The idea behind the Studio Problems class is for the student to learn skills normally attributed to commercial photography and apply them to fine art.
The class is broken into three working groups (memberships rotating from within the entire class) with three new 'Directors' shooting during each class meeting. The three groups occupy different shooting spaces, each one different in size and negotiated by the students based on need. Towards the end of the semester, the class splits to four groups, with three working in studio and one group on location.
The Director in each group assigns the other members of their crew the jobs of Assistant (equipment and lighting), Stylist (propping, makeup, soft and hard good styling), Digital Technician (monitors the computer and work flow, checks focus) and finally, the Model. The jobs are flexible, with everyone helping where needed, or perhaps exchanging models from set to set.
The semester begins with the class selecting advertising 'tear sheets', whose lighting, propping, set construction, etc. provide a challenge to re-create. There are no rules as to how this is done, only that the student study what they believe to be the original lighting and propping, and figure out a way to make their shot look as close as possible or more interesting than the original through creative problem solving.
The ubiquity of digital manipulation in most all media imagery presents a growing problem for the class in recreating original images. Alteration by computer is allowed sparingly, and only in extreme circumstances. In this group only Joe Lingeman's bike rider used a dropped in background. Any other Photoshop manipulation was limited to very minor contrast changes.
As the semester progresses, students may work with tear sheets as long as they feel challenged, or utilize their skills to create their own personal work.