Journalism Photography Classes, 1971 - 2013

Journalism Photography Classes, 1971-2013

This collection of more than 240 Journalism Program photography classes (consisting of J315 Press Photography, J415 Advanced Photojournalism, and J485 Color Photography) was created from images in the Department of Communication’s photography lab files archive. The images were digitized during the fall 2012 and spring 2013 semesters.

Each course section was photographed over the past 40 plus years for class identification purposes beginning in 1971 and has continued, with a few exceptions, through the spring of 2013. Each image has been reproduced from the original photograph.

Over 3,000 students have been enrolled in the Journalism photography program under the Department of Communication.

Classes were taught in this lab in Cole Hall basement by Dr. Hallie J. Hamilton, Mr. Rus Elder, Dr. Orayb Najjar, Dr. Edgar Huang, and a few adjunct instructors from various newspaper organizations until it was relocated to Reavis Hall in February 2008.

Dr. Hamilton first taught the photography class in former army barracks that were relocated to the NIU campus from the Camp McCoy Army Training Base in Wisconsin. Providing much-needed housing for returning WWII vets, the barracks were located where Anderson Hall now stands. A second move took the photography class to the old campus cafeteria (site of the present-day NIU police station). Then in 1966, Dr. Hamilton and a committee designed a floor plan for the new Journalism Photography Laboratory which was to be housed in the future Reavis-Watson lecture hall. The new facility, located in the building’s basement, featured 10 film and color processing rooms, a large darkroom with individual print enlarging stations, an advanced black and white print processing lab, a print finishing area, an equipment check-out storeroom, and a large classroom.

There was much activity in the photo lab with 60 photography students enrolled each fall and 90 each spring. Until approximately 1981, summer and intersession photography courses were also offered. The lab was also home to J416 Photograph Editing, and subsequently to J312 Graphics of Communication courses. Music kept pace with the energy of the classes; the darkrooms were wired for sound. Radios and tapes played on cassette players in the days before mp3s and cell phones.

Cole Hall Room 55, the big print lab, was set up with 18 enlarger stations, and had four lines of processing trays to accommodate a 16-student capacity in each section.  The room was lit with amber safelights and had a Pakolux print washer nicknamed Paco that was designed to remove all remnants of ‘fix’ from the paper to keep it from turning brown from contamination.  Fiber printing paper was replaced by resin coated printing paper in 1989, which cut down on finishing time by over an hour.

The advanced printing lab was set up in Cole Hall Room 10 and had 10 printing stations later decorated with names of famous photographers, such as “the Ansel Adams booth.”

The Press Photography courses used Yashica Mat 124G 2 ¼ cameras until 1994 then switched to Nikon 35mm cameras. Throughout the history of the wet lab, classes used Nikkormat F4, Nikon FM, FM2, FM3, and FM10, with various lens focal lengths available to them.

The wet labs and the 10 film and color processing rooms were phased out in 2006. Light room photography had become the norm for the photojournalism program and the printed image is now shown in cyber galleries made of pixels.

The photo lab moved into the realm of digital photography with the purchase of eight simple Kodak DC290 camera kits in 1999. The memory card held 32mb of data and the camera was a 2.1 megapixel digicam. High-end Kodak and Nikon cameras used by press corps photographers cost $20,000 at that time. The digital imaging program really took off with the purchase of digital camera kits for J315 and J415 in the mid 2000’s. Over the years the program was able to acquire Nikon D100, D2H, D1X, and D70’s and the latest in compact digital photography, the Nikon Coolpix P510. The journalism photo lab was given the moniker the .jpg lab, (journalism photo/graphics lab) due to the steady production of digital images.

It took a decade and a half to bring the course and the equipment to what it is today (2013) and it is a constant process of updating and upgrading to keep current with the industry.

In March 2013 the film rooms and the big print lab in Cole Hall 55 underwent a major remodeling to accommodate the relocation of Anthropology department space due to the reconstruction of the Stevens Building.

Excluded from this group of class photos are the years 1995, 1997, 1998, spring 2006, fall 2007, and spring 2008. There were either no classes held in those years or a photo could not be located.

If you would like to view the images in this collection, visit

Karen F. Grubb
Multimedia Technician
Department of Communication

Special thanks to student employees Ashley Mayfield, Lindsey Maurer, Susana Villasenor, and Kayleigh Grubb for their help with the scanning and mounting of these images.