Carolyn Nishon

I lost track of time, and every small thing around me became intensely interesting and beautiful.

Continuing Studies (CS) at MECA&D provides an opportunity for those seeking  personal enrichment and professional development to study visual arts.

Last winter, Carolyn Nishon, General Manager for the Portland Symphony Orchestra, took advantage of a Living Social coupon she received and enrolled in an eight-week Digital Photography Continuing Studies course at MECA&D. Carolyn came to class with a background in photography, having received her first camera at age nine, which she used to document her aunt's Golden Retriever. Following this initial foray, she used disposable cameras in middle school, followed by a Kodak Advantix in high school, a Casio digital in college, and, when she moved to Maine, a Canon S90 with manual functions that she thought would help her capture a shallow depth of field. Finally, in 2012, she made the leap to an SLR Nikon D5100.

Prior to enrolling in her Continuing Studies class at MECA&D, Carolyn had always figured out how to use her cameras on her own. She hoped the course would connect her with a professional photographer who could advise her on how to get the most out of her SLR.

Instructor Thurston Howes taught Carolyn the benefits of shooting in RAW format, which changed her workflow, editing process, and, ultimately, the quality of her photographs. She also learned how to use Photoshop in different ways. As part of her assignment to "get out and shoot," Carolyn took photos both during and outside class. She appreciated her assignments because, amidst a busy work schedule, they provided her with "a license to explore."

One of Carolyn's photographs from this time was selected for inclusion in CREATE II: The 2013 Continuing Studies Student Exhibition at Maine College of Art & Design. "States of Matter" was taken by a clearing in Cape Elizabeth in February 2013, and features the flow of water under melting ice. She described it as a moment where she “lost track of time," and every small thing around her became intensely interesting and beautiful. She never would have captured it if not for Thurston’s assignment.

In addition to everything she learned in class, Carolyn made two close friends, one of whom was also featured in CREATE II. Together the three formed a small photo club so they could talk about photography and shoot together. Because photography can be a solitary experience, she was thrilled to find community as a result of her Continuing Studies course.

CREATE II was the first time Carolyn had shown her work professionally. She used the submission opportunity to learn about pricing her work, as well as where to get her image printed and framed professionally. Carolyn is now taking portraits and photographing events for local Portland organizations as a paid photographer. She also started a website to share her photos and continues to create photobooks for herself and others.

Last summer, Carolyn travelled to Switzerland and France with a group of her best friends from her high school orchestra. She also took along her camera. Because of what she learned in class, she was able to capture images of her friends the way she had always wanted; the camera allowed her to use a shallow depth of field as she focused on highlighting their personalities and distinguishing characteristics. Upon her return, Carolyn created a book of portraits of loved ones using images she had taken with her different cameras over the years. Making this book, she reflected on how far she'd come. She is now considering taking a black and white photography class with Thurston. By Dietlind Vander Schaaf