the bus, frozen in motion with a 1/500 second shutter. An important note is that there was little done in preparation to take this shot. Walking around Fell's Point, I came upon this street, brought my eye up to the viewfinder, and snapped this frame in a split-second. For me, it is the epitome of 'capturing the decisive moment.' a concept that we learned in lecture. It is the idea that some of the best moments a photographer can capture can disappear in a heartbeat. You either get the shot or you miss it, and there's no time to fiddle with settings. With the bus moving across into view, this was one of the few times in the entire course where I successfully seized a decisive moment. I couldn't be happier with this result."

Calvin Qian, biomedical engineering major