Photography Program

Originally Photography was a course taught in the Arts & Sciences/Humanities, Printing, and Commercial Art programs. The course content varied by the objectives of each area. In the early 1990s, a full-time instructor, Curt Stahr, was hired to teach the course and, under his supervision, it became a diploma program with a full complement of course offerings.  .

There were dark rooms in Building 6 (the Media Center building) for the Commercial Art and Humanities students, Building 15 for the Pre-Press Printing students, and the Advanced Technology Building 3West for the combined training of all students who had an interest in taking the class as a required part of their program training or as an elective.

 1970 - 1992 Many different adjunct instructors
1970 - 1991 Jack Mastrofski - Full Time Commercial Art
 1971 - 1989 Richard Scroggs - Full Time Printing
 1992 - 2012 Curt Stahr - Full Time Photography
 2013 - Present David Purdy - Full Time Photography Program
Photography has gone through many changes in curriculum. The original courses were required in the Commercial Art and Printing AA degree programs. The courses were also offered as electives in the Humanities and Evening Program areas. The curriculum included projects involving everything from camera operation to darkroom and print-making techniques. The curriculum has gone from mostly hand production to everything by electronic, computer-based production. To view complete offerings, visit


  • 1989 After many years of hiring adjunct (part time) instructors to teach Photography I and II, DMACC was able to finally add a contracted, 9-month position. The supervision and salary came out of the budgets from Industry and Technology - Tom Nelson and Humanities - Jim Stick.
    Curt Stahr was hired as a full-time photography instructor. Two courses in photography were required of all commercial art students. Curt also taught the elective courses for Arts & Sciences students and one required photography course for printing students.
  • 1995 Dramatic changes were made to the Photography area. Curt was able to take over the classrooms in the north part of building 3W, and he added the diploma program, which included five courses in photography, including Photography I, II, Field Photography, Studio Photography and Travel Photography.
  • 2013 Curt Stahr retired from DMACC with many honors from his students and the staff. A full-time Photography Program was initiated by David Purdy who heads up the program today.

Curt Stahr took the Photography courses from simple camera operation, film development, and print manipulation to the digital world.

Curt's students learned to apply their skills to Commercial Photography and were employed by advertising, newspapers, and studios. He was the most influential individual to teach in this area. He took the students on many trips, including to San Francisco and the boundary waters in Northern Minnesota./Canada. His stories of world travel fascinated both students and staff, and he was awarded Instructor of the Year. Many of his students went on to apply their skills to positions in every area of the Graphic Communications industry.

Photography has a long tradition of being one of the most popular areas of study at DMACC. The accomplishments, changes, and impact on the community is evidence that the students are using skills learned here at Des Moines Area Community College and contributing to a growing and changing industry.

Main Text: Dee Johnson - Program Chair Commercial Art (1970-2001) - Communications Director
Edited By: Visual Communications Chair, Monte Ballard (1984 - 1994) and Visual Communications Chair (2008-2015); Photography Program Chair, David Purdy (2013-2016)