The Academic Perspective?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Michel Hardy-Vallée, Jul 31, 2007.

  1. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    The "Ethics & Philosophy" discussions we have sometimes steer towards problems that scholars deal with, and sometimes I'm tempted to bring in some articles to support a point or another. I don't know if that's actually useful or a deterrent to discussion.

    My own status regarding the academic world is that I'm in it. I am writing an MA thesis on graphic novels and literature, and I'm thinking about a PhD in something related, so I read quite a bit of stuff on images, literature, aesthetics, and the like. I'm not an expert, but I have a direct interest in relating what I read on the academic side with issues in photography ethics, aesthetics, etc.

    I think we're primarily interested in making photography, but I would like to know whether you have any scholarly experience about it, and whether you find it makes any difference in your work. I'm also interested by the point of view of those who are not in the scholarly world, and how they perceive it.
     
  2. AgX

    AgX Member

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    I’m not a scholar but it is interesting to sniff a bit the scents of academic hallways this way…

    What kind of photography we all exercise, we don’t do it in a vacuum and it is worthwhile relating one self to such ideas. I like reading such posts, though my limited means of expression rather keep me a reader.
     
  3. davetravis

    davetravis Member

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    Over the years, I've talked to many folks at the art shows. Most have no scholarship in art or photography.
    In my life, I've only had one intro to photography college course. I've known all levels of academics, 2, 4, 6, even 8 years of education. In some cases it seems to have helped them accomplish their photographic goals. But after reviewing some of their works, I didn't see where the schooling helped improve their eye. It's like you have it or you don't. For myself, sometimes I'm glad I skipped formal education in the arts. I believe I'm more free to screw up, and to get it right.
    DT
     
  4. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Although my academic background is not currently in the fine art field, I did an extensive study in college of art history and literature, specifically relating to the Renaissance. So much of our modern culture and ideas have a direct descendance from the Renaissance, and the ideas continue to reverberate and inform our culture today. When we make images, we are still responding to those ideas, even if we are totally ignorant of their origins and context.

    To me, that academic background has been enormously influential in what, how, and why I photograph. For me, personally, I can't comprehend the notion of feeling pride in ignorance of something, or feeling that ignorance of some academic topic makes me better at doing it. But I've always been an academic learner - I grew up in a traditional western academic background, attended academically focused schools whose success paradigm was aimed explicitly at academic success.
     
  5. kman627

    kman627 Member

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    As a current student (Mechanical Engineering Major), I've found that almost every subject I've taken has given me something to add to my photography. While I have taken photography courses, it's actually been other courses that have given me more. The photography courses were a great asset as far as learning technicalities and learning to make prints. But it's really the other courses that improved my "eye". I've found geology courses to be extremely beneficial, as for me it add something to a landscape photograph to actually know the science behind the scene. Although this may be lost to a viewer with no geological knowledge. But for me it does add to my own and other's work. I've even found my mathematics studies to give me a greater vision in terms of composition, as mathematical functions help in opening my eyes to the contruction of the world. I was also a telemedia student for a while and found that learning cinematography and viewing numerous great cinema works added greatly to my own art. I specifically think of the film "I am Cuba" Which sparked my interest in the infrared spectrum.

    I believe you specifially need any type of higher education to make good photographs, but I would say a well rounded breadth of knowlege will certainly give a person more insight into the world around them, thus making them a better photographer.
     
  6. kaygee

    kaygee Member

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    This is a very interesting topic!

    I fully agree with this statement. The more you know, the more you see.

    My academic background isn't in photography either, all the photo classes I have under my belt are a few community courses that I've taken over the years, mostly technical. My actual academic background is in archaeology, and I think this has greatly influenced me in all aspects of life. I was always interested in archaeology (when I was 10 I wanted to be Indiana Jones, and while archaeology is of course a lot less adventure in that sort of sense, there is the quest for knowledge that is absolutely true). Even in things I've written and things I've photographed, when I tell people I've studied archaeology they go "ah-ha, I can see that in what you do!". Archaeology has helped me to delve deeper into what I see - nothing is as it appears, there's always a deeper meaning, even if it's a piece of trash on the ground. What does our society deem trash and treasure? Why is this? This is something I've explored through civilizations that are thousands of years old, and something my photography has helped me to explore through our present day societies.
     
  7. JG Motamedi

    JG Motamedi Member

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    I finished my PhD a bit over six years ago in anthropology. I orginally came to anthropology and the academe because I was unsatisfied with journalism, my career, and its (in)ability to explain or even properly document human behavior. I orginally matriculated in visual anthropology, a subfield of anthropology, but after completeing three years of course work, my MA, and my PhD qualifing exams I found myself drawn to cultural anthropology. In the end my dissertation had little, if anything to do with photography.

    I do have a very large body of photo-documentary work (primarily 35mm chromes with an occasional 6x6 B&W) made during my early years as a graduate student, and I regard it as my best work done to date.

    I have little doubt that my photography is informed by my academic interests, and my current project of occupational Daguerreotypes is for me a perfect marriage of the academic and artistic.
     
  8. Daniel_OB

    Daniel_OB Member

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    I have, as my parents too, that academic background even from one of the best state owned art academy at the time, and also from some very good photographers as friends of my parents. It was very intensive study of history of art, way to trace some specific artistic problems, and finally photography as a medium too. When I got it all, cooled down, I forgot it all and just go by instinct developed through “education”.

    I have seen also equivalent aducated people with Phd, working as permament stuff in photography, asking on internet question like “how I can know is some specific photograph art or not …”

    So Academic education can means a lot or even nothing, depend of the person. Work, after the formal education is “over” , is the most important to develop a good photographer.

    www.Leica-R.com
     
  9. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    Michel, I'd be interested in hearing your take on V For Vendetta.
     
  10. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Andy, the graphic novel or the movie? The GN was a laudable effort, somewhat beleaguered here and there by naïvety, but the movie just plainly sucked, if it were not for John Hurt's great portrayal of the leader. They get extra point for making a somewhat directly political movie during the Bush years, but that's as far as I'll concede.

    In terms of Alan Moore's production, I think Watchmen is the only real masterpiece he produced, V a close second. His other stuff (like From Hell) are more of a Gnostic fantasy than a deep artistic work; he sometimes confuses complexity with depth, I fear.

    But back to our regular program, I can see that we have a variety of people who went through academia at some point or another, and I'm curious about those who had some exposure to the Humanities. Have you ever had the "oh, you're studying literature, anyone can do that?" The disciplines are partly to blame for their perceived frivolity, but it seems to be a common misperception you don't need to study what everyone takes for granted.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 31, 2007
  11. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    To an extent I agree. You have to remember the GN was written throughout the Thatcher years, when there was great social upheaval and hardship for millions and things were looking bleak here in Britain.
    The film however was made during the Blair years, of near totalitarian government, a nanny state, and it showed. To be honest, if things don't change soon, then politically Britain isn't very far away from that portrayed in the film.
    IMO, neither the GN or the film are what I would call masterpieces, but I did enjoy them, and each reflects the prevailing attitudes at their respective times of creation quite well.
     
  12. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Yes, but I think there's more than the changing political context. Perhaps the urgency is not the same, but the movie treatment removed a lot of conflicting internal motivations in characters (Evey, for instance) and put V's method much less into question.
     
  13. kaygee

    kaygee Member

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    I've never gotten that response but I have gotten on several occasions... "archaeology? why would you study that?" But not said in an interested way, almost said in a way like they had just heard I collect bird feces.

    I think a lot of that stuff is deemed as unimportant. People don't seem to understand without a knowledge of our history, there's absolutely no way we can understand ourselves today. It's ignorance really, plain and simple.

    Interesting story that happened: a friend said that keeping any sort of pet or animal was ammoral. It conflicts with the animal's basic nature to roam free or some such nonsense. Basically, with this statement all domestication is ammoral, and shouldn't have been done, therefore not creating sedentry communities of people, therefore no civilization. He did not think about it in that manner, because quite frankly, it's an ignorant way to think.

    Sorry - am I going off? I just hate it when people spout things they don't have any education on!
     
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  15. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Oh no, keep it coming! With art/literature, the single most annoying thing I hear is that "it's all opinion and yours is as good as mine." I don't think you even need a shard of an undergrad degree to figure that out, but even undergrads themselves have a hard time figuring out the difference between multiple admissible interpretaions and relativism.
     
  16. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I've gotten lots of jokes about my undergraduate degree - English Literature is usually seen as qualifying one for being the most articulate cashier at McDonalds. While it never got me a job by itself, coupled with other qualifications, it has actually been a big plus, because people in the business world have seen it as proof that I can communicate effectively.
     
  17. Daniel_OB

    Daniel_OB Member

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    kayge
    Sorry - am I going off? I just hate it when people spout things they don't have any education on!

    So what you think how many on this Apug are photo-educ yet argue with anyone. I think you are correct, but if all on Apug think that way this site will die. I will not be far off the truth if say max 0.00001% of all "photographers" have some education in photography. So what now? The problem I see is that photography is not a good business so why to study? Some that study it see them free from some math problems (like on e.g. engineering) and great possibility to get "education" on the "easy way". Another side is get used camera register business for $80 and it is all, he/she is a "pro". Now all are same, unlike one that buy injection will never be a doctor. So where is now education in photography?

    www.Leica-R.com
     
  18. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality.
     
  19. catem

    catem Member

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    When I was young, I studied Literature and went on to do an MA in Contemporary English Literature. I did this because I loved reading and writing about stories, and poetry, and I was lucky enough to get a grant to pursue my studies. I've never seen myself as an academic, but I found that side of things quite easy, and it was a way to allow me to do what I loved doing - reading books -and not have to think about earning a living, or people telling me to do something useful.

    Later (several years ago) and quite a lot of water - family/work - under the bridge, I studied photography full-time. This I found invaluable as I was able to hone my technical skills, learn to work on projects, and learn a lot more about the history and theory of photography (and art).

    Fundamentally, though, I have used both these opportunities not as things 'out there' but as a way of looking within, like an absorption, and what comes from both is something from deep within me. I truly believe that 'within me' would be there whether or not I had studied formally, at different times of my life. But I have been lucky enough in both cases to have the time to devote to developing the 'within me', my creative capacity, without the distraction of having to think about mundane matters like where my next meal was coming from - (though I did have substantial family commitments in the latter case).
     
  20. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    As an English Major soon to be an English Master (??), I can only assent with your experience. English never got me a job, but it has helped me get most of my jobs, if you catch my drift.
     
  21. Lopaka

    Lopaka Member

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    Absolutely. Good communication skills are key. Of course, I have seen a lot of business communication I would classify as 'prose fiction'. I also have encountered both CPA's and attorneys that seemed incapable of writing a complete sentence.:rolleyes:

    Bob
     
  22. Bandicoot

    Bandicoot Member

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    My MA is in Archaeology and Anthropology - it seems there are a few of us around here. Certainly I've found both have helped me in what I'd perhaps best term 'insight' in all sorts of fields. (The anthropology was enormously helpful in the days when I worked in The City and as a consultant.) It was in archaeology that I first worked as a photographer, using professionally something that I'd previously just had as an interest. Then I did all sorts of things for years before coming back to full time photography, but I think my academic training was influential in far more than just giving me my first 'paid gig' as a photographer.

    More than that though, I firmly believe that a good academic training (I use the word good advisedly, not all courses of study meet the criterion) is as much about teaching one to think and, particularly, to analyse as it is about teaching the 'subject'. These skills are as helpful to photographers (despite that fact that as a profession they are often almost proudly uneducable) as to any other activity. And, perhaps learning how to think helps with the challenge of learning to see.

    Of course, I grew up with a (musicology) professor for a father, so maybe I'm bound to see the world this way. Certainly the other great influence on my 'eye' was when, as a child, my parents (my mother is a painter) took me to see a lot of art: I remember when not even in my teens defending the validity of 'modern art' - in this context and at that time it would have been abstract expressionism I suppose - to my school friends.

    I do have professional qualifications in photography too, but I've never studied it: my photographic qualifications stem from peer evaluation rather than study and examination. It isn't these that have been helpful in anything other than 'marketing' myself though: it is that childhood and the 'non-photographic' academic study that I think have been most influential.

    Where I would, I think, feel benefit in an academic study of photography would be in talking about other people's work. What I have read and my background in painting helps here, of course, but a formal study of photography would be helpful in that regard. Nonetheless, however much I enjoy looking at and discussing photography, it is doing it - making pictures - that I care about most, and for that, for me, I don't think my own mix of education, formal and informal, could have been very much improved on. As Cate said, it helps one to look inward, and that introspective view can help a lot when one again turns to look outward.

    Interesting thread,



    Peter

    PS,
    Well, while I was working as an archaeologist I was shot at, hi-jacked, nearly kidnapped, arrested as a spy, drove (accidentally) into a mine field, and had my hotel room raided at dawn by para-military police. I had soldiers come in during dinner and politely ask if we could look after their AK47s for them while they went out to dinner themselves, have checked that the Land Rovers had full tanks before going to sleep with the sound of artillery fire getting close, have stepped away from the window at the sound of small arms fire in the street outside, and have stood on a roof and watched a sky full of tracer.

    I've had film taken out of a country in the diplomatic bag, and dined on Champagne and cheese that came in the same way. I've been the first person to take a vehicle up a particular hill, hidden maps and aerial photo.s before going through a military check-point, shaken my fist at vultures that were circling hopefully overhead as I sat in the desert, and spent a fitful night in a South American brothel after paying extra to have a room without a girl. Once I sawed someone's legs off with a hacksaw - but they had been dead for 2,500 years at the time.

    I've driven a car we had built out of two wrecks that didn't have very good brakes so we fixed some chain with an old Zodiac anchor on the end to the chassis and threw it out when we needed to stop, and I've sat in a 'plane wondering when there might be some announcement about the fact that one of the two engines had stopped.

    I've swum with pelicans fishing all around me, found scorpions in my boots, been to embassy parties and drunk tea in bedouin tents. Oh, and someone once tried to fix me up with a princess.

    All true, and I feel that I've been very, very, lucky. I enjoyed (almost) every minute of it.

    Yes, I do have a much battered old fedora and one of the many nick-names I have sported at various times was 'Indy'. And yes, it is the quest for knowledge that was the best bit, even if all the rest has given me an excellent trove of after-dinner tales to tell for the rest of my life.

    P.
     
  23. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    Tsk. DR & Quinch rules. Plus they let him kill Superman in the 80's before the John Byrne retread of Krypton... and the whole first and second acts of Miracleman (aka Marvelman): brilliant (and much copied since)

    Kimota!
     
  24. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    "Life is an excellent teacher, but one must be an excellent student."

    Unfortunately, most people who proudly claim to be self-taught or have been taught by life are very lazy students.

    Vaughn
     
  25. catem

    catem Member

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    Answering your question a little more directly this time, I realise that the closest I get to expressing how I draw on past experiences, the love and appreciation of writers, (which has been scholarly work for me at times, but I think prefer it when it is far less formal than that) is in my Blog already - that is a little part of the conscious reflection, as opposed to the almost sub-conscious 'absorption' I was referring to in my earlier post.

    I've done little conscious reflection recently, but am just beginning again, whether I'll pursue it or not I'm not sure, but for those interested in glancing at yet another Blog, rather than repeat any of my musings as an example of how those past studies interests, and loves can be a part of (my) creative process - you are invited to take a look & draw any or none of your own conclusions:

    http://cateblogger.blogspot.com/
     
  26. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    One of our college lecturers used to say that it was more important to know where or how to look for the answer to a problem than to actually know it.

    One of the few things I remember from about 25 years ago!


    Steve.