The seven-year-old Charleston Center for Photography experienced a slight change of direction last year when founder Jack Alterman invited award-winning military photographer Stacy Pearsall to join as director. Pearsall threw herself headlong into the job, and she fell in love with the Center and its education programs.
The CCforP is a top-notch studio and exhibition space with plenty of elbow room, a built-in cyclorama wall, and that rarest of things, free parking at a King Street location. But it's best known locally as a training hub. Alterman was a veteran photographer and teacher, but Pearsall brought additional experience and contacts to the business. So when Alterman decided to take a back seat and focus on his own photography at Alterman Studios on George Street, Pearsall was an obvious choice to become the Center's new driving force.
On April 1 of this year, the medically retired Air Force photographer took over ownership of the CCforP. It no longer sticks to a handful of long-term classes, and the number of shows and outreach programs has increased.
As well as the tried-and-tested six week courses that run throughout the year, the Center is now offering one-day workshops for curious students and photographers who don't want to commit to a full program — or find themselves strapped for cash. "We've adjusted our services to help out others," Pearsall says. "As a photographer, I know what it's like to have no money, so I don't expect others to have it. We're doing our best to keep our prices affordable and help people get an edge. The more knowledge you have, the more marketable you are."
Just as there's a general trend of diversifying skills, the center is incorporating new photographic tech as it develops. "We embrace film and digital, although we offer a lot of digital because that's where people are at." Whatever their medium, photographers have been drawn to lectures and workshops by nationally lauded experts like Joe McNally and Bob Croslin. "I have friends around the world who are professional photographers," says Pearsall. "They come to Charleston because it's a great location with great weather and amenities — it's a good deal for everybody."
There's also a bigger emphasis on shows these days, such as Croslin's recent hip hop portrait exhibit. According to Pearsall, "It's a whole departure from what the Center used to be. We're trying to get everybody in love with photography."