Diana is an editor, writer, and curator who specializes in contemporary photography and photo-based art. She has edited five books of photography in the last five years, including Robert Mapplethorpe: The Photographs and a biography of photographer Michael Nichols; and she has published two original works. She was also the senior editor of Aperture magazine, one of the leading photography publications in the world.
In 2017, Diana participated in the MFA in Photography and Integrated Media's acclaimed visiting artist/scholar program, during which she shared insight into the world of contemporary photography during critiques and workshops. In her Q&A below, she talks about her experience teaching at Lesley, the importance of curiosity, and more.
Q: How do you approach mentoring and teaching?
A: I think one of the most valuable things a teacher can offer is frankness. I try to respond to the students’ work and ideas candidly, but encouragingly. I engage in conversation about what they are doing; I want to hear how they understand what it is they’re creating, and see if it parallels my experience of their work.
I like introducing students to other artists’ work that resonates on some level with theirs, and books or texts that might deepen their vantage point, helping them to draw connections. I’ve encountered a few young artists in my life who worry about somehow tainting the purity of their vision by overexposure to other ideas. I think that’s specious, lazy, and cowardly. The more you know, and the more you see, the more you’ll be able to understand and articulate what it is you are creating. And how what you are doing differs from anyone else's work.
I believe it’s crucial that students (especially in graduate school) learn to speak about their work clearly and unpretentiously—and partly for that reason, I think that what they read is as important as what they see. I always ask what students are reading, and I tend to make lists of texts that might interest them—literary, poetic, critical, humorous, whatever—in the hopes that they might key in to something.