Photography instructor earning graduate degree in art photographyBill Eilers
Good teachers and leaders help others find their vision and inspiration, but sometimes even good teachers and leaders need to re-energize themselves to keep their spark. Though he holds a master’s degree in journalism, Bill Eilers, an instructor in the Photography program at Dakota County Technical College, recently returned to school to study photography from another angle. Eilers will soon graduate from the Master of Arts in Art program at Minnesota State University, Mankato. His master’s thesis photography project opens to the public March 16, 2015, at 7 p.m. at the Conkling Gallery on the MNSU campus.
While earning his M.A. in Art, Eilers gained a great deal of empathy for students who are working full-time, raising families and going to school to better their lives. “My master’s experience also afforded me the opportunity to collaborate with exceptional fellow college photography educators like Professor David Morano of Minnesota State University,” Eilers said. “Though it was difficult to balance work, school and family life, the ability to work and compare best practices with other photography educators was invaluable.”
Eilers’ thesis project is a collection of environmental portraits that focuses on the way physical identity is shaped by cultural institutions like family, school, church and work. “Cultural institutions play a large part in defining the image that people project with respect to their clothing, posture and overall effect,” Eilers said. “My photographs also pay attention to people’s hands and the tools and artifacts that they hold dear.”
March 16–25, 2015
Bill Eilers Exhibition
March 16, 2015, at 7 p.m.
139 Nelson Hall
Minnesota State University, Mankato
Conkling Gallery reception following
Eilers sees himself as part anthropologist and part artist. “Tools have significance directly linked to the primary activities in life,” he said, “but beyond this, hands become an integral extension of the personality. Behind the scenes is an ethnographic backdrop, a landscape if you will, which gives context and added dimension to faces, hands, tools and social identity. “
As a student in the fine arts program, Eilers learned to respect the interdependent relationship between the viewer, the photographer and the subject. As a trained commercial photographer, he knows this new work represents a different way of seeing. “A commercial artist learns to control variables, including those related to the subject, background and environment,” he said. “The artist/photographer struggles to relinquish ego by yielding control of the environment and people in the image. A successful fine art photograph develops from a tender balance between and respect for the sensibilities of the subject, the photographer and the viewer.”
Bill Eilers • Master of Arts Exhibit
Eilers noted that his point of view has changed. He now believes that if pictures are a success artistically speaking, then credit should go to the subject and the viewer, who are just as essential in completing the meaning of the images as the photographer.
“A wise man named Khalil Gibran said: ‘Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They came through you but not from you and though they are with you yet they belong not to you,'” Eilers said. “That’s how I feel about my pictures.”
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