Steamboat Springs High School art teacher Morgan Peterson is asking residents to clean out their closets and consider donating older cameras for the school to use.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Steamboat Springs High School art teacher Morgan Peterson is asking residents to clean out their closets and consider donating older cameras for the school to use.

High school seeks manual film cameras for photography class

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Old cameras can be donated at the Mogils on the Mountain photo shop in Dream Island Plaza.

How to help

Manual film cameras can be taken to Mogil’s on the Mountain, 1317 Dream Island Plaza. For more information, call Jay Mogil at 879-9333.

— Morgan Peterson stood in the darkroom Tuesday at Steamboat Springs High School, describing her passion for black-and-white, fine-art photography.

“I find the computer is a barrier,” Peterson said about production of digital photography. “In here, you can smell it, feel it. … It’s a unique way of making art.”

Peterson, an art teacher at the high school, is trying to pass that passion along to her students. She teaches film photography mostly using cheap plastic cameras, but she’s trying to change that.

Because her budget doesn’t include enough money to buy cameras, she’s asking residents to donate any type of manual film camera with an interchangeable lens they’re not using.

She said the school would take any unwanted film camera. Those interested in donating cameras can drop them off at Mogil’s on the Mountain, 1317 Dream Island Plaza.

The high school’s art program offers students the option of taking black-and-white film or digital photography classes. Although Peterson said about twice as many students enroll in the beginner digital class, her advanced class is closer to being even between the two.

She added that any student who pursues photography in college would have to know the basics of film and likely would have to take a class at that level.

Peterson said having enough film cameras for her students would help her better teach aperture, shutter speed and other manual functions of film photography, which isn’t possible on the inexpensive cameras they’ve used in the past.

“It’s a better-quality camera versus $16 point-and-shoots,” she said. “If every student is using a similar camera, it will provide consistency for the instruction.”

Peterson gets supplies for her classes from Mogil’s on the Mountain. Owner Jay Mogil said getting involved with the camera donation program was a way for him to help the high school.

With the advent of digital photography, Mogil said, it’s becoming more expensive to buy and develop film, but using manual film cameras is a great way to teach the basics and develop better photographers for the digital world.

Mogil said he would like to have enough cameras donated to put one in the hands of each of Peterson’s students.

“My main goal is to get new blood sparked on photography as an art form,” he said.

Craig Olsheim, who owns Front Range Camera Repair in Steamboat, will check the cameras for free to make sure they work properly before they’re turned over to the high school, Mogil said.

Any donated cameras that aren’t functional will be used for parts or recycled, Mogil said. He said if more cameras are donated than the school needs, the rest will be given to Idea Wild. As part of its mission, the Fort Collins nonprofit group provides equipment and supplies, including cameras, to conservation projects across the world.

Peterson, who has an art degree with an emphasis in black-and-white photogra­phy from the University of Cali­for­nia, Santa Cruz, and owns a photography business, M.K.P. Imagery, said there was talk recently of removing the darkroom and teaching just digital photography.

She said getting manual film cameras would help reinforce the importance of teaching film photography, something that isn’t common in high schools across the country.

“Steamboat is an artistic town to begin with,” Peterson said. “This enhances that, to have such a dedicated program.”

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