Capturing the Moment: Digital Photography’s Instructor


Photo Credit: Luis Martinez

Erin Miyo Stevens-Gandara (pictured above) grading some of her students work right after class.

Erin Miyo Stevens-Gandara has been one of the professors for Rio Hondo College’s (RHC’s) Art Department since the fall of 2015. She is teaching beginning and advanced courses related to digital photography. In these classes, students can expect to learn how to successfully compose shots, edit and mark photos up, operate a camera to its full potential, and learn to express themselves through art, and much, much more.

“I first got into photography in high school because I went to Schurr High School in Montebello, and they had a really good [photo] facility,” Stevens-Gandara said. “They had good view cameras, lighting, a dark room, and a color darkroom. I liked that, so I got into that [photography], and then I went to Pasadena City College.“

Once at Pasadena City College (PCC), she took many different classes in order to expand her horizons. At this time, she learned how to do silk screen printing and printmaking. After a short stint at community college, she transferred to an art school with the intention of majoring in printmaking. Once she began her second semester there, everything changed.

“I took a photo class from a famous guy named Larry Sultan. He is a photographer and he convinced me that photography was probably a better idea. I think it’s awesome.” Stevens-Gandara elaborated that it was around this time her family wasn’t too sure about photography as a job. “My mom is Asian and she was concerned, my parents in general worried about jobs. that combine with my teacher. I think I chose photography.”

Being an art teacher and having gone down the path she did, Stevens-Gandara has had a lot of obstacles come her way. For many art majors, the idea of competition can be dissuading for them and for the people around them. “I wasn’t a great student, so my parents were worried in general about me because I was up to no good,” she said. “Then the art thing came, and they just weren’t into it. They just thought it was a waste. My grandparents, strangely enough, they’re Japanese, they convinced my parents. My parents weren’t terribly supportive, but they weren’t overtly unsupportive.”
Once she made her way out of school, she found her first teaching position as a photography teacher in 2000. As time progressed she grew as a person, instructor, and artist. “When I first started 20 years ago, 23 years ago, I tried to be like what you’re supposed to be like,” Stevens-Gandara said. “It was very rigid and not creative. I had a turning point when I realized, ‘just be yourself.’ I’m silly, I love to tell stories. One of my favorite teachers, Sultan, was an amazing artist and compelling story teller. He had anecdotes that were really hilarious, and I like to share that kind of stuff but with a point.”

Her impact couldn’t be stated enough for some students. Cooper To, a second-year student at RHC and former student of Stevens-Gandara said, “With Professor Miyo, she really makes sure that you are producing your best work. I specifically remember a time when one of my classmates made work that was below his usual bar, and Miyo was not hesitant to point that out. He came back with the next assignment with work that was amazing.”