by Barbara Sherf
Carrying a faded black and white photo of his 1950 graduating class that includes an image of the late Severo Antonelli, founder of the photography and graphic design school that bears his name in Erdenheim, 92-year-old Dominic Loschiavo shared his thoughts about the school at a 75th Antonelli Institute alumni celebration on Aug. 11.
Loschiavo, who studied under Antonelli from 1948-50, mixed with alumni and faculty at an outdoor barbecue and spoke affectionately of his mentor as “a true professional who would not just rubber-stamp classmates through. He had his name and reputation behind this place,” said Loschiavo, a South Philadelphia resident.
Antonelli Institute was founded in 1938 in Philadelphia by the internationally renowned photographer and artist Severo Antonelli. A major futurist and photographer, Antonelli brought to the school his reputation as one of the leading photo-picturalists in the U.S. On two occasions, Antonelli’s photographs were exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution in the largest one-man photography exhibition ever held at that institution.
His work is also part of the permanent collection at Woodmere Art Museum, where an exhibit kicking off the 75th anniversary was on display along with student images in January. Following World War II, the school’s reputation attracted veterans, like Loschiavo, seeking training in photography.
“I attended on the GI bill, like so many World War II vets. His mission was to train us for careers outside of the military,” said Loschiavo, who went on to become a staff photographer at Boeing Helicopters and a staff photographer with the City of Philadelphia during the Rizzo years.
“I photographed Rosa Parks, worked with Jane Golden at the Mural Arts Program and even took photos of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Philadelphia. I still have a photo of the Queen and Andrew Wyeth,” he said.
Thought to be the oldest living graduate of the school, which was originally located at 4th and Chestnut Streets in center city, Loschiavo chatted as his wife, noted artist Doree Loschiavo, stood by his side. “There was no accreditation program back then, but he (Antonelli) was very particular about who was graduated. It was his reputation on the line,” Loschiavo said.
Antonelli Institute is now licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, State Board of Private Licensed Schools. The school is authorized to grant Associate in Specialized Technology degrees by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Division of Program Services. The school relocated to its present site on Montgomery Avenue in Erdenheim in 1996.
Antonelli Institute President John Hayden said students attending the school today learn to shoot in film and use a dark room in their first semester before getting into the digital world. “It’s important for them to slow down and learn the craft and settings, so they get it right in the digital medium. Companies don’t want to pay for a lot for post-production work, and we are all about preparing students for the real world,” Hayden said, as he milled with alumni who came back to tell of their experiences.
South Jersey resident Serena Star, 24, who graduated in 2010, has made a name for herself in the boudoir niche of fashion photography. “Not only did they teach us the nuts and bolts about photography, but they taught us about business and how to stand out from the competition. It was very competitive here,” said Star.
Hayden noted that 2013 Graphic Design graduate Jordan Kolb received the top scholarship of $10,000 in the Philly Ad Club 2013 Philly Futures Scholarship. Mt. Airy resident Corwin Prescott, 25, was getting ready to head out to Alaska the following day on his quest to shoot a model in every state in America. “I’m at 42 states and going strong. I raised $16,000 on Kickstarter to fund the project,” said the 2010 graduate.
With four degrees under her belt and a career in clinical psychology as a foundation, Chestnut Hill resident Michelle Spencer, 57, graduated this year after her two-year course of studies. While Spencer is exploring creative images in her studio in Media, she is also looking to marry her psychology background to help individuals suffering with depression deal with their illness through photography.
“This place is so impressive because the faculty members are also working in the field. They have street credibility,” she said, as Andrew Simcox, Lead Photography Instructor and Career Services Coordinator, came over to take some photos.
“This is a great event. Anytime you can reconnect with the graduates and see their successes is a great way to get even more excited about what we do here,” said Simcox, who has been on staff since 1997 but who also is a sought-after freelance photographer on nights and weekends. A graduate of Antonelli Institute, Simcox went on to a successful career in photojournalism.
Ed Zawora, Lead Graphic Design Instructor and Career Services Coordinator, another Antonelli graduate, has worked at the school since 2006. He was all smiles as balloons bobbed and the smell of hot dogs wafted from the nearby grill.
“It’s amazing to see the students and hear their success stories and to hang out with them in a casual environment,” said Zawora.
Zawora is the recipient of two awards this year. He was just recognized as a 2013 Pennsylvania Association of Private School Administrators (PAPSA) Outstanding Instructor of the Year and is about to receive the 2013 Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) Commitment to Education Award.
“We also have two other PAPSA Outstanding Instructors of the Year – Bob Golding in 2011 and Drew Simcox in 2004. We are proud of our long history of outstanding faculty that goes all the way back to Severo Antonelli. I am also proud to claim both Drew and Ed as alumni,” said Hayden. “We are also about to be recognized as a 2013 ACCSC School of Excellence. This follows up having been recognized as an ACCSC School of Merit in 2008 and an ACCSC School of Distinction in 2003. So, we have a long tradition of quality.”
As Loschiavo was leaving, he paused a moment and talked about the late Severo Antonelli and Antonelli Institute. “I’m proud of what I was able to do in my career, and Severo would have been proud of the legacy he left behind and the many students who got their start here,” he said. “It’s a special place.”
Antonelli Institute is at 300 Montgomery Ave., Erdenheim. Call 215-836-2222 or visit www.Antonelli.edu about classes and upcoming exhibits.
Barbara Sherf is a personal historian, writer and amateur photographer. She can be reached at CaptureLifeStories@gmail.com or 215-233-8022.