Luminous Landscape Forum

The Art of Photography => The Coffee Corner => Topic started by: BenjaminKanarek on January 20, 2010, 08:14:07 AM

Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: BenjaminKanarek on January 20, 2010, 08:14:07 AM
"Photography Teachers?" Revisited

I have recently noticed several advertisements of those that are “teaching” photography.  At a school of photography as a guest speaker I was asked what my thoughts were regarding the whole “I can teach you photography” thing. Well here goes. I don’t subscribe to that concept for many reasons. One is how to stunt the growth of a new student by teaching them rules about what is and what isn’t right for a starter.  Another is the often over used formulas that in most cases these “specialists” teach the naive student as gospel

I do however have no problem with a school that assists one in understanding technical issues or a school that deals with the historical and artistic aspects of photography. But a school that deals with issues such as cropping, lighting style etc…Well that’s where I put my foot down and say an unequivocal NO, Nein, Non.

I have had so many poor lost assistants whom I would rather not pinpoint specifically, that have no clue what so ever who they are. If they did come into a school of photography with the hopes of coming out an individual, well that notion was sucked out of them by the energy vampires. I’m not saying that all profs are frustrated unsuccessful photographers that couldn’t make it in their field. However from what I have seen and heard, one could not help but make that assumption.

I am saying that guest speakers, workshops and specialized subjects dealing with specific technical issues might be a reason to seek out advice or when a guest lecturer has come in to speak of his or her experiences, as I did at the Orleans School of Photography in France. Do your research. Read, experiment, take tons of photos inspire yourself and grow as a human. Build up your vocabulary in all disciplines and your life shall be richer as a result. It has been proven that the greater the vocabulary the richer ones life. Take a deep breath and do what comes naturally. If you get stuck creatively, take a short break.  If you need some technical advice, just ask questions.

http://www.benjaminkanarekblog.com/2009/09...graphy-classes/ (http://www.benjaminkanarekblog.com/2009/09/07/learning-photography-classes/)

Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: RSL on January 20, 2010, 10:51:20 AM
Banjamin,

Elliott Erwitt would agree with you. He once said: "Making pictures is a very simple act. There is no great secret in photography...schools are a bunch of crap." He also said: "Good photography is not about 'Zone Printing' or any other Ansel Adams nonsense. It's just about seeing. You either see, or you don't see. The rest is academic. Photography is simply a function of noticing things. Nothing more."

HCB also agreed, but I can't find the quote at the moment. It was something to the effect that there's nothing to "teach." Everything you need to know is included in the instruction book that comes with the camera's fine leather case. But the thing he said that every serious photographer needs to take to heart is this: "Photographing is nothing. Looking is everything."
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Justan on January 20, 2010, 11:31:12 AM

A “professional” field that doesn’t involve lots guided study can be only a stepping stone to a career that includes asking tough questions such as “Do you want fries with that?”
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: RSL on January 20, 2010, 11:51:09 AM
Quote from: Justan
A “professional” field that doesn’t involve lots of guided study can be only a stepping stone to a career that includes asking tough questions such as “Do you want fries with that?”

Justan, Except in art. Ever wonder why people with PhD's in art or in "art appreciation" aren't all world-famous artists? What, exactly, does a degree in "art" mean? I know it means you can hit the lecture circuit, "curate," judge art shows or write reviews about them, etc., but how many people with degrees in art really are top-notch artists?
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Eric Myrvaagnes on January 20, 2010, 12:30:14 PM
I don't know about photography schools or degrees, but in my own experience a good teacher can open one's eyes to possibilities one might never have considered. I have taken three photography workshops in my life, two from Minor White and one from Paul Caponigro. Neither one spent any time talking about the nuts and bolts, although each would give succinct answers to specific technical questions when asked.

The workshops were about seeing, and I and many others learned a lot from both masters. But neither of them pushed any kind of "rules" of composition or anything else.

In my view, if you have an open mind and willingness to learn, you can get a great deal studying with a true master. And you are likely to get zilch from a hack.

Eric

Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Kirk Gittings on January 20, 2010, 12:36:21 PM
Quote from: RSL
Justan, Except in art. Ever wonder why people with PhD's in art or in "art appreciation" aren't all world-famous artists? What, exactly, does a degree in "art" mean? I know it means you can hit the lecture circuit, "curate," judge art shows or write reviews about them, etc., but how many people with degrees in art really are top-notch artists?


That is silly, those PHDs in "art" are not in "Art"-they are in art history, art theory or some other academic field that studies art and artists. They are not artists but academics who study them-of course they are not successful artists. If you are talking about the teachers of art practice at universities. They are usually MFAs and many of them at the schools I have taught at are top notch recognized artist.

Personally I have been teaching photography in universities and workshops for 30+ years. but I have always made most of my living through commercial work and print sales. IMO art is hard to teach at the university level because art is impossible to quantify and therefore grade. As a result I have been most happy at my latest venue which grades on a simple pass fail system and workshops.
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: RSL on January 20, 2010, 12:42:54 PM
Quote from: Eric Myrvaagnes
I don't know about photography schools or degrees, but in my own experience a good teacher can open one's eyes to possibilities one might never have considered. I have taken three photography workshops in my life, two from Minor White and one from Paul Caponigro. Neither one spent any time talking about the nuts and bolts, although each would give succinct answers to specific technical questions when asked.

The workshops were about seeing, and I and many others learned a lot from both masters. But neither of them pushed any kind of "rules" of composition or anything else.

In my view, if you have an open mind and willingness to learn, you can get a great deal studying with a true master. And you are likely to get zilch from a hack.

Eric

Eric, I certainly can't disagree with that, but I'd argue that looking carefully at the work of the masters can give you the same result. Going through something like Elliott Erwitt's Personal Best, or Walker Evans's The Hungry Eye, or Robert Frank's The Americans can open your eyes to all sorts of possibilities. I do understand that a lot of people get a comfy feeling from conversing with another person, but that's a different kind of thing.
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: RSL on January 20, 2010, 12:53:13 PM
Quote from: Kirk Gittings
That is silly, those PHDs in "art" are not in "Art"-they are in art history, art theory or some other academic field that studies art and artists. They are not artists but academics who study them-of course they are not successful artists. If you are talking about the teachers of art practice at universities. They are usually MFAs and many of them at the schools I have taught at are top notch recognized artist.

Thanks, Kirk. That's the kind of engaged response I expected to get. I agree about the specialties you mention, and I've thoroughly enjoyed a number of art history lectures by qualified people. On the other hand, I'd like someone to explain to me the value of "art theory."  Seems to me that creating art has nothing to do with theory. From your last sentence I gather you disagree with Erwitt and Cartier-Bresson.

Quote
Personally I have been teaching photography in universities and workshops for 30+ years. but I have always made most of my living through commercial work and print sales. IMO art is hard to teach at the university level because art is impossible to quantify and therefore grade. As a result I have been most happy at my latest venue which grades on a simple pass fail system and workshops.

You actually tried to "grade" art? Wow! How do you decide who "passes" and who "fails?"
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Kirk Gittings on January 20, 2010, 01:34:07 PM
Quote from: RSL
Thanks, Kirk. That's the kind of engaged response I expected to get. I agree about the specialties you mention, and I've thoroughly enjoyed a number of art history lectures by qualified people. On the other hand, I'd like someone to explain to me the value of "art theory."  Seems to me that creating art has nothing to do with theory. From your last sentence I gather you disagree with Erwitt and Cartier-Bresson.

You actually tried to "grade" art? Wow! How do you decide who "passes" and who "fails?"


I don't teach theory, because I've never studied it and frankly don't really understand it enough to teach it or discuss it intelligently, but people I know do and it seems interesting and valid.

"From your last sentence I gather you disagree with Erwitt and Cartier-Bresson". Yes I do. They are making broad generalities for all photographers out of their personal narrow experience. I don't. Some people don't need schools and some benefit enormously from them. There are many valid paths. My son is one of the top web designers in the country, and has never had a computer class-he studied biology in school. Does that mean based on my sons example that no one needs to take a computer class to do web design? Of course not.

Of course you grade students on their art produced for a university studio art class, what else would I grade them on? Personally, as aesthetics are difficult to quantify, I grade more on effort and technical proficiency.
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Joe Behar on January 20, 2010, 01:35:52 PM
Quote from: RSL
Eric, I certainly can't disagree with that, but I'd argue that looking carefully at the work of the masters can give you the same result. Going through something like Elliott Erwitt's Personal Best, or Walker Evans's The Hungry Eye, or Robert Frank's The Americans can open your eyes to all sorts of possibilities. I do understand that a lot of people get a comfy feeling from conversing with another person, but that's a different kind of thing.

Interesting viewpoint Russ. Please allow me to play devil's advocate for a moment.

When you look at a fine image from one of the "masters" what you see is the end result. You don't have the story behind it. What's just outside the frame that the photographer chose to leave out? How did he/she arrive at that final crop? How did he/she decide on the vantage point for the photo?

You were right when  you said its just about seeing. The issue is that sometimes we THINK we see the right image, when in fact we include extraeneous information or leave out something essential. The real image we see in our mind's eye is, quite often, either just a portion of what appears in the photo or more than we include in the photo. I think that's why cropping generates a lot of interesting debates.

A good teacher will not show you the best crop, vantage point or exposure, they will teach you how to look for it so you can "just see"

The only way to do that effectively is to go out and shoot with a "teacher"

Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: RSL on January 20, 2010, 02:51:34 PM
Quote from: Joe Behar
Interesting viewpoint Russ. Please allow me to play devil's advocate for a moment.

When you look at a fine image from one of the "masters" what you see is the end result. You don't have the story behind it. What's just outside the frame that the photographer chose to leave out? How did he/she arrive at that final crop? How did he/she decide on the vantage point for the photo?

Joe, That's exactly why I try to find books that include some of the masters' contact sheets. The "expanded" edition of Looking In, the catalog for Robert Frank's show currently at the Metropolitan has the contact sheet for each of the photographs in The Americans. There are couple of Cartier-Bresson's contacts in his Scrapbook. But in the final analysis, what difference does it make how you decide on a vantage point? The important thing is that you decide on one.

Quote
You were right when  you said its just about seeing. The issue is that sometimes we THINK we see the right image, when in fact we include extraeneous information or leave out something essential. The real image we see in our mind's eye is, quite often, either just a portion of what appears in the photo or more than we include in the photo. I think that's why cropping generates a lot of interesting debates.

A good teacher will not show you the best crop, vantage point or exposure, they will teach you how to look for it so you can "just see"

You won't learn anything about the "best crop" from Cartier-Bresson because he didn't crop. As far as the "real" image being in our mind's eye is concerned, that's exactly why you need to learn to shoot in such a way that you don't need to crop. If you learn that, the "real" image is either exactly what you see in the viewfinder, or it's a part you've decided to reduce the scene to before you trip the shutter. I keep running into this idea that you can go out and bang away and then come back, throw the result on a monitor, and start looking for pictures. It seems to be something that a lot of "teachers" teach, but, as Elliott said, "It's crap."

Quote
The only way to do that effectively is to go out and shoot with a "teacher"

I don't agree. As a matter of fact, I think that going out and shooting with a "teacher" is a good way to strangle your own approach and compress your creativity into someone else's frame. A teacher makes judgments for you. They may be the right judgments for the teacher, but not necessarily for you.
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Joe Behar on January 20, 2010, 04:06:21 PM
Quote from: RSL
Joe, That's exactly why I try to find books that include some of the masters' contact sheets. The "expanded" edition of Looking In, the catalog for Robert Frank's show currently at the Metropolitan has the contact sheet for each of the photographs in The Americans. There are couple of Cartier-Bresson's contacts in his Scrapbook. But in the final analysis, what difference does it make how you decide on a vantage point? The important thing is that you decide on one.



You won't learn anything about the "best crop" from Cartier-Bresson because he didn't crop. As far as the "real" image being in our mind's eye is concerned, that's exactly why you need to learn to shoot in such a way that you don't need to crop. If you learn that, the "real" image is either exactly what you see in the viewfinder, or it's a part you've decided to reduce the scene to before you trip the shutter. I keep running into this idea that you can go out and bang away and then come back, throw the result on a monitor, and start looking for pictures. It seems to be something that a lot of "teachers" teach, but, as Elliott said, "It's crap."



I don't agree. As a matter of fact, I think that going out and shooting with a "teacher" is a good way to strangle your own approach and compress your creativity into someone else's frame. A teacher makes judgments for you. They may be the right judgments for the teacher, but not necessarily for you.

Russ,

You make a couple of good points, but I'll disagree with you on the last one.

Learning in a vacuum is not a good thing (IMO) You should not let anyone stifle your creativity, or lead you down a path that is not "yours" but the whole idea of a teacher or mentor is to show you possibilities and options. Pursue them if you wish, or abandon them, but hear them out.....Much like the difference between looking and seeing, there is a difference between listening and hearing.

Either way, its all good and the bottom line is, if you're making images that please yourself (assuming we're talking about a hobbyist here), then you're on the right track.

Joe
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: RSL on January 20, 2010, 04:15:20 PM
Quote from: Joe Behar
Russ,

You make a couple of good points, but I'll disagree with you on the last one.

Learning in a vacuum is not a good thing (IMO) You should not let anyone stifle your creativity, or lead you down a path that is not "yours" but the whole idea of a teacher or mentor is to show you possibilities and options. Pursue them if you wish, or abandon them, but hear them out.....Much like the difference between looking and seeing, there is a difference between listening and hearing.

Either way, its all good and the bottom line is, if you're making images that please yourself (assuming we're talking about a hobbyist here), then you're on the right track.

Joe

Joe, I think we're both on the same sheet of music. I think there are some who respond well to that kind of teaching and others who'd rather figure it out themselves. I think the possibilities and options are all there in the kind of shows and books I mentioned, but I know from experience that some people don't learn that way. I did software engineering for 30 years after I retired from the Air Force, and I taught computer science for a while. One thing I learned was that the people who were the best software architects and programmers were all self-taught. I think art, music, math, and the kind of logic you need to build good software are inborn abilities. That doesn't mean you don't need to work your butt off to exploit those abilities, but it does mean that without the ability you'll never be really good at those things. I also think that if you have the ability and you develop the desire, you'll learn, with or without a live teacher.
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Paul Sumi on January 20, 2010, 04:31:48 PM
Oddly enough, one of my best teachers of photography wasn't a photography teacher at all.  He was a working pro teaching a college class in television direction.  I'd show him my prints for a photography class I was taking at the same time and we discussed them in his office.

He didn't know a damn thing about photography, per se, but he really knew how to tell a story visually.  To him, my photos were like freeze frames at key moments in a TV show or movie.  He showed me how to think critically about my image and whether or not it told the story as well as it could.  He didn't teach me photography, he taught me how to see.

Paul
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Joe Behar on January 20, 2010, 04:52:09 PM
Quote from: RSL
Joe, I think we're both on the same sheet of music. I think there are some who respond well to that kind of teaching and others who'd rather figure it out themselves.

Russ,

So what you're saying is that people are different?  

Huh...who'd have thunk?

Yes, I think we are on the same page here.

Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Justan on January 21, 2010, 09:29:08 AM
Quote from: RSL

> Except in art.

It’s possible to achieve a lot without formal study. But the thing is that maybe 1 in 20 million are actually successful at doing it that way. Doesn’t matter what field.

On the other hand, the lecture circuit for all kinds of get rich/successful quick schemes is endless. People pander to the cult of success without work because a) lots of people think they can achieve something without doing the work and  lots of people make good $$ by promoting that fantasy.

> Ever wonder why people with PhD's in art or in "art appreciation" aren't all world-famous artists?

No. First, not all want to be. There are a wide range of reasons to earn a degree in art or any other field. Second, I don’t think any university offers a PhD program for ”art appreciation.” "Art appreciation" is typically an intro or continuing ed class taught by a grad student, someone with MA/MS, or some octogenarian who does it for kicks.

I'm guessing you mean Art History. You would do yourself some good to read a little about what it takes to earn an under grad, grad, or PhD degree in that field. If your comment didn’t miss the target by a wide margin it would come across as an empty disparagement. In any event, it’s a red herring.

But more to the point, you will find that higher education employs a lot of successful artists that also practice the art of helping others to learn. Historically the vast majority of successful artists worked their way through guild/apprenticeship systems. The U system is a functional replacement of that.

> What, exactly, does a degree in "art" mean? I know it means you can hit the lecture circuit, "curate," judge art shows or write reviews about them, etc., but how many people with degrees in art really are top-notch artists?

Call any state university that has a school or art. Ask to talk or correspond by email with the dean of the department or their assistant. When you do, ask him or her how many nationally ranked artists teach at their U. You may be surprised. Here is an faculty roster from a local U: http://art.washington.edu/index.php?id=200 (http://art.washington.edu/index.php?id=200) If you were to do this kind of research at one of the nicer private schools you may be amazed. Then take a look at the degree requirements. Once you do that you’ll have an idea of what a degree in “art” means. At this point, by your own word, you don’t know. Were you to look, you’ll probably find that there are a heck of a lot more top notch artists with a degree than without.

Now lets try to be direct.

What do you think the odds of success are with a formal education?

What are the odds of success without it?

That’s what I'm sayin.




Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: RSL on January 21, 2010, 10:18:57 AM
Quote from: Justan
What do you think the odds of success are with a formal education?

What are the odds of success without it?

That’s what I'm sayin.

Justan, Your points are well taken, and, yes, I overstated the case and possibly (in the spirit of full disclosure) pulled a few legs.

But to deal with your questions you first have to define "success." Let's take Henri Cartier-Bresson as an example. Henri desperately wanted to be a painter. "Painting has been my obsession from the time that my 'mythical father', my father's brother, led me into his studio during the Christmas holidays in 1913, when I was five years old. There I lived in the atmosphere of painting; I inhaled the canvases." He studied painting under Andre Lhote, but never was able to become the kind of successful painter he wanted to be. It was a God-given ability he simply hadn't been given. As it turned out photography and the "decisive moment" was the gift he'd been given. He never went to school to learn photography. He started out by buying a view camera and trying to emulate Atget, but soon found that that wasn't his metier either. Then he picked up the Leica and, to coin a cliche, the rest is history. Now, was Henri "successful?" He wanted to be a painter and failed, even though he'd had an extensive formal education in painting. He'd never thought of being a photographer and never had a "formal" education in photography, but he ended up being the most influential photographer of the twentieth century. Was that success? From our point of view it certainly was. From his point of view? Certainly not. Late in life he gave up photography and went back to drawing and painting, which was his first love.

Yes, I do mean art history, and, believe it or not I have some idea of what it takes to become familiar with the history of art. By the way, recently I discovered the lecture series put out by The Teaching Company. I own and have gone through the 48 lecture series on "A History of European Art," the 24 lecture series on "Masterpieces of American Art," the 24 lecture series on "Museum Masterpieces: The Louvre," and the 24 lecture series, "From Monet to Van Gogh, A History of Impressionism." I commend all of these to anyone interested in visual art -- including photography.

Actually I do think that if you want to be a painter formal education can save you a lot of time. There are so many materials to consider, etc., that trying to learn the basics on your own is a Herculean task. But, again, if you don't have the God-given talent, all the formal education in the world isn't going to make you a successful painter. Music's the same way. I studied the piano for ten years and thought I wanted to be a concert pianist. I didn't have the talent, but by the end of ten years I certainly knew the mechanics. Without the formal training I'd never have gotten off the ground. But "success?" Depends on what you mean.
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Rob C on January 21, 2010, 04:17:50 PM
Nope, don't buy any of it; I return as ever to my own view which is the same as the OP and Russ both say: you can or you can't. And that's all from you and nobody else holds your key. Nobody else can teach you how to see which, I think we all agree, is the name of the game.

It's nice to hope you can buy it but you can't; it does make for a handy side-line, though. As I have said before, you can teach the mechanics but never the soul.

Rob C

Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: kbolin on January 21, 2010, 08:29:08 PM
Reminds of a saying I once heard

"Those who can, DO!"
"Those who can't, TEACH!"

Hummm... where does that put some of as that do & teach?    
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Eric Myrvaagnes on January 21, 2010, 09:58:48 PM
Quote from: Rob C
Nope, don't buy any of it; I return as ever to my own view which is the same as the OP and Russ both say: you can or you can't. And that's all from you and nobody else holds your key. Nobody else can teach you how to see which, I think we all agree, is the name of the game.

It's nice to hope you can buy it but you can't; it does make for a handy side-line, though. As I have said before, you can teach the mechanics but never the soul.

Rob C
It sure sounds as if you're right, Rob. Surely nobody could ever teach you how to see. Fortunately, some of the rest of us have had the good fortune to encounter good teachers and to have an open mind about learning.  

Eric


Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: DarkPenguin on January 22, 2010, 11:43:57 AM
Quote from: RSL
Joe, That's exactly why I try to find books that include some of the masters' contact sheets. The "expanded" edition of Looking In, the catalog for Robert Frank's show currently at the Metropolitan has the contact sheet for each of the photographs in The Americans. There are couple of Cartier-Bresson's contacts in his Scrapbook. But in the final analysis, what difference does it make how you decide on a vantage point? The important thing is that you decide on one.

http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/t...ammo-books.html (http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2010/01/the-contact-sheet-from-ammo-books.html)
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Justan on January 22, 2010, 01:16:47 PM
Quote from: RSL


>Justin, Your points are well taken, and, yes, I overstated the case and possibly (in the spirit of full disclosure) pulled a few legs.

I know, but it was still an erroneous premise of your argument. You can do better.

> Now, was Henri "successful?" He wanted to be a painter and failed, even though he'd had an extensive formal education in painting. He'd never thought of being a photographer and never had a "formal" education in photography, but he ended up being the most influential photographer of the twentieth century.

To the point of success, to the individual success is a vastly different thing than it is to the objective viewer. “Success” is more about perspective and feelings than objectivity, at least in the context you’re describing.

> "Painting has been my obsession from the time that my 'mythical father', my father's brother, led me into his studio during the Christmas holidays in 1913, when I was five years old. There I lived in the atmosphere of painting; I inhaled the canvases."

> He studied painting under Andre Lhote, but never was able to become the kind of successful painter he wanted to be. It was a God-given ability he simply hadn't been given. As it turned out photography and the "decisive moment" was the gift he'd been given. He never went to school to learn photography.

You pointed out that he had a long formal education in painting. My point is NOT that one needs a degree in photography, even though training obviously helps all but the most benighted. My point is that to be successful at anything you need a formal education, unless maybe you are that 1 in 20 million that has a gift beyond compare. And even then, historically the vast majority of the most successful artists were members of some guild or artistic community during at least their formative time.

Consider as examples that both Michelangelo and L dV trained for years in guilds, and they were definitely amongst those 1 in 20 million. Henri started his formal art education at the age of 5. He was also amongst those 1 in 20 million.

> Late in life he gave up photography and went back to drawing and painting, which was his first love.

Have you seen his drawings and paintings? Did he suck at it or was his inability largely imagined?

It’s good to change things after a while. No matter how good the career, there comes a point when all but those bereft of spirit say “It’s time to do something different.”

> Yes, I do mean art history, and, believe it or not I have some idea of what it takes to become familiar with the history of art. By the way, recently I discovered the lecture series put out by The Teaching Company. I own and have gone through the 48 lecture series on "A History of European Art," the 24 lecture series on "Masterpieces of American Art," the 24 lecture series on "Museum Masterpieces: The Louvre," and the 24 lecture series, "From Monet to Van Gogh, A History of Impressionism." I commend all of these to anyone interested in visual art -- including photography.

I don’t know the series but what you are describing is way more than a good start to a study of art history, but it’s not nearly the same thing as actually studying it. I suggest you or anyone audit a survey class at a local college. That’s steps beyond an art appreciation class, btw. You will like it if you want to learn something.

> Actually I do think that if you want to be a painter formal education can save you a lot of time. There are so many materials to consider, etc., that trying to learn the basics on your own is a Herculean task.

Formal education/training is all about saving time by accepting guidance. What one does with that, and dumb luck, often plays a bigger role in one’s success than anything else.

> Music's the same way. I studied the piano for ten years and thought I wanted to be a concert pianist. I didn't have the talent, but by the end of ten years I certainly knew the mechanics. Without the formal training I'd never have gotten off the ground. But "success?" Depends on what you mean.

Here we come to your other point, about going through a considerable formal effort and finding no pot of gold at the end. Certainly not all paths through education, formal or otherwise, lead to putting one at the top of any heap. I'm not suggesting otherwise.

The best you can get from education is the opportunity to be the best trained you’re willing to work for. If you do your best, you will run into and learn how to get around a number of limitations. You will also find some you can’t get around. If you do less than your best, then that’s what your education will be. Guidance goes a loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong way. Education is what took culture out of the dark ages. Our culture values education highly because it works.

The issue on the relationship between education and success is much more subtle than yes/no. Success can’t always be quantified by the ability to meet a specific goal. In other words, success doesn't offer rewards on a linear scale. Despite whatever impasse you came to with piano playing, your broader comments here clearly show a long series of successes. Mostly because you were willing to try. I predict that every one of those successes happened because you did the necessary steps, and I'm sure you did it with great attention to detail. You learned how to approach detailed precise ongoing projects from….?

The obverse is also true: refusing to get an education all but guarantees a pattern of failure.

Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: RSL on January 22, 2010, 07:47:43 PM
Justan, I stand properly dressed down, though I haven't changed my mind about any of what I said. I still believe, based on the evidence available to me, which is considerable, that in art, music, math, and the kind of logic you need to do good software architecture, you either have it or you don't have it. Formal education can help you learn the mechanics but it can't change the gifts you've been given by your maker. To go even further, if you have a gift and it burns in you, you'll educate yourself, with or without the formal part.

To answer your question: Yes, I've seen enough of HCB's drawings and paintings to know that they suck, though I wouldn't say he sucks. After all, the kind of composition he was able to put into his photographs came from somewhere.
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Jonathan Wienke on January 22, 2010, 08:34:01 PM
Quote from: Justan
The obverse is also true: refusing to get an education all but guarantees a pattern of failure.

True, but you don't have to "get an education" from formal classroom study in a school, college, or university; you can often do as well studying on your own. I've learned far more on my own than I have from any college. I've never had a color management class, but I've learned enough about it through these forums, my own experience, and other sources to discuss the subject intelligently with world-class experts like Andrew Rodney, Jeff Schewe, and Ethan Hansen, and I set up the color management system at the US Capitol photo lab. I've never taken a formal physics or digital signal processing class, but I know more about these subjects than many people who have college degrees in related areas. I've never had a formal lesson, but I can play bass guitar as well as some pros. And I've never gone to school to learn photography. The key thing in all of these areas is that I've devoted years to studying them and learning whatever I could, even though that study didn't happen in a traditional classroom.

I'm not trying to denigrate the value of traditional education, I'm simply saying it is not the only way one can become educated.
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Rob C on January 23, 2010, 05:06:37 AM
Quote from: Eric Myrvaagnes
It sure sounds as if you're right, Rob. Surely nobody could ever teach you how to see. Fortunately, some of the rest of us have had the good fortune to encounter good teachers and to have an open mind about learning.  

Eric




Actually, you are right: I abandoned compulsory night school classes in photography at an early stage of my career when I realised very clearly that the teachers, full-time pros on an ovetime kick, were incapable of seeing anything themselves.

It came to a crunch when one of them remarked, in response to something I'd said about David Bailey, that were he to shoot fashion in that manner he would retire straight away. Instead, I did, from his classes. The full-time photographer part-time teacher continued to be a studio-bound employee of a large studio that eventually folded whilst I managed to travel much of the world on client expenses and cutting my own path the while.

As Jonathan indicates in this thread, you can teach yourself pretty damn well. I would add that that also demands that you already have it within you. My problem with the matter is that I see it as another commercial milking of the innocents, the selling of false dreams.

That is not to say that an interesting 'teacher' can't make for an entertaining  companion. Neither does it mean that working as an assistant will not help you along the line: at the very least it will show you how somebody else does it in the commercial world... I also believe that the big difference that exists between the photographic worlds of then and now lies with the digital revolution and the stuff that has to be learned concerning the production of digital images and their guiding through the computer. There, I think, teaching is paramount; but that's not seeing!

Rob C
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: RSL on January 23, 2010, 11:59:38 AM
I need to add a caveat to what I've said. Unfortunately, we've managed to get education mixed up with training. I certainly believe in the value of a good liberal arts education. (Please note the lowercase "l") Learning to paint, or learning to photograph, or learning to play music is training, not education. But by that same distinction ones appreciation of art or music can be enhanced through education. When I was at University of Michigan at the beginning of the fifties I took a course in Historical Cartography. I don't remember why I signed up for it, but I found it was fascinating, and I still can date a world map from early centuries pretty accurately. I haven't the foggiest idea why being able to date an early world map has anything to do with a satisfying life, but for me it has. I still stand by everything I said about needing a God-given ability to create art, or music, or advanced math, or a first-class software system, but I owe Justan this modification of what I said: I believe very much in formal education but I have much less enthusiasm for formal training.
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Justan on January 24, 2010, 10:07:04 AM
Quote from: RSL

> Justan, I stand properly dressed down, though I haven't changed my mind about any of what I said. I still believe, based on the evidence available to me, which is considerable, that in art, music, math, and the kind of logic you need to do good software architecture, you either have it or you don't have it.

My goal wasn’t to dress you down but rather to point out the glairing holes and factual mis-statements in your argument. People change their mind if and when they are open to valid input.

And last but not least, it appears we are talking about slightly different things. We were talking about artists. There is a wide range of abilities that we can call native skills. Within this range we can, for the sake of the conversation talk about 2 groups: Those who “can do” and those who can’t. Among those who can’t, I agree that some never get past their inability. I’m not talking about this group and I don’t think you are either, but it sounds like you are contrasting these 2 loosely defined groups.

What you’re talking about fundamentally is aptitude and what I’m talking about is developing skills. I agree that one has to have an aptitude to accomplish a lot. But aptitude is only the beginning, and will never amount to anything if not properly developed.

I’m also talking about those who can get past most inabilities. This is the “can do” group. I’m pretty sure everyone who reads this is a member of this group.

But first, inability touches nearly all in one way or another. Lets call the point of inability “the line.” What I’m expressing is that among those who can do, “the line” can be pushed back formidably by education.

Returning to your earlier point, which was that with regard to education, that artists are different: it remains a historical fact that the vast majority of well regarded artists from any time in history were at least members of guilds. Their education was based in a large part through an engaged community of people with similar goals. Henri is an example of this.

But now back to your point of if “you have it or don’t.” If you are among the “can do” group, the real issue is what you do with your skills and abilities. You said that Henri sucked at painting. I’ll accept that on it’s face. That was “the line” for him. The key point here is that Henri had an inability in one area, turned to another field, and excelled in that field. His knowledge and education in painting made that possible. It’s not the first time in history an inability brought out someone’s true genius.
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Justan on January 24, 2010, 10:11:29 AM
Quote from: Jonathan Wienke

> True, but you don't have to "get an education" from formal classroom study in a school, college, or university; you can often do as well studying on your own.

No you don’t have to get a formal education, but absolutely you will not do as well studying on your own. Can you provide any facts at all to back up your postulate? Can you show me any profession whose ranks are filled with self-educated people? A profession other than, ya know, operating a shovel or other similar “professions.”

> I've never had a color management class, but I've learned enough about it through these forums, my own experience, and other sources to discuss the subject intelligently with world-class experts like Andrew Rodney, Jeff Schewe, and Ethan Hansen, and I set up the color management system at the US Capitol photo lab. I've never taken a formal physics or digital signal processing class, but I know more about these subjects than many people who have college degrees in related areas. I've never had a formal lesson, but I can play bass guitar as well as some pros. And I've never gone to school to learn photography. The key thing in all of these areas is that I've devoted years to studying them and learning whatever I could, even though that study didn't happen in a traditional classroom.

Clearly a talented person. Read the following and take it for what it’s worth:

A friend started to teach himself about electronics from the time he was 7. His first job, at the age of 13 was at a TV repair store. While in his early 20s, he was in the Air Force and worked repairing electronics for all kinds of things. The group he was in literally created a new department to take advantage of his considerable skills. He’s largely self taught, only had 2 years of college, and has had a good career. His primary job deals with both physics and electronics that permit ultrasound machines to work. He is one of the designers of the most advanced ultrasound machines in existence. If you ever need to use one of these machines, you have in a large part his skills to thank.

He’s now in his 50s and has a job title of research empiricist for a major medical technology company. The vast majority of his co-workers are people with PhDs. He has no degree. He says many of his peers have been working in their current positions for 15 years. During that time, he’s been doing lesser jobs at substantially lower pay. He’s very talented, highly self-motivated, has achieved a lot, but didn’t get a degree. And that lack of degree cost him about 15 years to get where he is now. Your comment suggests you are heading down the same path. Again, think about it.

A talented person will always get ahead. The ones who put their intelligence ahead of their ego do not throw away half a life and hundreds of thousands of dollars in income due to hubris.
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Jonathan Wienke on January 24, 2010, 03:42:38 PM
Quote from: Justan
No you don’t have to get a formal education, but absolutely you will not do as well studying on your own. Can you provide any facts at all to back up your postulate? Can you show me any profession whose ranks are filled with self-educated people? A profession other than, ya know, operating a shovel or other similar “professions.”

Photography comes to mind. Most photographers, even ones who do photography for pay, do not have degrees in photography. And how many professional musicians have music degrees? Some, but certainly not the majority...
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: tim wolcott on January 24, 2010, 04:25:33 PM
Jonathan, well said.  Its the quality of the work that counts.  Are they printed perfectly and are they well executed photographs.  All to many times people go by names and have you looked at the quality of the work.  That's what counts.  I would rather go to lecture by an unknown who has amazing work, than some name who isn't producing great images.  We have all seen this in the art world.  But you still need the passion and dedication to make it happen but also the ability to SEE.  Nothing great comes easy!

"There are no short cuts.  Great photography requires understanding light and composition, vision and patience – simple discipline – simple but never easy."

Tim Wolcott   WWW.GalleryOfTheAmericanLandscape.COM

Quote from: Jonathan Wienke
Photography comes to mind. Most photographers, even ones who do photography for pay, do not have degrees in photography. And how many professional musicians have music degrees? Some, but certainly not the majority...
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: RSL on January 24, 2010, 06:45:51 PM
Quote from: Jonathan Wienke
Photography comes to mind. Most photographers, even ones who do photography for pay, do not have degrees in photography. And how many professional musicians have music degrees? Some, but certainly not the majority...

Justan, I'll add people who design and write good software systems. I've known a whole bunch of software engineers and programmers and I've never met one who was top-notch who wasn't self-taught. Which is not to say some of them didn't have advanced education -- as opposed to training. My closest friend in the field was a PhD in computer science. He was a very good programmer, but that skill didn't come from his education as a computer scientist. If you understand what's taught as computer science you'll understand what I'm saying. He had a particular ability to do the kind of logic system architecture requires and he taught himself how to apply it. The theory and research he immersed himself in from his formal education certainly made life easier for him, but that wasn't what made him the kind of system architect and programmer he was.
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Joe Behar on January 24, 2010, 08:07:17 PM
Quote from: RSL
Justan, I'll add people who design and write good software systems. I've known a whole bunch of software engineers and programmers and I've never met one who was top-notch who wasn't self-taught. Which is not to say some of them didn't have advanced education -- as opposed to training. My closest friend in the field was a PhD in computer science. He was a very good programmer, but that skill didn't come from his education as a computer scientist. If you understand what's taught as computer science you'll understand what I'm saying. He had a particular ability to do the kind of logic system architecture requires and he taught himself how to apply it. The theory and research he immersed himself in from his formal education certainly made life easier for him, but that wasn't what made him the kind of system architect and programmer he was.

Sorry Russ, You're off the mark here.

Self taught programmers are the main reason we see so much software that never makes it past version 1.1

Spaghetti code, complete lack of documentation, ignoring hardware architecture and needs, the complete disregard for scalability, programs that work on the machines they were written on, but not others, code that is not portable between platforms and the list goes on and on....

I doubt very much that Adobe, for example would allow someone without qualifications to design their software.

Yes, creativity in programming is indeed very important, but if the architect did not build the load bearing walls properly, the house will collapse.



Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: BenjaminKanarek on January 24, 2010, 09:27:48 PM
Quote from: Jonathan Wienke
Photography comes to mind. Most photographers, even ones who do photography for pay, do not have degrees in photography. And how many professional musicians have music degrees? Some, but certainly not the majority...

Exactly...Another approach is apprenticeship. In fact apprenticeship was the norm in the early 20th century for those wishing to practice Architecture.  One of the icons of that epoch is Frank Lloyd Wright.
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Jonathan Wienke on January 25, 2010, 01:06:18 AM
Quote from: Joe Behar
Sorry Russ, You're off the mark here.

Self taught programmers are the main reason we see so much software that never makes it past version 1.1

Not necessarily; relying on a degree or certification instead of actual skill/talent can bring about results even worse. While I was working in IT as a programmer & network administrator, the company I worked for was approached by a consulting firm that did programming. The sales pitch was that all their programmers had all the latest certifications and degrees, and surely they could improve on the existing software system (which I, having a total of one BASIC programming class over a decade earlier, had written in its entirety by myself). $30000 and several months later, the consultants managed to produce an abortion that ran about one-third as fast as my system, and still had major flaws preventing it from doing several of the most basic and fundamental processes correctly. And it was designed in such a way that implementing some of the upcoming changes to the company's business rules (which the consultants had been briefed on from the beginning) would be nearly impossible without major changes to their database structure and a complete rewrite of their code.

In contrast, my system actually worked, ran faster (a LOT faster), and having been designed to maximize flexibility from the beginning, only very minor changes were needed to implement the changes to the company's new business rules.

Guess which system the company decided to go with...
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: RSL on January 25, 2010, 10:57:00 AM
Quote from: Joe Behar
Sorry Russ, You're off the mark here.

Self taught programmers are the main reason we see so much software that never makes it past version 1.1

Spaghetti code, complete lack of documentation, ignoring hardware architecture and needs, the complete disregard for scalability, programs that work on the machines they were written on, but not others, code that is not portable between platforms and the list goes on and on....

I doubt very much that Adobe, for example would allow someone without qualifications to design their software.

Yes, creativity in programming is indeed very important, but if the architect did not build the load bearing walls properly, the house will collapse.

Joe, I didn't say or imply that there's not a lot of crap written by self-taught programmers. What I said was that I've never seen a TOP-NOTCH software architect and programmer who wasn't self-taught. I wish I were in Colorado instead of Florida right now because back there I'd have access to my library on the subject. There's a fascinating study by IBM from way back there -- maybe 30 years ago about "super programmers." These were the guys who were found to be ten times as productive as the guys who weren't super programmers. Guess how those guys learned to design and program software.

As far as Adobe is concerned, I suspect they allow people who can do the job to design their software and I doubt very much if they rely on college credentials to determine who can do the job.
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: RSL on January 25, 2010, 12:11:52 PM
Quote from: Justan
People change their mind if and when they are open to valid input.

Yes, but the input has to be valid.

Quote
But first, inability touches nearly all in one way or another. Lets call the point of inability “the line.” What I’m expressing is that among those who can do, “the line” can be pushed back formidably by education.

Yes, often those who haven't a particular God-given talent in a particular field of art can become more or less adequate in that field through study, help, and hard work. But, as you know, I'm not talking about the more or less adequate.

Quote
But now back to your point of if “you have it or don’t.” If you are among the “can do” group, the real issue is what you do with your skills and abilities. You said that Henri sucked at painting. I’ll accept that on it’s face. That was “the line” for him. The key point here is that Henri had an inability in one area, turned to another field, and excelled in that field. His knowledge and education in painting made that possible. It’s not the first time in history an inability brought out someone’s true genius.

Let's look at Elliott Erwitt, whom I consider an equal of HCB, and, in some ways superior, though he started later and never has gathered the same respect. As far as I know Elliott never had a painting class. That's not to say that HCB's training as a painter didn't help his photography. It may have, but the question you'd need to answer in order to validate your assertion is whether or not he'd have been as great without that training. I don't think anyone can answer that question.
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: stamper on January 26, 2010, 06:28:49 AM
To consider yourself to be self taught you need access to sources such as books, the internet, videos and similar means such as knowledgeable people? These things have been created by certain persons who learned them from other persons? Therefore logically speaking they are in fact teaching you? What you learn you can't pluck out of thin air? What you don't get is a one to one teaching experience but you are being taught?
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Chris_T on January 26, 2010, 07:13:51 AM
Quote from: RSL
You won't learn anything about the "best crop" from Cartier-Bresson because he didn't crop.

Maybe you can't, but I certainly CAN. Every one of HCB's image was cropped in his viewfinder.
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Chris_T on January 26, 2010, 07:19:23 AM
Quote from: kbolin
Reminds of a saying I once heard

"Those who can, DO!"
"Those who can't, TEACH!"

Hummm... where does that put some of as that do & teach?  

"Those who can't teach, WRITE!"  

On a more serious note, more often than not, good practitioners (of any skill) do not make "good" teachers. What makes a teacher "good" is yet another discussion.
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: RSL on January 26, 2010, 10:57:58 AM
Quote from: Chris_T
Maybe you can't, but I certainly CAN. Every one of HCB's image was cropped in his viewfinder.

Chris, You can see what isn't in the picture? Wow! Wish I could do that.
Title: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited
Post by: Justan on January 26, 2010, 11:36:42 AM
Quote from: Jonathan Wienke

> Photography comes to mind.

According to the BLS, you are mistaken. Most professional photographers have a degree or about 3.5 years towards one: http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos264.htm (http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos264.htm)

> Most photographers, even ones who do photography for pay, do not have degrees in photography.

I agree that most people with a camera don’t have a degree. Yet there is a vast difference between a hobbyist and a professional. A hobbyist may be a great talent, but a professional, by definition, does it for a living. If they don’t do it for a living, they are not professional.

> And how many professional musicians have music degrees? Some, but certainly not the majority...

Well played, sir. This is a good observation on your part and one that proves my point about the need for extensive training and culture even if not in a university setting. If someone is going make a living as a musician, such as teaching, working in a symphony, in a studio, and so on, according to the BLS, they probably have degrees. And also, good musicians share a commonality of many years, even most of a life, devoted practice; and most have had many years of lessons. Once again, according to the BLS, about half of all performing musicians don’t fit the criteria of being professional. They are hobbyists.

Don’t get me wrong in any of this. I'm not discrediting the value of talent, motivation, good luck, or any combination of these. I could share stories that echo and endorse the comments of others here, so you’re not going to get me to criticize that approach.

But the fact remains that talent will go only so far by itself. Without formal education and sadly, yes, official certification, you are choosing to handicap yourself by not getting a degree. But don’t fret too much. As I illustrated with my buddy as an example, talent will always be successful......................................................................
.................................. Eventually.

After all, what’s is 15 years out of a life?