Faculty Spotlight: Nicole Jean Hill

Nicole Jean Hill

Nicole Jean Hill is one of the instructors for Digital Communications & Imaging certificate courses. She is a professor of art at Cal Poly Humboldt.

What led you to choose photography as your art form?

I started out in photography in high school as the photographer for the school’s newspaper. It wasn’t until I started college that I gravitated more towards photography as art, versus journalism. I loved the more conceptual approach to the medium that was presented through the fine art context, and was really inspired by the artists that my college professors shared.

You have a variety of subject matter, from mixed martial arts fighters to rural communities and landscapes. What draws you in and catches your eye?

My greatest interest is in landscape work, because I enjoy finding ways to interpret the environment in unexpected ways that can be both beautiful and challenging. But I also sometimes do projects because an opportunity presents itself, and allows me to have unique experiences with people and places that I would otherwise never be a part of.

What do you enjoy most about teaching students new to photography?

I enjoy presenting photography as a multifaceted medium – as personal mementos, documentary records, and a means for personal expression. I love seeing students experiment with different forms of the medium that are out of their comfort zone, and expanding their knowledge of what photography is. Teaching through Extended Education allows me to meet and work with people in our community that I wouldn’t otherwise encounter in the traditional classroom environment. These students tend to be really engaged and always have exciting reasons to pursue photography further.

What advice would you give to a student thinking about taking a photography course?

The technical side of photography, from camera functions to software, etc., can seem really daunting at first. But once you learn about and experiment with a few key concepts, it’s very possible to be at a place where you can start to think more about subject matter, composition, and overall enjoy the act of making pictures.

What advice would you give a student looking to find their own artistic voice?

I always think it’s a good idea to look at a lot of photographers and expose yourself to many different styles of image making. Watching movies and dissecting the way film makers frame images and use formal components – like light and color – are really helpful, too.

Where can people find your work? 

My current project has been curating and restoring a collection of images made by Lora Webb Nichols, an early 20th century photographer. There will be an exhibition of the work at the Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, Oregon in April 2021, and a monograph of the work is about to be released. The book is available for preorder at lorawebbnichols.com. I will be back to focusing on my own art practice in 2021, once the Nichols book and exhibition are finished.

See Nicole Jean Hill’s work at nicolejeanhill.com