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.

sincerely,
Jonathan