Photo I, Photo II

Apr 2018

What a piece of shit.

Oct 2017

I took Thomas Roma's Photography I class over five years ago. I am, in this very moment, listening to Richie Havens cover of Jerry Merrick's "Follow" (something only those of you who have already taken Roma's class would understand). You might be wondering why, after such a long time, I am now writing a review. To be fair, I have always wanted to write a review for his class. Probably since the first day I met him, which was when he was selecting his upcoming class roster, which he did while concurrently complaining that he was being forced to accept virtually all seniors (I was a senior at the time). I left Columbia for four years during my junior and senior year to pursue a life in another art form. When I returned to Columbia, I had quite a bit more experience than most Columbia undergrads. Upon my return, I had heard that Thomas Roma was an artist (a term I do not take lightly), and I was immediately drawn to him. For those of you who are wondering if the mentioning of Photo I on your resume will be hard to explain to your future bullshit employers or to your parents, please, just please, don't sign up for this class. This class is not for cowards. If you intend to live a cookie-cutter life, good luck. I am instead speaking to you young people who are drawn to the idea of Thomas Roma because you seek meaning beyond your dumbass GPA or your intro base salary. You may not understand this desire, whether it is real or merely some figment of your self-described "privileged, first-world problems." But you are drawn, and this is the class for you. I majored in philosophy. When I was a second semester senior during my high school years, I recall telling an elderly alum that I was intending to major in econ. He scoffed at the idea of majoring in econ. He said, "Do something more interesting." I thought to myself, "f--- this guy." Well, the first year, I was an econ major. Second year, first semester, I had an existential crisis. Second year, second semester, I checked to make sure I still had my balls, temporarily became an econ-philosophy major, subsequently realized I was half-assing it, then demanded myself to pursue the one major I actually gave a shit about: philosophy. Thomas Roma is on my mind now because I have been in the real world (as a performing artist) for quite some time. Every year, I get more rejections than successes. But for the past year, I have grown tired of my failures. I have lost the anger and drive that I immediately felt after every failure I had, which, in the past, I used as fuel to catapult myself to the next level. I have become apathetic. I have become an artist who thinks only of clocking in and clocking out, the very thing I despised that led me to my path in the arts. So this is why I think of Roma now. He is perhaps the only artist who has not only been able to sustain his interest in his artistic expression, but also in his ability to speak so enthusiastically and eloquently about his pursuit, as if he is now just starting off in his career. You're not going to be a photographer. Who gives a shit if you can take a great picture. He will teach you what it means to express and to care. Many of you are too young to know what I speak of. Many of you are too stubborn to even consider the notion of apathy. But the real problem for an artist is not whether you will be able to withstand the pain of failure. It will be your ability to resist the urge to not care. I am desperately trying to shake this apathy from my soul. The memory of Thomas Roma might be one of the few things that could help me.

Jan 2000

The guy who started the Photo program at Columbia is also an immensely successful professional photographer. A tyrant in every way, you either love Tom or you loathe him -- and believe me, many students loathe him. His classes are fascinating trips from one subject to the next, covering stories, legends, radical politics, and of course, how much your photographs suck. In the end, he really knows his shit, and can talk better than anyone I've ever met about what exactly it is that sucks about my work. I would say he is the best teacher I have had at CU; some would say he is the worst. He wants it that way.