Pioneer Spotlight - Steve Yunck

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Pioneer Spotlight
June 6, 2014
Steve Yunck

Steve Yunck is a professor in the Department of Media Studies with a passion for integrating art and science into teaching. Originally from Madison, Wis., Yunck received his undergraduate degree in graphic design at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He went on to earn a terminal degree in Master’s of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin–Madison with an emphasis in computer-mediated art. It was at these two universities that he realized many similarities between art, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Why did you want to teach at UW-Platteville?

I saw an opening to teach photography here, but what actually attracted me to UW-Platteville was the Department of Media Studies. The department has the potential to project a diverse array of content through multiple types of technologies. This includes a radio station, broadcasting, the newspaper and web design. Our department is also very focused on professional development. The Department of Media Studies tends to actively construct media. This can be seen in a variety of project-orientated classes and opportunities that go beyond the classroom.

My colleagues have a very liberal approach to education. This expresses itself in classes that work with a balance of theory and application. Theory allows the students to develop the content of a message. And then the message can be transmitted through a medium using our technology.

How do you bring science into your photography lessons?

Photography is built on many different conventions found in mathematics and science. An example of this is that a photographer has to construct the illusion of depth in an image. A flat digital image can only have height and width. My photography students manipulate the viewer into perceiving depth in a photograph. This is done with the use of perspective, depth of field, color, exposure and many other variables. All of these components have a connection back to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Experimentation is also a big part of the process in my classes.  We run experiments that prove concepts that define how an image is constructed. We also use experiments to help students become comfortable in taking risks. This idea of using trial and error in assignments comes from my experience in education; it’s a constant learning situation inside of academia. There is no option to kick back or get stale. The students and I are always adapting to new trends in technology.

What drew you to photography?

I had many professors in my undergraduate studies that inspired me to question different aspects of mediated communication. They introduced me to ideas that went beyond the current trends in mainstream media. The graphic design department at UW-Stevens Point also allowed for experimentation in many of the classes. I promote both of these themes in my classroom.  

What is the most popular misconception about photography and graphic design?

The most popular misconception is that there is a difference between fine art and graphic design. The same goes for graphic design and photography. An advertisement is really just a photomontage, a hybrid of visual elements. All images must interact with the viewer on an emotional level. Visual communication only has power if it can foster an emotion in the viewer.

What is your proudest accomplishment as a photographer/graphic designer?

I actually find failures to be more interesting than accomplishments because I learn the most from failures. But, if I had to choose an accomplishment it would be motivating students to be self-empowered and self-motivated. Igniting that in students is amazing. This helps them to develop their own skills as artists, which in the long run is much more important for them in order to adapt to new technologies. 

Interview conducted by: Jessica Mueller, University Information and Communications.
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