Studio assistants are invaluable to the College’s Art Department. Megan Mazza is especially valued by all photography students.
Mazza has a big job. In a nutshell, she is the “photo tech” and supports any photography classes offered by the College’s Art Department. What does that really mean? She orders supplies and equipment, repairs equipment, maintains cameras and printers, updates software, changes software preferences and sets up each class for its specific needs. “And then on top of that,” Mazza said, “I’ll also be in class for a lot of classes and assisting faculty. And then also outside of class, we’ll have labs and students will come back here to get more information or to go over the material we covered and get a better understanding of what we’re working on.”
Mazza began working at the College almost nine years ago. She began in a temporary capacity to cover for a staff member on medical leave. When he did not return, Mazza was interviewed for a permanent hire and offered the job.
“They liked how I organized everything here and kept things manageable,” Mazza explained. “We have a lot of equipment, a lot of space, a lot of computers and what not to oversee at all times – so organization was key.”
Before working here, Mazza waitressed for three years while working on her art and photography on the side and applying for internships, photography programs and jobs anywhere in the United States. A native of southern Vermont who attended Mount Greylock Regional High School, Mazza returned home and was working in the area when a friend of a friend recommended she apply for her current position.
As a graduate of art school with a bachelor of fine arts with a concentration in photography and printmaking at the New York State College of Ceramics School of Art and Design at Alfred University, Mazza said her job is ideal. “It’s really nice to be able to put [the degree] to use in a realistic way. Other than just being a fine artist out in the field – which isn’t exactly very lucrative and takes a lot of work and a lot of time – with this I put all of my photo information and background to use immediately and that’s gratifying.”
Mazza continued, “I like my job. It’s the perfect fit for me – both for the topics we cover, the material, but also just the structure of it. I can set my own hours, the way I like to work.”
Setting her own hours is important for Mazza, because in addition to her position at the College, she runs her own photography business. Mazza primarily photographs portraits: families, events, weddings, babies, and maternity photos. Mazza described her work as going between “more portrait-stage stuff and more lifestyle-documentary,” but she is trying to do a bit more fine art, she doesn’t “do my own strictly ‘for me’ stuff … unless you count all of the photos I take of my son. There’s a lot. He’s two and a half, so I have a lot of photos of him. But again that feeds the business I run too, it’s all portraiture – children being children.”
Mazza lives with her son and her husband in Vermont, where they just bought a house. Her husband works just a block over on Spring Street, as a chef at the Purple Pub. Mazza’s involvement with the College extends beyond her and her husband’s positions in Williamstown. She is also an event photographer for the College. She recently photographed the Class of 1966 Environmental Center Dedication Ceremony, the Divestment Parade, the Alumni Leadership Fund Dinner and the Bicentennial Awards Ceremony.
One of the most interesting aspects for Mazza about the job has been her work with Photoshop. In art school, she didn’t learn digital photography but she estimates about 90 percent of what she does at the College is digital-related. “So that was all taught on the job here. I kind of got thrown into it without really any training since my predecessor was on medical leave, so I kind of had to pick it all up as I went. It was kind of slow to learn it all on the fly like that but since then, I think I’ve become quite proficient in and excel in Photoshop specifically, to the point where I’m teaching it to students,” Mazza said.
Her favorite part of Photoshop is that it is a “lot of problem solving, which is really fun. Say we have a photo that we need to remove a certain element of. We have all these tools at our disposal on Photoshop to figure out how to do that and every person will probably take a different path to get to that end result, but it’s just figuring out which options to use and what not.”
Mazza summed up her thoughts on her new work in digital photography: “It’s like a puzzle and I kind of enjoy that. I like figuring it out and usually it impresses a lot of students to be like, ‘Oh, I never thought of doing it that way!’ The program has a lot of potential. There are a million different ways of doing the same thing. It’s just figuring out which ones to use.”