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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Interview, Part III

Here is a little history, as told to Shannon Gallagher, and rewritten by her from our latest interview:

Darryll Schiff’s college career began at the University of Illinois.  At that point, he did not have a clear idea of where he was headed. “I was searching, trying to find myself. After a few years in liberal arts there and at the University of Miami, I tried design and art, which is something that ran in my family.  I found my calling.”

He transferred to Chicago’s Institute of Design, a reincarnation of the influential German Bauhaus design school. “I went there with the aim of being a graphic designer,” Schiff said. “For me, the Institute was a unique environment, where everyone, instructors and students, could talk to each other, look at work, and suggest ideas, all on a positive level.”

In design, Schiff had two teachers, Cosmo Campoli and Jack Weiss, that were particularly influential and impactful on his work. “I had a sophomore level design class with Cosmo that was largely concerned with color theory and relationships, and I learned so much from him. He also expected a very high degree of precision, which certainly affects how I view my art now. Everything has to be exactly right. Okay does not work, it has to be perfect.”

The curriculum at the Institute of Design had a requirement that every student take at least one year of photography, based on a fine art approach to the medium. In the first year there, Schiff found photography much more exciting than graphic design, and switched gears. “I guess you could say I was hooked,” he said.

In photography, he was taught by Aaron Siskind and Arthur Siegel (who was the head of the photography department at ID). “Arthur was sort of an irascible figure, but for some reason, he took me under his wing. I really considered him to be my mentor. He was also someone who really demanded the highest degree of perfection in one’s work. I’m thankful to have learned from teachers like that, because it gave me discipline and a desire to achieve excellence.” 

Even though the photography department had a strong, classical foundation, they encouraged free thinking and experimentation amongst upperclassmen. It was then that Schiff was truly free to explore his creativity. “To work from an artistic point of view, and not be confined to past norms within photography was very inspiring.  Although I learned more about the technical aspect of the medium when I worked as a commercial photographer, the artistic foundations I learned at ID were most important and even now permeate through my artwork.”

Although Schiff possesses extensive knowledge of photography, composition, and digital technology, he has no interest in teaching photography on a full-time basis. “I’ve taught seminars in the past, and find it pretty rewarding. But I need to have time to create my own work. That is most important to me.”

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