A! Magazine for the Arts

Joe Champagne

Joe Champagne

Joe Champagne & Neil Staples continue creating images

December 27, 2017

Joseph Champagne and Neil Staples were integral members of the photography department at Virginia Intermont College, Bristol, Va.

Champagne taught at VI for 27 years. It was his first full-time teaching job after graduate school. He was chair of the Fine Arts division from 2009 until closing. He started the college's digital imaging curriculum in 1989. In addition to teaching full-time, he served as director of the college's photography gallery. He has served as Southeast Regional Vice-Chair and Chair of the Society for Photographic Education and was appointed a Fellow of the Salzburg Global Seminar in 2004.
He is an adjunct professor of art at Emory & Henry College, Emory, Va., where he teaches photography and web design.

"My photography is rooted in reality, but it isn't about the "subject matter.' I don't try to make things look drastically different than they are. I am very careful about what I select and where I place it. A photographic print is an object. A photograph is an object and until it exists in the form I can hold in my hand, it's in-progress. John Loengard (an American photographer whom American Photo magazine calls one of the most influential people in photography).said, "...there is no subject in the world I have ever wanted to photograph. It's the picture, not the object, that is important to me.'

"I like the sharpness of photography. That is one of its inherent qualities, so I have nothing out of focus in my images. If it's there in the frame, I feel like it's there for me to deal with. I like complex relationships in empty images," Champagne says.

Champagne holds a M.F.A. with a concentration in photography/printmaking from East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, and a B.F.A. in photography from the University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida. He has an A.S. in professional photography from the Southeast Center for Photography, Greenville, North Carolina.

To see his images, visit www.gallery421.com/content.

Staples' journey through VI has taken him on a path from commercial photography to teaching and back to commercial photography.

"I originally came to VI for a change of careers. I had been teaching college classes part time in Florida, but my primary career was as a commercial photographer. After returning to school to earn my masters degree, VI offered me an opportunity to become a full-time faculty member. I taught there for 13 years until we closed. I was convinced that I had found my true calling there. It was a dream job ... fun, fulfilling, challenging, everything I could ask for. When VI closed its doors, Emory & Henry made accommodations for several of our photo students to finish their education there. I was able to teach two classes a semester in advanced photo techniques for three semesters, and the students all received their degrees.

"I have never been a fine art photographer, but teaching gave me the freedom and ambition to occasionally work on images that came about just from a desire to see them come to life. It was a nice change from the commercial work I was used to.

"Since VI closed, things have come full circle for me. My wife Nina Rizzo and I operate a studio in downtown Bristol. Nina does portrait work, mostly beautiful pastel paintings, and I do commercial shoots, copy work for many local artists and a lot of real estate photography. Life goes on. When our school closed, I really thought I would miss teaching. The truth is, I only really miss teaching at VI," Staples says.

Staples holds a bachelor's degree from Adelphi University, Garden City, New York, and a master's from Barry University, Miami Shores, Florida.

For more information about Staples, visit www.studiobristolphoto.com.

Perry Johnson continues to teach and exhibit