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  1. #1
    scootermm's Avatar
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    MFA in photography...

    per the similar BFA in photography thread I thought I would pose my thought process etc in a seperate thread so as not to hijack that seperate and slightly related thread.

    I posted about a year ago about applying to graduate school with the hopes of getting into an MFA program in photography. That application wasnt accepted but this is a task I feel is VERY important for my (at present) life's goals.
    The reason Im posting is to discuss my fears and apprehensions and see what other's thought are on this.
    I studied architecture in college... thats where I was introduced to painting and spent the later part of my undergraduate time being a TA and working on my painting with a friend/advisor/professor. Never did I try or even give a passing consideration to photography. I started out picking up a camera about 4 years ago shooting outdoors (climbing related) and it bloomed from there. Ever since undergrad and my realization of having no desire to pursue architecture all I wanted to do was teach. well.... and to keep making art but to hopefully and eventually help others to do the same through teaching. I also realized that to do that (in the manner I hope to) I would need to get an MFA. Its a check box Im willing to do the effort to check but have alot of apprehensions about it.... in studying the different programs across the country and seeing the "work" that comes out of these programs, well honestly, I am in no way suprised I didnt get accepted.
    Im not in any way "knocking" those individuals work nor their passion to pursue it... I love the diversity. but it makes me apprehensive of the experience. What effect it will have on what is such a strong passionate love of mine...
    will it get distilled... or deformed into something thats "right" in the eyes of the world of present day academia?
    Theres alot of fear as to what the effect it will have on me and my work. I spend so much time self learning (with the much and plentiful help of many APUG members) working at whatever pace I choose... challenging myself and pursuing the work or methods I feel passionate about.
    Does anyone have experience in these regards? going through a graduate program in MFA especially in photography? similiar past fears thoughts etc?

    anyone thats still reading this.... I apologize

  2. #2
    Pastiche's Avatar
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    You know... I'm working on my BFA... so .... there is still a way ahead of me.. although I'm wading into my third year with pleasure.
    I definetly am not stopping at the BFA level, and intend to head off for an MFA. Where? - wherever recognized artists whithin my genre are currently working and teaching! I've thought of CalArts, b/c of Jo Ann Callis, and I recently discovered that although Robert Heinecken is no longer teaching, his long time partner is teaching in New Mexico...
    What I'm getting at, is that as I approach the place where I want to get my work in front of galleries, and more importantly- buyers, AND I want to secure myself a position teaching photography, what has become paramount is WHO is teaching... not where. The idea being that you will learn alot more from someone who has experience in the area of art that you practice, not to make you into a clone, but because they have spent years thinking and working in a particular vein, they will be best suited to push you further down the road...

    Whether someone gets warped or not by the people/departments they come into contact with has alot to do with the personalities involved, and less, I believe, than simple "they are going to put me in their box" . . .

    Just my two cents. I'm sure everyone's mileage will vary.

  3. #3
    laz
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    Noah beat me to it:

    Quote Originally Posted by Noah Huber
    - wherever recognized artists whithin my genre are currently working and teaching!.
    I don't know how you approached your selection and application. The way one applies to a graduate school, in any field, is totally different than undergraduate. As Noah said you first must find out where recognized artists are doing work similar to yours. In graduate school that means finding a faculty member in a MFA program whose work you admire; works in the same genre as you and who you believe would be open to what your own artistic vision is. Then contact that person and express your desire to be his or her student. A good place to start might be that "friend/advisor/professor" who you studied painting with. Talk to him or her about your work and artistic vision and see if they have any suggestions. At the very least this person should be a good reference. It doesn't matter whether it's your painting or photography this person knows, what a graduate program is interested in is your abilities as a student and serious artist. The bottom line for graduate school is that it is not just a continuation of undergraduate education. It's a place fully in the field of your endeavor where you will be mentored rather than just taught.

    As far as your fear that your passion will be "distilled... or deformed into something thats "right" in the eyes of the world of present day academia" Why do you worry? If you aren't willing to accept that fact that part of a formal education is about mastering methods and styles that might very well not be a part of your vision, you don't belong in grad school.

    -Bob
    [SIZE=1]I want everything Galli has![/SIZE]
    [SIZE=1]I want to make images like Gandolfi![/SIZE]
    rlazell@optonline.net

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by scootermm
    Im not in any way "knocking" those individuals work nor their passion to pursue it... I love the diversity. but it makes me apprehensive of the experience. What effect it will have on what is such a strong passionate love of mine...
    will it get distilled... or deformed into something thats "right" in the eyes of the world of present day academia?
    Theres alot of fear as to what the effect it will have on me and my work. I spend so much time self learning (with the much and plentiful help of many APUG members) working at whatever pace I choose... challenging myself and pursuing the work or methods I feel passionate about.
    Does anyone have experience in these regards? going through a graduate program in MFA especially in photography? similiar past fears thoughts etc?

    anyone thats still reading this.... I apologize
    I understand your concerns fully having just graduated from Parsons, MFA. This website on many ocasions was my saving grace in the push/pull mental rigor of graduate school. Remember there job is to break you down at first and its not to be mean or to put you in a particular genre, its because you have to talk about and write about your work in a historical-conceptual-contemporary context. Beleive me it can be done anything can be justified but you see that's the thing they are are going to push you into everything that makes you feel uncomfortable painfull many different tortures one can not imagine. This is done so that you know exactly why you make your work, not just because you like to but because you have a passion for it.

  5. #5

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    Do It Matt!! If you want to meet and discuss over a beer we can do that, but my answer is still the same - Do It!! Now the next question is a bit harder, what do you want to teach? Art/Photography/etc? and at what level...reason for asking, is the art programs at many public secondary schools have been cut back or are gone. At the college level it is a different thing all together, and I can really see you teaching at that level. Guess what I am getting at, if you can 'get through' the MFA program - which I think you can there should be no worries about your own art being distilled or distorted. Think of grad school like a job, you will do what you have to in order to complete the program (just like you would do what you had to do for a job) but you would still have your own work that 'is you'. If some academic program can change that, chances are you would have the same problem with a job...so keep your focus (sorry no pun intended) and go for it. You have the background, learn some of the history of photography, notice how there have always been educators that are out of step with the institutions they work for. Let's keep this discussion going next time we meet up...would love to hear what your thoughts are, and you know I will share mine.
    Mike C

    Rambles

  6. #6

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    Let's see - academia or experience... I don't think that this is an unwarranted question. I took an undergraduate degree in philosophy and completed a masters degree in theology followed by further linguistic studies. I considered a career in academia (Classics) but decided against it in order to follow a career in field linguistics and subsequently photography.
    It's common in school to fall into the pattern of providing what is expected in order to succeed with a degree. Currents of expression in vogue today (although whatever is current passes onto the next 'in' thing) are difficult to swim against and the effort required - for me - wasn't worth the bother. If you can develop and maintain your own 'voice' without having it compromised (as opposed to enhanced) then you'll be on solid ground. Being able to follow your own star has its own rewards. If I needed a particular degree in order to gain access to a particular career door I would do it, enjoy the enjoyable coursework available and hold my nose through the rest. If I didn't need the degree for professional reasons I would just study what appealed to me and make photographs, informally informing myself all the while through reading, experience and observation - something that gets richer the longer one lives. Good luck!

  7. #7

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    I have a theology degree as well (MDiv). I'm not sure there's much difference in one's artistic distinctions being refutiated, if that's what I hear part of your worry is, and one's theological distinctions being refutiated. When I entered seminary my theology was tested and challenged almost to the breaking (quitting) point. Now, years later, I realize that the book learnin' I received, as valuable as it was, was secondary to the discipline I learned from the experience. Not necessarily discipline to the doctrines and arts but to my self awareness of why I believed what I believed and who I was in relation to my existence and passions.

    Very possibly the greatest ability a great photographer or teacher may have is to understand themselves, why they are who they are, why they love what they love, why they see what they see, and then to have the discipline to walk securely through the many minefields in the way of their passions; which, by the way, may very well be their avocation.

    If you have the ability to remain disciplined to your individual artistic distinctions while learning the "institutional art disciplines" then experience will lead you into holistic disciplined individualism of the best and most expressive sort.

    Jeese, I've rambled on again. Be true to your abilities and passions and disciplined toward the goal.
    Good luck.
    [COLOR=Blue][FONT=Georgia]Jim Anderson[/FONT][/COLOR]

  8. #8
    Curt's Avatar
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    They keep you alive to serve their ship!

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    If you need a degree in MFA, you need to get one. But for teaching, depending on the level or teaching, you can do that with an undergrad degree. I've seen some in the U.S. All you need is your portfolio and the basic knowledge of photography. It could be a part time job to start, but might not be a bad idea.

    Or if you're wiiling to travel abroad, you can make it more interesting. I've seen a lot of English native speakers teaching English and doing pursuing other things. Maybe you can teach photography there. In case of Japan, you don't need much previous training in Japanese even applying for the government-run English teaching program. There are these English teachers who have plenty of spare time with enough income. Some of them have a plan to go back to gradschool later, and others want to stay longer or teach in another country, etc.

    If you have a particular place in mind and want to photograph in an extensive period of time, like one or two years at least, this will be your option.

    Good luck.

  10. #10

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    I guess you need to ask yourself at what level you want to teach. If you want to have a tenured position at a higher level institution you will need the MFA.

    As someone else mentioned many community colleges and smaller private colleges need instructors and usually require less initial background. Such institutions are usually more flexible in how courses are taught by the instructor. You can also teach at different institutions. I have a friend who owns a business but with a background in meteorology and physics teaches courses part-time a the local community college and a priviate school. You could also teach the occasional workshop.

    One thing to keep in mind when persuing an MFA and PHD is that you basically have to tow the party line and kiss a lot of ass to get through the process easily. Most professors have their own ideas and theories about your chossen profession and they are going to try to get you to adapt their views. You will have to play along to achieve your goals, especially when dealing with thesis advisors or committees.

    I personally would explore teaching on the community college level first and see if I enjoy teaching in a academic framework.
    "Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
    Robert Adams

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