As a member of KCAI’s Photography program housed in the Department of Converging Media, you will explore aesthetic, cultural and conceptual perspectives of photography with students who are working in diverse areas of personal image making, and across disciplines of Animation, Filmmaking and Interactive Arts. The Photography program is active in both traditional darkroom and digital production and provides strong grounding in professional camera controls, lighting, and fine printing skills.
You will be exposed to all modes of contemporary fine art photographic practice, and expanded photographic works, including installations and emerging relationships between the still and moving image in traditional and virtual environments. The elective program is developed in conjunction with core curriculum instruction to provide a variety of methods for you to develop your personal aesthetic in the use of photography and related skills. Photography students are encouraged to build their own unique program of study and explore the related fields of Animation, Filmmaking and Interactive Arts through their choice of elective classes.
The Photography program begins with a thorough investigation of black and white film, the printing process, and the use of medium and large format cameras. Lab work is integrated with readings in photographic history and theory and field trips to regional archives, studios, galleries and museums, photographic conservation labs and service bureaus. Nearby museums such as the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which houses the Hallmark Photography Collection (one of the largest and highest quality photographic collections in the world), make it possible for students to see examples of important historical and contemporary collections and exhibitions.
Advanced workshops focus on content development and expanding your technical skills, with an emphasis on professional practice and the goal of educating leaders in the field of fine art photography. You will have opportunities to exhibit your work many of our students win awards and exhibit their work in national and international exhibitions.
Workshops emphasize research and make use of a range of resources and screenings. Students view and critique the work-in-progress of their peers and discuss a variety of readings and review of photographers and contemporary artists. They interact with visiting artists and participate in field trips and exhibitions on campus and in the Kansas City region.
Each student is required to enroll in an internship or practicum during his or her junior or senior year. The senior year is dedicated to the development of a thesis culminating in an off-campus exhibition and a supporting oral presentation.
Associate Professor & Chair
Tom Lewis is Chair of the Department of Converging Media including Photography and Filmmaking. He taught photography and new media at KCAI in 2001 through 2003 and joined the Foundation faculty in 2005, becoming Director of the School of the Foundation Year in 2012-2013 before moving to the Chairs position in the Department of Converging Media in 2013. He joined the KCAI faculty after having taught at the University of Washington School of Art, Seattle. While there, he also served as an assistant to Rod Slemmons at Crux Photographic Restoration and he assisted Michael Van Horn, curator for “After Art – Rethinking 150 Years of Photography,” at the Joseph and Elaine Monson Collection. He was co-founder and manager of CORE 317, an alternative space in Denver, and completed an internship at the International Center of Photography in New York. Lewis studied at KCAI on a Presidential Merit Scholarship and went on to earn a B.F.A. degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an M.F.A. degree from the University of Washington, where he held the Jane and David Davis Fellowship and Parnasuss Endowment. Tom is interested in the intersection of early lens based drawing and the materiality of photography. He works in both photography and large-scale graphite drawings. His work has been exhibited at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, among others and is represented in a number of private collections.
Dwight Frizzell, an alumnus of KCAI, is an internationally recognized artist whose interdisciplinary work combines video, performance, installation, music, audio art, and writing. His projects emphasize research and a commonality between the fine and performing arts. Frizzell’s work about his boyhood neighbor, Harry S. Truman, was featured in the Peabody-awarded “Lost and Found Sound” series broadcast on National Public Radio. His art pieces have been shown at major international galleries. Frizzell has produced an opera based on the life of Charles Darwin. In addition to his B.F.A. degree from KCAI, he holds a terminal fine arts degree in Sound Design from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Diana Heise’s practice engages filmmaking, photography, writing, performance and social practice to consider cultural practices that we, as humans, engage in, conundrums that result from our activities and methods to resist, heal and thrive from such conflicts. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and festivals internationally, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Film Anthology Archives, Oriel Myrddin Gallery, Cantor Art Center, Institut Français de Maurice, and Drain, among others. She is a recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts, a Performance Art Fund Grant from the Franklin Furnace Inc. as well as a Presidential Fellowship at the American University in Cairo. She has spoken about her work at venues such as the Parsons School of Art and Design, Stanford University and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Her scholarly writing has been published in anthologies through Ohio University Press and Cambridge Scholars Printing. She holds a MFA in Photography, Video and Related Media from the School of Visual Arts in New York, NY and a BA in Art History from Vassar College.
Trey Hock explores the markers of narrative through short film, screenwriting, installation, photography, performance and web-based social media platforms. His work interrogates the assumed physical and social constructions that surround us. These include narrative storytelling, the photographic frame, public and private spaces, and personal identity. His short films have shown at Sundance and other international film festivals. He is currently working across platform through Instagram, printed photographic works, and installation to explore the power of the Selfie. Hock received his B.A. in English, Creative Writing from Kansas State University in 1997, and his M.F.A. in Writing and Directing for Film and Television from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2007.
Cyan Meeks is a digital artist with a trans-disciplinary approach, blending installation, performance, filmmaking, sonic design, curation and media study. Both her collaborative and solo works have been exhibited internationally. She received first place awards from the American Film Institute and the New York Film Festival, and received a grant from the National Park Service. Her commercial work in music has received accolades by NME and Spin magazines. Meeks received her B.F.A. degree in new media from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1995; studied for her M.F.A. degree at the California Institute of the Arts in 1997; and completed her M.F.A. in media studies at State University of New York in 2003.
David Overholt’s studies and research have covered areas of art, graphic design, technology, communications, urban architecture, psychology, sociology, philosophy, theology, and more. His main areas of focus include web and new media applications, rapid prototyping, usability testing, and user-centered and experiential design. Overholt received his B.A. degree in graphic design from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego and a Master of Professional Studies from Tisch School of the Arts’ Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University.
Assistant Professor Photography
Steve Rowell is a research-based artist who works with photography and moving image, sound, installation, maps, and spatial concepts. His transdisciplinary practice focuses on overlapping aspects of technology, perception, and culture as related to ontology and landscape. He contextualizes the built environment with the surrounding medium of Nature; appropriating the methods and tools of the geographer and archaeologist. Since 2001, Steve has collaborated with the Center for Land Use Interpretation. His work (collaborative and solo) has been exhibited at the 2006 Whitney Biennial, The Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Barbican Art Centre, Transmediale Berlin, and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. He holds a B.A. in Photography from the University of Texas and an M.F.A. with Distinction from the University of Oxford.
McElroy’s projects are an exploration of her complex relationship with the American West and what it means to be an American in a time of diminished expectations. Performing for the camera, she enacts feminist gestures that reflect a sense of quixotic hopefulness and a desire to control subjects as ungovernable as nature. McElroy received her M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has been a resident at the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, The Fine Arts Work Center, The Charlotte Street Foundation, and MOCA in Tucson, Ariz. Recent exhibition venues include The Figge Art Museum and ICA. http://www.lillymcelroy.com
Talbott L. (Tal) Wilson
For more than 25 years, Tal Wilson has owned and operated a commercial photography studio in the Crossroads Arts District in Kansas City. He has handled projects for many national clients and received the Outstanding Community Service Award for KCAI alumni. Wilson holds a B.F.A. degree in photography from KCAI. He helped to start a new Photography Certificate program offered through KCAI’s School for Continuing and Professional Studies.
Once you declare your major, photography students take the following core courses as they progress from sophomore to senior year. For additional electives and liberal arts courses download the complete Course Catalog.
- Intro to Photography
- History of Photography& Contemporary Pratice
- Applied Photographic Imaging
- Intermediate Photography
- Photography & Contemporary Art I
- Photography & Contemporary Art II
- Advanced Photography Workshop I
- Advanced Photography Workshop II
- Photography Senior Thesis& Professional Pratice
View Samples of Our Work
Like What You See?
For additional examples of student-produced work that displays a wider range of styles, technique and subject matter, browse our expanded photo gallery.
Professional practice is a compulsory component of the KCAI program in which students benefit enormously from insights provided by world-renowned visiting artists, scholars and professionals.
Jobs + Internships
Photography graduates work as professors, educators, and artists across the country. Recent graduates also have become professional photographers and have started galleries such as the Trapp Gallery and the Red Lady in Kansas City.
KCAI photography majors have worked or interned for the following studios and companies: The Guggenheim, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Columbia College of Art in Chicago and IsArt in New York.
Many artists visit the photography and filmmaking studios each year to share their knowledge and inspiration with KCAI students. Here are a few that have recently stopped by:
Jerry Spagnoli (in partnership with NAMA), Adam Long, Ross Sawyers, Priya Kambli, Mathew Higgs, Frederic Brenner ( in partnership with the Jewish Community Center), Patty Carroll, Kelly Richardson, David Shannon-Lier, Elijah Gowin, and Steve Rowell (in partnership with the Spencer Art Museum).