Profile: Design Workshops with Penelope Singer

Light Work Lab is pleased to present our Instructor Profile series – featuring interviews with our workshop and class instructors. We want you to get to know them, their work and their interests.

Today we interview Penelope Singer who teaches both an Intro and Advanced Graphic Design class as well as a File Preparation workshop.

Penelope Singer is a graphic designer, jeweler, and instructor who lives in Central New York. For her, making things is like breathing—she’s been doing both for as long as she can remember. Both her jewelry and photography have been shown in the Everson Museum of Art. She currently works as graphic designer for the Syracuse University Libraries, teaches workshops on design programs and topics at Light Work, and creates art jewelry in her home studio.

LWL: What do you love about graphic design?

I love that graphic design can completely change the message and meaning of something. It has the power to influence how we think, what we buy and how much we’ll pay for it—even whether or not we trust our doctor.

Graphic design is non-verbal communication for words. It’s the body language, dress, style, and tone. It’s the smile or the tapping foot. It’s the character behind the message.

When you’re designing something, it’s like you’re giving someone a makeover. You’re given raw materials to work with and you have to delve in and understand the why—who is that person, what are their hopes and dreams, what do they stand for—and once you know that, you figure out what will make those things shine.

Graphic design is not just about making something look good—it’s about creating something that communicates effectively. Good design doesn’t call attention to itself; it calls attention to its content. It puts the focus on the message. That’s why design skills are so crucial—they give you more control over how your message is received.

I guess you could say that I love graphic design because I am a control freak.

LWL: Tell us about the file preparation workshop, where did you get the idea for it?

For years I’ve seen people struggle with the concept of pixels and file formats. I’ve seen people print out things and wonder why they look so bad when they “looked fine on my monitor.” The concept of pixels and digital image files isn’t easy. Pixels aren’t tangible; they’re not bound to a physical size. File formats are just as tricky. We can’t always see the difference between a JPG and a TIF unless we know what we’re looking at. The problem is that the world is starting to require that we understand these intangible things in order to thrive in any field.

I consistently see artists not submitting their artwork to exhibits and publications because they aren’t sure how to get images of their work into the appropriate size and file format that’s required. But it was one particular incident last year that birthed the idea for this workshop:

I’d seen a call for entries and was trying to get my friend and fellow jeweler Dana to enter a few of her pieces for publication in the newest Lark book “500 Necklaces.” I knew her work was good, and I knew she had lovely pictures of them already. When I told her, she seemed excited about it. A couple of weeks later I was working in the studio and realized that the deadline was the next day, so I called her up to see if she’d entered anything. I was probably procrastinating on finishing a project that evening. When I talked to her she sheepishly admitted she hadn’t submitted anything because she wasn’t sure if her image files were the right size and she didn’t know how to go about figuring it out. I told her, “Send me the files and I’ll get them all set for you. I want someone I know in that book.” There were just a few hours left, but she was able to get them submitted. A few months later she called me up excitedly. The book editors had contacted her and asked her more questions about her work! A few weeks later she found out she’d made it into the book. She still owes me lunch for that.

I see artists all the time making great work, but when they put it out in the digital world, it suffers—or it doesn’t get out there at all. Maybe it’s selfish, but I want to see more good art out in the world. That and less crappy JPGs.

LWL: Who should take your classes?

I think everyone should take my classes. At the very least I’m an amusing person—and I’m okay at being laughed at.

People who’ll get the most from my classes, however, are ones who are curious about the process. They want to get their hands in there and get dirty. Well, not literally dirty, but you know what I mean. They want to make something—and make it better than they have in the past.

I especially encourage all artists who know only limited information about digital image files to take the File Prep class. Knowing how to get the right size and format file—that looks as good as the original, ginormous one—is crucial in getting noticed. You can have beautiful work and a photograph of that work, but if it’s not a good quality image file, you’re limiting your chances of success.

Introduction to Graphic and Layout Design
March 10 – March 31, 2014 / Mondays, 6-9pm
Skill level: Beginner / Intermediate

Professional Practice: Preparing Files
April 6, 2014 / Sunday 1-4pm
Skill level: Beginner

Advanced Graphic and Layout Design
April 28 – May 19, 2014 / Mondays, 6-9pm
Skill level: Intermediate / Advanced

Register for Penelope’s class at

Profile: Astrophotography and Lighting with Stephen Shaner

Light Work Lab is pleased to present our Instructor Profile series – featuring interviews with our workshop and class instructors. We want you to get to know them, their work and their interests.

Today we interview Stephen Shaner who is teaching both a 5 week workshop on Photography in the Studio as well as a single session class on Astrophotography.

Stephen Shaner started taking photographs while studying journalism in college. He graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in Photographic Illustration / Photojournalism. After graduation, he served as a newspaper photojournalist for six years before leaving to pursue freelance work and teach. Stephen’s photographs have won numerous awards and his work has been published and displayed throughout the U.S.

LWL: What do you like the most about working in the studio?

The studio is a blank canvas; you start with an empty space and an opportunity to transform it to create nearly any image you can dream of. When you strip photography down to its bare elements, as in the studio, you better understand why and how things work, you become acutely aware of light and its relation to the subject and can focus on creativity. That’s refreshing in a medium often bogged down in endless discussions of gear and software. No matter what your primary photographic interest – nature, fashion, documentary, fine art – in the studio you’re able to freely explore that.

LWL: How did you get into astrophotography?

I’ve always had an interest in the night sky and for fun took astronomy courses while in university. It wasn’t until I was working as a photojournalist in the late 90’s and photographed the spectacular comet Hale-Bopp that I wanted to try astrophotography. At the time, however, long exposure, deep sky imaging required a significant investment to achieve modest results. Now technology (the CCD revolution) has evolved to where amateurs with modest budgets can make photos in their backyard which rival those only possible at professional observatories a few years ago. One thing that’s constant, sadly, are central New York’s cloudy skies!

LWL: Who should take your classes?

Anyone who wants to explore their own creativity and interests. When I think back to all the instructors I’ve had the ones who stand out as exemplary are those who, while accomplished themselves, didn’t hold their own artistic sensibilities above everything else and were genuinely excited and passionate about their student’s work.

I’m fortunate to have photographed in so many different genres for work and for pleasure and because of that practical experience I can demonstrate how simple it is to achieve excellent technical results with the gear people already own. But I always emphasize ideas because ultimately that’s what photography’s about.

LWL: Tell us about your personal work.

For the past decade my interest has been in areas of conflict; specifically people who, by accident of birth, live amidst violence in ongoing conflicts. It’s the kind of work I’ve always wanted to do and why I first started taking pictures. The camera is a vehicle that affords you an opportunity to meet people in situations far removed from your own, a way to understand the world and a chance to have what I consider genuine experiences, something increasingly harder to find in a culture where the message seems to be one of security, conformity and reality by proxy.

Astrophotography: Night Sky and Beyond
March 2, 2014 / Sunday 1-4pm
Skill level: Beginner

Photographing in the Studio
March 13 – April 3, 2014
Thursdays, 6-9pm
Skill level: Beginner / Intermediate

Register for Stephen’s class at

Profile: Book Dummies Workshop with Dan Boardman

Light Work Lab is pleased to announce a series of special Instructor Profiles featuring interviews with our workshop and class instructors. We want you to get to know them, their work and their interests.

Today we interview Dan Boardman who is teaching Book Dummies for Beginners – a class on editing, sequencing and laying out book dummies. This class is geared towards photographers who would like to make a book, but are not sure how to go from a group of images to a cohesive and finished product.

Dan Boardman is a visual artist living in Somerville Massachusetts. He was born in Ontario California, and grew up in Central New York. He is a 2013 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship recipient and his work has recently been exhibited at The Bakalar & Paine Galleries in Boston, MA and Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. He teaches photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and is a co-founder of Houseboat Press, a non-profit art press that publishes books with great care and little skill.

LWL: What do you like the most about making photo books?

I love to see an idea take shape right in front of my eyes. Somehow an array of images can coagulate to make an experience that is exciting and interesting. It’s like watching amino acids bump into each other in the primordial soup. When the right combination happens BAM you got something.

LWL: Who should take your classes?

Those people who are interested in making a book but have no idea where to start. We will be focusing on editing, sequencing, and strategies to privilege some images over others. Then we are going to talk about how those images get into a book, how that will function, and what it might look like.

LWL: Tell us about your personal work.

My photography and book making tends to focus on little questions, and some very big mysterious ones too. I’m in constant awe of the place we live the the unfathomable
complexity of it. Sometimes I’m struck by the present and the interactions with strangers (72 second window); other times I think about the possible world we are leading to, or leaving behind (The Citizen); other times I think about my very limited perception of the universe (The Family of Man).

LWL: Tell us about Houseboat Press.

The Bell Labs of photobooks! We are entertaining ourselves mostly. Houseboat takes on a few different roles for me. It allows me to be as wild as possible with book making ideas, and to collaborate with artists and other interesting people the world over. We gravitate toward projects that have no shape yet, so we can all find the right path together.

Book Dummies for Beginners
March 22, 2014 / Saturday 1-4pm
Skill level: Beginner – Advanced

Register for Dan’s class at

February 2014 Artists-in-Residence Take Over Light Work’s Instagram

Join Kalpesh Lathigra and Daniel Shea as they take over Light Work’s Instagram feed, sharing experiences during their February 2014 residency in Syracuse.

Here are some of our favorite images already:

Keep up with them at

Profile: Black and White Photography with Leah Edelman-Brier

Light Work Lab is pleased to announce a special blog installment featuring Instructor Profiles — interviews with our workshop and class instructors. We want you to get to know them, their work, and their interests.

This is the first of that installment and features and interview with Leah Edelman-Brier who is teaching our Beginning/Intermediate level black-and-white photography workshop that goes over the basics of black-and-white darkroom-based photography, including exposing film and developing it in the Lab darkroom.

Leah Edelman-Brier is a Rhode Island native who will be graduating with her MFA in photography this year from Syracuse University. Leah has been teaching introduction to black and white photography for 2 years at the university and is excited to run this spring’s workshop at Light Work.

Light Work Lab: What do you like the most about working in the darkroom?

The darkroom is a calming and peaceful place. Working in one gives the artist a chance to go back to basics and expand their understanding of the medium. It’s almost magical to watch the chemical process render an image. It’s the closest a photographer can actually get to working with their hands and having that feeling come across in the work.

LWL: Who should take your classes?

Anyone interested in the basics of photography or working in black and white as a stylistic choice. The class will cater to all levels of experience.

LWL: Tell us about your personal work.

My work uses an array of symbolism and fantasy to examine female relationships within a family or in nature.

Black-and-White Photography
March 12 – April 2, 2014
Thursdays, 6-9pm
Skill level: Beginner / Intermediate

Register for Leah’s class at