While you might not think of photography as design, the two truly go hand-in-hand.

From first setting up that initial frame inside the camera, to editing a picture in post-production, design is a constant factor in the realm of photography, and many of the basic rules of design apply to making a successful photo.

Photography students at the University of North Florida study these key elements during their time as budding photographers, all under the careful eye of professors Alex Diaz, Chris Trice, Paul Karabinis and Kally Malcom, who started this semester.

The UNF Photo Department traces back nearly four decades, but did not become a serious program until Dominick Martorelli revamped the photo department. Since then, the school has continued to rise to its current status as one of the foremost photography schools in the South.

In its initial stages however, roughly around the mid- to late-1970s, photo classes were very small and were taught in a small darkroom located on campus, simply as a requirement for Graphics majors.

This all changed when Martorelli arrived in the mid-1990s and instituted the BFA for Photography. Martorelli was the first instructor to be fully devoted to teaching photography at UNF. The program then was almost entirely analog photography (film) with very little digital until the program moved to its new and current home in 2003.

Paul Karabinis, who has played a major role in establishing UNF’s photo program for almost as long as there has been a photography program, has served in a number of roles during his time at UNF. He said the program became increasingly more serious during the 2000s.

“Getting a building dedicated to photography was a major boost, as it created a common, physical space for photo students and faculty,” he said. “The program really took off after that, and today, we have four full-time teachers, an excellent analog facility, two digital teaching labs, a full-time lab tech and several student lab techs.”

In addition to Karabinis, Diaz and Trice are two of the professors who have helped to put UNF’s photo program on the map.

After completing graduate school in 2006, Diaz, a North Florida native, said he wanted to live in New York City and pursue his dream of becoming an artist. It wasn’t until he spoke with Martorelli about the possibility of teaching courses at UNF that he discovered his passion for teaching.

Trice said he wanted to be an art teacher as far back as high school. Despite originally beginning his artistic career as a painter, Trice said he took a photography class in college with one of his favorite professors that had a profound effect on him. The class ultimately lead him to pursue photography in graduate school and become an instructor at UNF.

With such a rich staff, it’s no surprise the UNF photo program has had some serious success stories.

Erik Tanner, who graduated in 2011, has worked throughout the U.S., South America and Africa on various projects for a range of clients, including Time magazine, where he even landed the cover with one of his photos.

Severine Wider graduated in 2012, and is now a successful portrait photographer who owns her own business and studio right here in downtown Jacksonville.

What helps to give UNF’s photo program such a strong list of graduates is the curriculum.

“Our program curriculum is focused upon developing a strong technical base and a broad-based approach that cover a wide range of areas including analog and digital photography, studio practice, documentary and experimental practice as well as photo history,” Karabinis said.

Diaz and Trice said that they hope the program will continue to grow and become a more recognized program for the region, and eventually the nation.