C.B. Neblette leaves his mark on RIT’s photography program

Oct 16, 2014

Thumbnail for C.B. Neblette leaves his mark on RIT’s photography program
Thumbnail for C.B. Neblette leaves his mark on RIT’s photography program

By Becky Simmons

As we take note of RIT’s ‘Faculty to Watch’ in this issue of Athenaeum, I can’t help but think of the impact that Carrol Bernard Neblette had on RIT’s photography program many decades ago.

Neblette, who began his career at RIT as an instructor of photography in 1931, progressed to head of the Department of Photographic Technology only five years later and was appointed dean of the College of Graphic Arts and Photography in 1960. He retired in 1968 after 37 years of service at RIT.

Neblette took the department from a school for photographic technicians to a training ground for photographic scientists and fine art photographers. As a visionary, he saw the widening use of photographic science and instrumentation and correctly predicted that RIT graduates would be able to secure jobs beyond traditional photographic manufacturers.

Neblette’s reputation reached far beyond the walls of RIT. His classic textbook for the field, Photography Materials, ran to seven editions and was translated into Russian and Spanish. He published frequently in the major photography periodicals and penned several other books. In 1944 he took part in forecasting the future of photography with other notables of the time in a Popular Photography article titled “The Coming World of Photography.”

During the 30-plus years Neblette worked at RIT, photographic education at the university level underwent a profound change, and RIT should receive credit as the pioneering institution. Rochester was a locus of photography during this period, with both Eastman Kodak and the establishment of the George Eastman House. The synergy between these three institutions brought worldwide attention to Rochester in the 1950s and 1960s.

Neblette must be recognized for his contribution to RIT. Upon his retirement, a faculty member commented: “Neblette’s whole life has been photography and building an educational institution.” Without a doubt, it can be said that Neblette put RIT’s photography programs on the map and was instrumental in making it the most respected school in the nation.