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Don Werthmann
Digital Media Arts

If photo instructor Don Werthmann had his way, there would be some sort of sensor embedded in his head so every time he saw something that intrigued him, all he would have to do is blink his eyes to make a picture.

"Photography is how I express myself," he says. "It's a state of being where you are always open to the possibility of making images; it becomes something you live every hour of every day."

Immersion experience

Werthmann began his career with a fine arts degree from Wayne State University and began working as a camera assistant photographing cars in Detroit. But the experience that ignited his passion for teaching took place in New Mexico at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, where he progressed from participating in courses to becoming the school's operations manager, to finally teaching workshops himself.

Werthmann occasionally still takes part in workshops, as well as reading technical manuals, current periodicals and books on fine arts and cultural theory. In May he will receive a master of arts in digital photographic imaging.

"These workshops are immersion experiences," Werthmann says. "You basically live, breathe, eat, sleep and dream photography. I believed in that process so strongly that I found myself giving up my commercial work and volunteering my time just to get plugged into that kind of education."

Learning is seeing

Werthmann says teaching is an instinctive part of his nature. As the youngest of four children, he found himself struggling to figure out what his older siblings knew about the world but wouldn't take the time to share with him. The constant game of catch up frustrated him, but it also created empathy for others trying to learn something new.

"I try to put my students in the safest learning environment that I possibly can," he explains. "I tell them that it's OK to make mistakes. If they don't understand a concept or technique the first time, they can ask ten more times and I'll say, ‘Let's try this again until we see how it works.'"

Seeing is learning

Photography has changed considerably since 1977 when Werthmann's parents bought him his first pocket camera. Though he is pleased with "the infinite level of control I have as an image maker because of digital photography," he also feels that the computer can sometimes overshadow the creative process.

"The digital technologies are heavily rooted in the traditional processes - the basics of how the camera functions, the basics of how the darkroom functions," he says. "Whenever students can get their hands on the traditional processes first, then they can step into the new technologies more easily.

"In the studio, our students start out learning on Hasselblad cameras. They are really finely crafted cameras, and yet they are fully manual. Students can really take the thing apart and see how it behaves. You can't do that with a digital camera.

"Photography includes technology that needs to be understood first. There's this amazing coalescence of art and science. You learn that image making is a process of what and how."

Student Profiles

Students come to Washtenaw Community College for a number of reasons. Some are preparing to transfer to a four-year university while others come seeking a degree to improve their job status. Whatever the reason, students find that WCC can make a difference in their lives.

Learn about the successes of some of WCC's previous students by selecting their name.

Faculty Profiles

Washtenaw Community College's faculty members bring a unique collection of specialties and experiences to our campus. Their life experiences and diverse backgrounds offer students a different perspective in the classroom and add to the vibrant culture at WCC.

Learn about the backgrounds and interests some of WCC's faculty members by selecting their name.


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