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  1. #31

    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    Medium Format
    I'm doing some work at the big art school here in Minneapolis and there is no escaping the juggernaut of "narrative portraiture" here. Folks like Alec Soth and David Hilliard (who are both really great guys, btw) are held up as the example of how one should shoot.

    Personally, I think that narrative portraiture boils down to "disaffected affluent white people sitting on a bed and staring off into their uncertain futures" but the art buying world just loves it -- for right now.

    My prof is distinctly anti-digital as was the prof who taught intermediate. There is a big emphasis on digital at this school, but I think everyone there realizes that digital is great for composites and photojournalism and lousy for fine art.

  2. #32
    Sparky's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Los Angeles
    Multi Format
    Quote Originally Posted by noseoil
    At out last informal large format gathering, he had expressed his concerns about the direction taken at a university level degree in photography. Equipment was being poorly maintained, mistreated and the general state of image making was rather poor with respect to quality. "Conceptual photography" was emphasized, not photographic skill.

    I'm wondering about the technical skills of the instructors at this level. Are they proficient in their ability to make a fine print in a wet darkroom? Is the mastery of materials an aid to a degree, or is it just something mentioned in passing? Are people being pushed to improve their skills, or just herded along to get a grade and then turned loose in the world?

    Well - ASSUMING this is coming about from the emphasis being taught at the school (i.e. - RESULTS over the 'technical'), I don't really see this as being a bad thing at all. I went to what many considered to be the best art school in Canada (for photography)... I thought they had a terrific approach. You want to learn ANYTHING technical - beyond why there's no light coming on in the enlarger - well - go to the library... it's very well stocked! School is about image making and aesthetic/philosophical choices and why we make them. It shouldn't be about jerking off with your equipment (oops! did I just SAY that?). You'll have lots of time to do that when school's out. Hell - get your own darkroom and do what you want. They gave us many liberties - and heck, I took them. But you'd BETTER be prepared to defend your work. What I liked BEST about it was the way the profs would just stay out of the way... they would help nudge the students in the right direction - but for the most part it was 'guided crits'. Get the students to decide for themselves with somewhat careful reasoning - what makes a good photograph and what doesn't. It was actually really great. Our crits would start about 6-7PM and go until 2 in the morning sometimes. Talk about being involved. But we would rarely, if ever, get into discussions about toners or using 'this lens' over 'that lens'. It was more about "what are you trying to say with this photograph?". If it sucked - try to suggest that "it's not working" - and maybe it's because of this or this or that... and if it was working - then "this is why"... this was the early eighties... and it didn't hurt either that the classes were pretty mixed. Street photographer types, conceptual art types, sculpture students wanting to incorporate photography, adult students wanting to know what's out there... you name it. Anyway - I am very happy with my art school education and found it valuable in the extreme. I'm very pleased that we focussed on what matters in the medium. Could do with a bit more of that around here, to my mind.

    end rant.


  3. #33
    Christopher Walrath's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    In a darkroom far, far away...
    Multi Format
    Blog Entries
    Anyone know a university hiring an analog photogrpahy prof?
    Thank you.

    "Wubba, wubba, wubba. Bing, bang, bong. Yuck, yuck, yuck and a fiddle-dee-dee." - The Yeti

  4. #34

    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Multi Format
    I am currently a photography student at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn Illinois (about 25 miles from downtown Chicago). This is a 'junior college' or 'community college', a 2 year program.

    And as to your points/questions..

    The equipment at my school is well maintained, the black and white printing 'gang' darkrooms are stocked with roughly 35 4x5" enlargers and one 8x10 elwood enlarger (split to two separate rooms, one equipped for 35mm and one intended for the more advanced students and geared to larger formats, offering 4 cold light heads) The studios have just recently been upgraded to new Profoto strobes and powerpacks, stuff that is broken is generally fixed quickly and when things get damaged measures are taken to ensure students understand how to avoid damage in the first place.

    The way the program is run it divides the emphasis on concept and technical quite well, with a separate class for pure lecture on the concepts of image making and one for technical skills needed for image making (photographic skill, darkroom work) at the beginner and intermediate level.

    While most of the instructors don't generally show their work off, I have seen the work of some of the instructors and it is quite good, the traditional black and white prints are superb and the traditional color work is also very good, nearly all of the instructors I have talked at length to, full time or part time seem to primarily focus on large format.

    About the mastery of the materials I believe it is required in order to succeed in the program, if you are producing prints (digital or analog) or transparencies that are not technically great you will not receive a high grade and will be informed of the issues. Mastery of materials at my school seems to be a very big aspect to the program, after all the name for it in the college catalog is "Photography Technology".

    Are students being pushed to improve their skills I believe this is true for nearly every instructor and every class, it is up to the student to take the initiative though, some students just don't seem to care and go through the program without pushing themselves... some students take the advice and opportunity of the environment and are pushed to learn more and improve their skills.. The motivation to improve is given by the instructors, but many students aren't motivated to improve and learn the depths of the technique whether it be digital or analog.

    I don't believe anyone is herded along, I believe some students do as little as possible to get through it and some students use the instructors as someone who can help them improve and learn. On this topic I believe the student is more of a problem than anything an instructor can do, you just cant get some students to work hard.

    At my school the wet darkroom is not a thing of the past, every student is required to spend at least one full semester in the wet darkroom (likewise every student must spend at least one semester learning digital). As well as the requirement of the history of photography class that puts an emphasis on old processes there is an alternate processes class that while isn't required, is usually taken by many students as part of their required "elective" courses. With this being said, there has been a marked drop in the amount of people filling up the darkrooms in the past year. When given the choice most students (likely at least 75%) will choose to go digital... This doesn't reflect on the program as much as where the students and the world at large are headed, In my opinion the program seems to encourage students to do what they please yet still kind of hinting that analog may be an option where the students could learn more.

    The school I attend offers two separate paths, one focusing on digital and one on film. All students leave the program having experienced the zone system working in a traditional black and white darkroom, having worked with color transparency and negative, and having done digital capture and printing as well as worked with 35mm, med format and 4x5 in the studio and in the field. In some ways there is an emphasis on digital sprouting through the cracks, just this year they stopped making traditional color prints in the color classes and converted the color darkrooms to 'color ink jet' rooms yet you must still work with color slides/negs in order to get a degree, prints are merely made digitally or through a commercial printer.

    Some instructors emphasize that people ARE still shooting things traditionally out there, though there is the realization that digital is king in the commercial world.. and seeing as the program leans more toward commercial than fine art students do leave having a firm grasp of the digital technology whether they choose to or not..
    "Where is beauty? Where I must will with my whole Will; where I will love and perish, that an image may not remain merely an image."

  5. #35
    Kimberly Anderson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
    Multi Format

    I have disagreed with many of your comments in the past, although I have not publicly disagreed with them on the board.

    However, now that I really strongly agree with what you have said below I feel compelled to say it publicly.

    I am teaching an 8-week course in beginning photography as an adjunct professor starting in May. The first section of the course will be digital and the emphasis will be on learning how to *see* and *make photographs*. The last section will be on learning how to use a manual film camera, process and print the images.

    Hopefully by the time they get to the film camera, the ideas and theory of composition, light, thought process, etc., will have settled into their brains.

    When we move into the darkroom it is my opinion that it will be a better experience because they won't be confused with the thinking part of photography and can concentrate on the mechanical part of photography.

    Anyhow, that's how I've proposed to teach the class, and the faculty is recieving it extremely well. We'll see how the students do.

    Quote Originally Posted by blansky
    I think that photography schools have to teach students marketable skills. Therefore digital is the way to go since it is the way of the future and virtually every commercial photography business is digital.

    Someone training to be a truck driver today does not learn how to drive a mule team.

    I also think that analog should be taught as well and that courses should be available for everyone to learn these techniques. But when one goes to school for a degree, they should come out with marketable skills and fortunately or unfortunately digital is where the future is going.

    Right now we are on the cusp of the changeover from traditional to digital. In ten years analog may be just a fine art or hobbiests pursuit.

    An architectural student should learn how to use a slide rule and make drawings but his focus should be using the computer to learn and make his drawings on.

    I think the US Navy has a program where sailors spend a certain amount of time learning to sail on large sailboats.

    So my point is, the schools need to make people marketable but teaching the tradition is also an asset.


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