Veteran-focused photography course at SBCC plans to expand to include first responders with support of Canon U.S.A., Inc.

Veteran-focused photography course at SBCC plans to expand to include first responders with support of Canon U.S.A., Inc.
November 01, 2022

Veteran-focused photography course at SBCC plans to expand to include first responders with support of Canon U.S.A., Inc.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (NOVEMBER 1, 2022) — Santa Barbara City College’s School of Extended Learning is known throughout the region for its wide variety of programs, many designed to help create a sense of community among students while also providing opportunities for personal or professional growth. Since 2019, one particular community has been served through a unique photography course taught by veterans, for veterans. Now, the college is inviting first responders or retired first responders to enroll in the free course beginning in January 2023. The community and anyone interested in learning more about the class are invited to a photography showcase and open house at the college’s Wake Campus on Thursday, November 10, to view work from this semester’s students and talk with instructors about the experience.

The introductory course called “Digital Photography: Techniques and Creative Applications in a Community-Oriented Setting” is made possible by support from the SBCC Foundation and donations of equipment and materials by Canon U.S.A., Inc. It is currently taught by brothers and Vietnam War era veterans, Bill and Steve Espinosa. The branches of the United States military stress the importance of duty and assisting fellow service members, and for many veterans, that sentiment extends after being discharged from active duty. This is what drove the Espinosa brothers to begin teaching the class after they themselves were students in the class back in 2019. 
“Serving in the military is an experience that is hard for others to fathom and can really only be understood by veterans. Coming together to learn a new skill and working collaboratively alongside other veterans offers us a comfort and sense of community many of us don’t realize we’re missing after retiring from active duty,” said Bill Espinosa. 

The class was originally the brainchild of Terence Ford and his fStop Foundation. Ford, the brother of actor Harrison Ford, had worked in commercial photography and the film industry in Los Angeles for decades before starting the photography class.
“It’s important to provide an opportunity for veterans to reconnect and both offer and receive peer support to develop a community where everyone feels engaged,” said Ford, whose program was also embedded at Camp Pendleton’s Wounded Warrior Battalion West and for four years at the Pathway Home at the Soldiers Home in Yountville, California. “Programs such as these photography classes allow veterans to learn new skills while forging social connections, creating a strong community.”

Students in earlier sessions of the course selected their best work from the semester, and printed and framed the photos to decorate Johnson Court, an affordable housing development that serves the Santa Barbara homeless veteran population. The photographs were printed via Canon Professional large format printers and framed. The veterans living in Johnson Court then selected which ones they wanted to decorate their unit.

“What we’re able to produce because of the support of Canon is remarkable. None of us came into the program thinking we were capable of such high quality work. It’s really really cool to see what we can achieve by working together through the process of capturing images, editing and printing them,” continued Bill Espinosa. The associated instructional costs for the program are offset with the generous support from the SBCC Foundation.  

The classes’ capacity is intentionally kept small and capped at 12 students in order to allow one-on-one work in the classroom. So far, participation has mostly been by word of mouth among the veterans’ community in the area. Now SBCC wants to expand the opportunity to retired and active first responders, employed or retired from work that is also known for its strong sense of camaraderie and community.

The next session of the free class will be held on Thursdays from noon to 3 p.m., Jan. 16-Mar. 9. Registration opens on December 15. To register please email either Bill Espinosa - or Steve Espinosa - The open house and showcase of current students’ artwork will be held on Thursday, Nov. 10, from noon to 3 p.m. All guests are asked to follow the college’s current COVID-19 protocols to attend.

MEDIA: Find photographs of the current photography class here.