U of Guelph prof using old cameras?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by smileyguy, May 28, 2006.

  1. smileyguy

    smileyguy Member

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    I was just in the recently opened Henry's in Cambridge and had a nice chat with one of the women there. I asked her about a recommendation for b&w film and she immediately reached for the Ilford 400asa professional saying "this is what I always use." What? That was refreshing to hear. So I asked her a few more questions and apparently she is a student in arts at the university of Guelph and got talking about the photography component of her course. She said that the prof for photography made all the students go out and buy an older 35mm slr with no auto focus capability and no built in metering. He wanted them to put a prime lens on it and start shooting. She then went on to say that he is also getting them to develop their own b&w and colour film.

    How refreshing is that to hear? I'm a little out of the university loop (I'm 37 y/o) but I fully expected to hear about digital photography and zoom lenses, etc. etc. I loved hearing that this person shoots only film and loves the feel (both physical and visual) of it.

    Just my little cheer for film for today. Thanks for reading.
     
  2. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Well, is there a better way of learning the photographic process and how to think like a photographer than using fully a fully manual camera and b/w film? How else can one learn what the camera's controls do?
     
  3. Gay Larson

    Gay Larson Member

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    I have been thinking this same thing myself. I don't understand how you can love photography without the basics. It was only when I was given a manual camera about 12 years ago that I became really serious about photography. Before that it was just a snapshot hobby.
     
  4. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I think I mentioned this before but it's like the US NAvy or Coast Guard training some of their personel by spending a certain length of time on an actual sailing vessel. (not a modern day vessel)

    You want to be a sailor, well here, now learn how to sail.

    MIchael
     
  5. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    I'm sure that's part of it but it's also about not letting people cheat.

    Even if they turn off the auto features nothing stops some kid from turning them back on. So you require cameras without the features.
     
  6. DBP

    DBP Member

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    Sailors should learn on sailing vessels so they come to an understanding of how the sea behaves in concert with the wind (don't get me started on powerboaters). Photographers should learn on manual cameras for similar reasons. You are always likely to understand what you can and cannot do if you have a feel for how it works, which is only acquired by having to handle everything yourself. A colleague was taught to drive on a Ford Model A (this was in the late 70's)by his dad for the same reason. And he's a very good driver.
     
  7. Earl Dunbar

    Earl Dunbar Member

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    smileyguy: Go back to Henry's, find the woman, and find out who the prof is. Seems like it would be a good chance to hook up with a like mind, make some connections, etc. A beer or two (Creemore Springs comes to mind as the weather warms) may even be involved... maybe this gentleman would even be glad to hear of APUG.
     
  8. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    That is refreshing to hear. I was talking to a recent college grad and photography came up after her gushing that "she was absolutely crazy about photography"... Well, after a few minutes it came to light that she has never touched a roll of film or a real camera!!! Nice to hear that thre are still some teachers who "keep the faith".
    I think the sailing ship analogy is a great one, to take it a step further, I don't think one should be able to get a driver's license on a car with an automatic transmission (handicaps excluded, of course). After that, do what you will - but learn from the basics. Many so called modern day "computer experts" come to mind as well...
    Oh well, enough whining out of me!

    Peter.
     
  9. smileyguy

    smileyguy Member

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    Great idea, Earl! She did mention his name but I just don't remember it.

    Creemore sounds good but if he's in Guelph Wellington Arkell Best Bitter cask conditioned on tap at the Woolwich Arms sounds even better. Mmmmmm...

    You know what, I think I will go back and ask her who that is again. Great idea.

    I'll update y'all later.
     
  10. bob01721

    bob01721 Member

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    A Jan 06 Washington Post article indicates that this isn't an isolated example.
     
  11. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Hmmm Wellington.
     
  12. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

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    That's one of the silliest things I've ever heard of at University level.
     
  13. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    If the idea of training an architect is started with covering the need for founfation techniques..which I do not know to be true..then this practice seems far from silly to me.
     
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  15. smileyguy

    smileyguy Member

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    Care to expand on that thought, Bill?

    BTW, keep in mind that this is not an MFA in photography or anything like that. This is a general arts degree type of thing intended to prepare students for teaching art in school. They need to know a broad base of skills as it pertains to art.
     
  16. MattCarey

    MattCarey Member

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    My brother was considering buying an old camera shop a couple of years ago. A big part of the business was selling used Pentax K1000's to the local students in the fall and buying them back in the spring.

    Matt
     
  17. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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    I don't suppose that was Suzy Lake was it? A female prof you say? She was there when I went to U of G in '84. But that was a WHIIIILLLE back...!!
     
  18. smileyguy

    smileyguy Member

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    No, it was a man's name at UofG but it was a woman that I spoke to at Henry's.
     
  19. Uncle Bill

    Uncle Bill Subscriber

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    This is cool happening in my backyard. When I picked up a Canon AE1 after two years of a Rebel XS, my photography changed immediately. I miss using FD glass but the AE-1 got traded in for a Nikon F with meter head. Now if there are more professors in the system that would be great.

    Bill
     
  20. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    Well, I fail to see why the students should be allowed to buy film commercially. Manual cameras and prime lenses? Is that all? I propose that they should be required to mix their own chemicals, prepare emulsions, and shoot on glass plates of their own manufacture. If they do not do this, I do not understand how they can possibly learn anything about photography.

    If one wishes to require manual cameras, then I suppose it is fine to keep out that percentage of students who wish to learn photography using more modern techniques that depend - yes - on the proper functioning of automated tools that they do not control personally.

    Tell me - if you see a photograph displayed in a museum, and that photograph is a thing of beauty and you enjoy it - in what way does it mattter that the photographer knew or did not know how to set the aperture on his lens? If you do not know what the photographer's level of expertise is with ancient traditions, does it matter? Is there a value to the photograph beyond its value as an objet d'art? Would your enjoyment be made less or would you be rendered incapable of enjoying a photograph made by a person who does not set their own shutter speed?

    I personally enjoy knowing what my camera is doing, whether I choose to employ automation or not when I make a photograph. I feel that knowing what I do, I am able to bring a more formidable set of tools to my work, with each level of control expanding my ability to control what I wish the viewer to perceive. But that is my choice. To demand that others learn what I know before I will recognize them or their efforts would be hubris.

    I do not look at a Paul Strand print and ask myself if he knew the difference between Rodinal or D-76; whether he used a pre-soak; whether he intentionally selected a particular aperture for a desired effect, or whether he was just setting the aperture to make the exposure correct with relation to the shutter speed. I don't need to know what camera he used - how can that possibly make any difference to my enjoyment of the print? If he lived today and made photographs with a cheap point-and-shoot, would his work be any different? Would I enjoy it less?

    We often say that the photographer, and not the tools, matter more. The photograph, and not the method, are what is important. The result, and not the process, that creates an effect in the viewer.

    Then we claim the opposite, by insisting that the only way to learn photography is to understand and take control of things that we learned to understand and take control of.

    If one must learn to use a prime lens, manual focus, manual shutter speed control, and manual aperture setting, then why not also make their own glass plates? In fact, why not require all photography students to make tintypes? Grind their own lenses?

    When offered the chance to teach the next generation about the art of photography - making photographs - we consistantly ignore, ridicule, and heckle their automated and digital efforts because they are ignorant of the manual methods we had to master. We demand that they learn things that are not important to them, or they are not 'real' photographers. We turn their backs on the next generation so fast it is a wonder we don't auger ourselves into the ground.

    When someday, the work of those 'not real' photographers hangs in museums alongside those of Weston and Adams, how now? Grumble in your beer, wrinklies.
     
  21. DBP

    DBP Member

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    The difference between using manual cameras and starting from scratch to make everything is that learning witha manual camera involves learning to control the variables that directly affect composition, namely plane of focus, perspective, depth of field, and shutter speed. And frankly some things are harder to do with an autofocus camera, unless you turn off all the features (and sometimes even then - the screens are designed for framing, not critical focus). A good example is macrophotography. I usually find that people who learned to drive without power and automatic everything are more aware of how the car behaves under duress, and thus better drivers. I submit the same is true of photographers - those who know how to make the picture the way they want it will do better, even when using something highly automated. I met someone last year who did a lot of macrophotography of flowers. Almost invariably, the plane of focus was the edge of the flower, while some of the body was blurred. She used one of the EOS models, I forget which. She was using the autofocus, which was picking the contrast at the tips of the petals as a focus point, about 1 cm closer than needed given the apparent depth of field. I found myself annoyed by the effect, and thinking how much better the shots could be if she had depth of field preview. I submit that a student is far better off learning with, for example, a old screw mount SLR, than an auto-everything wonder - even an F5. And the student can save hundreds or thousands of dollars in the process. (I wonder when Epson and Cosina are going to partner on a screw-mount, or maybe F-mount, DSLR. It would seem the logical next step if the RD1 sells well.)
     
  22. smileyguy

    smileyguy Member

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    Wigwam Jones, I hear what you're saying. So let's take your argument a few steps further... Let's just not teach photography at all. Let them learn on their own like the original photographers did. Or perhaps like some of us did. I'm sure there are many of us that didn't go to school for photography.

    This is just one guy, teaching at a smallish university in southern Ontario. He's not teaching the future professional photographers at a major arts university. And I'm sure this is not the only thing he teaches nor the only way he teaches it. He's introducing people to photography that may be art teachers in high schools. This is a PART of what they have to learn over their four years there. I don't think there is any crime in taking a small step back from the uber-automated, digital, one size fits all world and having them spend a few bucks on a manual camera and lens and some film. Heavens! Isn't that part of the reason this forum exists?

    Requirements of university courses are everywhere. Texts are a prime example: You MUST have this text and edition, not the edition before it but the current edition. That used to piss me off at university but that was how it worked. A LOT of courses would go further than that with their requirements.

    How would you teach a course like this, Wiggy?
     
  23. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    I am not saying it is not desirable to know these things. However, focus is neither the beginning nor the end of making a photograph. Neither is exposure.

    I agree - but that's just my opinion (and yours apparently). Others feel differently.

    Define 'better' when it comes to photography.

    Change 'will' to 'may' above and I'll agree with you.

    Most of what you say with regard to the positive aspects of understanding one's craft are true. A person who discovers that their choice of tool is negatively affecting their product and who wishes to improve will generally find out how to adjust the camera to make the choices they wish (if possible), or to take manual control (if possible) or replace the camera with one that will allow them to do what they want to do.

    And many are the photographers who are perfectly satisfied with sharp infinity focus on the landscapes they prefer to shoot. If AF and AE produced what they wanted, why did they 'have to' learn MF and manual exposure control?

    You fail to take into account that when producing a print - the ultimate goal of photography (?), there are numerous other factors, none of which was stressed, explained, or even explored in photography classes that I took as a callow youth. Choice of paper? Filtration in enlargement? Developers for film and paper and their effects on grain and edge effects? Sharpness? Lens formulae for particular use - say Petzval versus Double Gauss designs? The list goes on and on - and ALL of these can be said to have effect on a final print - one could affirmatively argue that knowledge and control of these aspects of photography would be a good thing. We do not deride a teacher who fails to teach, say albumen paper versus printing-out-paper - but we howl with indignation if a student is not taught photography on a Pentax K1000 with Tri-X and D-76. Why, they're not learning 'properly'!

    Knowledge is good. Intentional control of the creative process is good. None of these can make a bad photographer into a good one, and true genius will out, regardless of how much the person knows about f-stops. Those with talent who choose to pursue the craft of photography will generally choose to learn more about it, just as a painter with real talent learns about brushes and paints instead of just using whatever is at hand - when the time comes to do so. Requiring it of beginners up front smacks of elitism and a determination to ensure that others go through what we went through - just because.
     
  24. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    I didn't go to school for photography, but I took a course in high school, way back in 1977 or so. In college, I think I took a course on "Mountain Photography" because it looked like a cake course, which it was. Photos of mountains - we have a lot of them in Colorado, where I went to school.

    I agree that this is not a 'major arts university'. Which one did Adams attend? Weston? Winogrand? Strand? Meatyard? I did not know that the photographers we hold in high regards were all arts majors at major universities.

    No one is required to purchase any kit to participate in forums here. Nor, I hope are people's abilities made less of because they do not know how to set their aperture, or why they should.

    He is setting a requirement that does not make any sense in modern terms. Where does one buy a Pentax K1000? Not at the local photography store, assuming that there is one (my town has exactly none). Not at Best Buy or Walmart, certainly. E-Bay? Ah, and if the student ends up buying a non-functional piece of 'mint minus' junk, as many of us have? Make them buy another?

    This requirement alone, I would presume, would turn at least some would-be photographers off from taking the course. Ah, and we say "Good! Get those slackers out of there!" And who knows what future photographic genius we have thwarted in our purity?

    And if one is required to hunt down and purchase a rare manuscript to take a basic course in English Lit? This is not a request that the student come equipped with a camera that one can easily obtain these days.

    I would teach the theory and history of photography, include lots of examples, and encourage my students to take lots of photographs of everything they could think of, having explained how composition affects the final product. For those who were limited by the capabilities of their cameras would be explanations of what could give them more control, should they choose to pursue it - while reminding them that masterpieces have been made with cameras that possessed meniscus lenses and no exposure control whatsoever.

    I would teach that a master understands the limitations of his or her tools and works within them, using their characteristics to best advantage; and that when the tools selected cannot produce the desired result, there are other tools that can allow a finer degree of control.

    In my local photography club there is a woman who at first glance looks like a typical 'Soccer Mom.' She has a point-n-shoot digital camera, and she does not know very much about it - she never fiddles with any of the settings. Sometimes it does not focus where she wants it to, but she knows how to 'fool' it into doing what she wants most times. Her point-n-shoot fortunately has a nice sharp lens and good automated exposure control. She does not understand computers and does not have a darkroom - therefore her photographs are framed in the camera, printed at Walmart, and when she makes an enlargment that requires cropping, she draws lines on a 4x6 print to indicate where she wants the crop made. She has put my best efforts to shame more than once, and I am envious of her talent.

    One can say that she would be so much better if she only had better tools and the knowledge to control them. She does not seem to think so. Her work backs up her choices.

    If one like her attempted to take a basic photography course today, should she be excluded because she did not wish to learn manual focus and exposure control?

    Such demands seem to me to be elitist, snobbish, and ultimately self-defeating to the craft of photography.
     
  25. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    Cheat?

    Do you ask the specifics of how a photograph was made before you can appreciate it? Camera, lens, shutter speed, aperture, and so on? Does it matter to you if the resulting print is on a certain type of paper, or processed with a particular kind of developer, or if a certain enlarger lens was used? If so, I would posit that you're unable to appreciate art - you appreciate craftsmanship instead. Not that this is bad, but it has nothing to do with the final result - how a photograph affects the viewer.

    And if you are more concerned with the craftsmanship of the photograph than the artistic merit it may have, then I would further argue that one is similarly 'cheating' if one does not develop, enlarge, and print their own photographs. Mat and mount their own prints, as well as frame them.

    In fact, why are they permitted to just 'buy' film, chemistry, and paper? Why is it not cheating if we don't require them to make their own?

    One person could say "I have a 1932 Ford roadster that I restored myself. I did all the work on it that I could myself, and farmed out only what I was incapable of doing. I have great pride in my car."

    And another person says "I found a 1932 Ford roadster in terrible shape. I searched out and found the best experts I could, worked with them to determine how the car should look when finished, supervised, and paid for the work. I have great pride in my car."

    Which person is the cheater?

    Which car is worth more?

    And which car would the average person see and consider a work of art?

    We attach value to the product as societies. As individuals, we attach value to the process of making the product. And each of us has our own set of criteria for evaluating that process.

    And it is 'cheating' to rely on auto-exposure why?
     
  26. DBP

    DBP Member

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