A Student’s Perspective: Photography Class Faced Shortages in Materials


As a senior majoring in creative writing, my other passion is photography. A couple years ago, I had taken Intro to Black and White Photography, a different form of art, which involved mixing chemicals and developing prints. It was a given to have supplies for the semester with the right materials.

This fall as a student in intermediate photography, my classmates and I faced obstacles  throughout the semester in our digital photography projects: printers malfunctioning, not enough ink or no ink, and not enough paper.

Continuing a Passion

Coming into the second level photography class, I was intrigued to learn more about the field. During class, we had lectures and demos that helped guide us to create or to explore more of our projects.

Because of the malfunctioning printer, one obstacle we faced as a class was how our images printed out: they had lines displayed on them, or the color would be different than displayed on the screen. We had to adjust the printer setting or adjust the colors on Photoshop to get it to print right. Some students had to clean the printer by changing out the old inks and replacing it with the new inks, which took precious time.

Of course, you need ink and paper to print. There was not enough ink for the small printer at the start of the semester and no ink for the large printer for most of the semester.  A few students bought their own paper, and the instructor bought paper for the class to use.

Smaller printer in the photography studio. Photo by Boderra Joe
Smaller printer in the photography studio.

The Search for an Explanation

My first inquiry was of Studio Arts 2-D professor, Dorothy Grandbois who said, “I believe that the major issue was related to budget and the October first availability of new funds to purchase the inks.”

However, in response to my questions about funding being the problem, Joseph Tompkins, studio arts department chair,    said, “There were no budget shortages or cuts for the department this semester.”

Grandbois said Tompkins did purchase ink out of his own pocket for the smaller printers at the beginning of the semester. Tompkins confirmed he had purchased ink through his personal account on Amazon, and was later reimbursed by department funds. I think that was generous of him to do, since some printers didn’t have any ink or not enough ink to print.

Some of the bigger printer's ink. Photo by Boderra Joe
Some of the bigger printer’s ink.

Behind the Scenes

“The issue of supplies for the upper level photography classes is one that has been addressed and there are steps being taken to make printing both easier and more affordable,” Tompkins said.

“This semester has seen a lot of transition as there have been shifts in faculty, staff, and adjuncts within the department,” he said. There have been new adjuncts and new positions, which have caused ‘traffic jams’ in departmental areas, since they have to learn and train while on the job, Tompkins said.

He also pointed out that full-time faculty that oversee studio areas, need to make sure there are enough supplies purchased for the semester. “I rely on all the faculty to bring me material quotes for their studio areas,” Tompkins said.

Studio Fee Covers”¦

We students thought the $40 studio fee covered everything in class. But we were wrong.

According to Tompkins, “The studio fees that are part of classes at IAIA do not cover the overall cost associated with each studio area. These fees help, but do not cover all materials, consumables, and maintenance costs.”

If the studio fee does not cover all materials, what does it cover? That’s where students, myself included, were confused. Little did we know the costs.

Tompkins pointed out that ink costs have rocketed to $1,800 for this semester alone. “This is the reason we are looking at purchasing refillable inks for the photography area,” Tompkins said.

Ink and other materials for the photography studio. Photo by Boderra Joe
Ink and other materials for the photography studio. Photo by

Not Bashing, just Stating Facts

I’m not being negative about the photography classes, but my purpose is to point out areas that were lacking attention that my classmates and I encountered as we worked to meet deadlines, whether the problems were related to budget issues or not. I’m speaking out about what my classmates and I experienced during the fall semester, especially for future students who are interested in taking a photography class.

Patience Grew Thin

I was patient during the semester, waiting for the inks for the bigger printer. I understood it was expensive and it would be awhile for it to arrive, but I started getting impatient as finals were approaching. When the inks finally arrived, I took full advantage of it by staying after class or coming in whenever I had spare time.

I noticed other students growing tired and impatient as well. Some didn’t want to speak about the issue because they didn’t want to sound negative. But it’s not necessarily negativity when pointing out issues a class is experiencing.

Far view of the bigger printer in the photography studio. Photo by Boderra Joe
Far view of the bigger printer in the photography studio.


Again, my concern isn’t to talk down about the class, but to speak about the trials I faced and the long hours I put in, along with other students, who worked hard and fast to get their work done when the inks finally arrived at the end of the semester.

Good news is, we are getting reimbursed for our out-of-pocket expenses for materials we purchased ourselves, but it could’ve been avoided if things had been ready. I just hope next semester the advanced/intermediate photography class is set as far as materials.

Featured Photo:  IAIA photography studio. (All photos by Boderra Joe)


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