Professor shares love of photography with students


Mixon explains the significance in teaching older photography techniques to her students.

Melissa Rollins, Staff Writer

Photography has changed a lot over the years. Assistant Professor of Visual Arts-Photography Julie Mixon wants to show students at FMU that just because there are new methods does not mean that the old ones are obsolete.

Mixon wanted to show students that just because digital advancements make some early techniques seem archaic, especially considering all of the extra work required to get the final product, students can still get great pictures using old techniques. Mixon said that she wants to show students how the old and the new can be used side-by-side.

Aside from introduction courses that she is used to teaching, Mixon is also looking forward to having more advanced classes on lighting, digital photography and alternative processing. She said that a class she was excited to get together for the fall semester was an alternative digital imaging course. The class will explore what she calls the “digital darkroom” and all the different techniques that can be used in digital photography to manipulate a picture.

There is a trip planned for photography students to a workshop in Asheville that will teach them to use cameras and processes that are not commonly used today. One particular method is wet collodion, a process dating back to the nineteenth century that makes the picture look dream-like.

Mixon did not start her college career with plans to become a photographer or a professor. In fact, she intended to become a marine biologist.

“I have always loved animals but have always been crazy allergic to anything with hair,” Mixon said. “As a kid you always want to be a vet but I would have had problems because of my allergies. So I thought, why not be a marine biologist? Those animals don’t have hair.”

Besides her love of animals, she also wanted to follow in the footsteps of her sister, who was majoring in chemistry. After taking all of her basic biology classes, Mixon realized that even though she did well in those classes, she was more of a creative mind than a scientific one.

“My sister and I are really different,” Mixon said. “I walk into her office and I think ‘This is all another world.’ When she goes to an art gallery with me she says explain and I’m like ‘That’s an Andy Warhol’ and she says ‘Who?’”

Mixon changed her plans and ended up graduating with her bachelors degree in fine arts from Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina. She later attended graduate school at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.

During graduate school Mixon began teaching photography and art classes at East Carolina and at a community college nearby. She ended up teaching introductory photography classes and art appreciation classes at the community college level for seven years after she finished graduate school.

Mixon said that one day she realized that she was ready for a change. She enjoyed living in the Carolinas and wanted to find another job in the area. During her job search she came across a position at FMU and submitted her resume. After a visit to the school, Mixon discovered that she loved the campus and the size of the school. Another thing that she loved was the opportunities she would have as a professor at FMU to receive grant money for research in her field of study. Mixon has only been at FMU since January, but she has already received two professional development grants for research.

Of all of the classes that she has taught, and will teach at FMU, Mixon said that one of her favorite classes to teach is Introduction to Photography.

“I really love seeing people see the print go through the tray for the first time and come up in the darkroom,” Mixon said. “That’s always kind of a happy moment.”

Mixon said that her motto as a teacher is that “the more you teach, the more you learn.” She said that having students that are driven also pushes her to do more in the classes and continue to learn new techniques herself.