Thoughts on graduate school, MFA

Discussion in 'Industry News' started by mike_murtaugh, Jul 9, 2012.

  1. mike_murtaugh

    mike_murtaugh Subscriber

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    I'm considering graduate school but it seems most programs are prohibitively expensive. I'm also curious if anyone has had any direct experiences with a program that embraces analog practices or one they'd strongly recommend? I understand that getting an MFA is most suitable for those wanting to pursue a career in academics. I currently do teach but only part time.

    Any thoughts on the matter would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. mike_murtaugh

    mike_murtaugh Subscriber

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    I should say that I'm more interested in low-residency than a traditional classroom. I spend most of the year outside of the states. I'm also interested in chipping away at the degree so extending things beyond a traditional time frame.

    I've read some other threads on this forum so I'm not sure if there is much to add, thanks.
     
  3. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Member

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    In the USA, many state universities have highly regarded MFA programs that are inexpensive compared to private art schools. The University of New Mexico is probably the best of them for photography.
     
  4. Rob Skeoch

    Rob Skeoch Advertiser Advertiser

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    I'm in the MFA low-residency program at Maine Media College. It's part of the legendary Maine Photographic Workshops.
    I'm only in my first year.
    So far I'm really enjoying it.

    I've budgeted $40,000 for the program.

    I also was interested in a program run by University of the Arts London. It wasn't a MFA but a Masters of Documentary Photography. It looked like it would cost about $30,000 with the added costs of travel and staying in London. This program starts in January.

    I have a friend who has completed their Masters and they estimated it cost them about $50,000 all in.

    -Rob Skeoch
     
  5. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I think that Bard College in upstate New York offers a low-residency program, and I believe that Goddard College in Vermont also does. MFA programs are going through a bit of turmoil these days, especially with regards to offering traditional wet-darkroom/alternative process facilities and learning opportunities. If you approach an MFA program and say that you are looking for an MFA with the goal of enabling you to teach, you'll have a very hard time getting in. It's one of those odd hypocracies of the business - you have to have the MFA to teach, but to get the MFA you can't say that you want to teach. You're supposed to talk about how you want to take the two years (give or take) to really hone artistic ideas to a razor focus. Think of it as an extended artist-in-residency program with intensive guidance.
     
  6. mike_murtaugh

    mike_murtaugh Subscriber

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    Thanks everyone.

    @Rob What made you want to pursue an MFA? Do you think the price tag is justified? For me personally I'm still paying down my undergraduate student loans, which at this point are very manageable. As someone previously mentioned state school tuition generally seems more manageable although obtaining state residency would take some time. I guess that's where I'm stuck. I'd like to refine my artistic focus and be in a better position to be considered for a teaching position but at what cost?

    @TFC Thanks for the advice, duly noted. If I apply I'll steer clear of mentioning anything regarding becoming a teacher.

    It also seems that exploring options outside of the United States would be wise. I appreciate the advice!
     
  7. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Mike- I should have expanded further - you've got to acknowledge teaching in there somehow, but you can't say that that is THE reason you want the degree. It's crazy BS, but that's what they want you to do. Your primary reason for wanting the degree, for the art school's sake, is to further your own art, and to push the envelope of capital-A Art in general. I looked into an MFA myself a couple years ago - things may have changed since then, but my take on it was that programs outside the US are even more traditional-process UN-friendly than programs here. A lot can change in four years, so do investigate, and please post the results of your investigation. I'd love to hear what's going on out there.
     
  8. Rob Skeoch

    Rob Skeoch Advertiser Advertiser

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    I have a great gig going with Sony of Canada as a digital imaging "expert" so am not trying to rock the boat. However I've really been into photography for 30 years and decided to look into the Masters program on the advice of a friend who teaches.
    At first I was interested in the teaching idea but once I looked into the MFA I've expanded my thinking way past just teaching.

    The "Studio" assignments have been great... working on a documentary on grass roots rodeo cowboys.

    The "Written" assignments have been even better.... tons of reading on photography, I have books everywhere by great photographers, usually spend Wednesday afternoons in the archive vault at the Art Gallery of Ontario looking at original prints by Walker Evans, Eugene Smith, Weston. etc. Really enjoying it, learning a lot and it has really focused my efforts.

    Would I teach one day, might, but as I said I have a really good gig at Sony.

    As a career photographer who mostly freelanced or worked at papers.... good gigs are hard to get in this business.
     
  9. mike_murtaugh

    mike_murtaugh Subscriber

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    @TFC I will post information I find. I've mainly contacted schools that offer online courses or low-residency options both of which I'm not 100% sold on. I almost feel that if I'm going to spend upwards of 40k on a MFA I'd like to take the time off of work and commit 100% of my time towards the process. That being said my main instructor in college had great things to say about the low-residency program at the Vermont college of fine arts. I think the stars will have to align for me to go all in. Prices for most schools for me are the stumbling block.

    @Rob I envy your situation! I'm glad you've been able to take advantage of things. Do you think the investment is worth 40k given you've mentioned you have a great job already and will most likely stay on? You're right about gigs. Having worked a bit in the commercial world I can attest to it being hyper competitive. A lot of my friends say its nice to pay their way with photography but become consumed with running a business.

    Thanks again for the advice, I'll continue to post as I find things.