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Photography School Why?

November 23, 2011

by Michael Lafleur

Last week, I read a Duckrabbit blog post called “Are Photography Degrees the Joker in the Pack?” It got me thinking about the art career conundrum. A joker is a valuable card if all the players agree that it is the “wild card”. Otherwise, it simply isn’t dealt. It seems that the art world is stacked with jokers with art degrees. Every artist needs something on a resume. What is often overlooked in the art school scramble is the real reason to go. Sure, a degree helps you get a job teaching and may get your foot in the door of some classy gallery, but the real motivation has to come from within.

by Joe Bordeau

Joe Bordeau just became a photography major. He has a visceral approach to making photographs, and he has a great feeling for what his visual universe looks like. He hasn’t made a great picture as much as he has made several strong groups of pictures. I think that portfolio consistency easily outweighs a couple of great photos in a mixed bag of snaps.

What art school really offers is the opportunity to make art, to show art, to eat art, and so on. It can be total immersion. I’m thinking about Michael Lafleur, top. He is currently one of HCC’s promising fine art photography students. And he is doing what everyone should be doing in art school– making art, showing art, eating art…

by Patrick Harris

Patrick Harris is also making art like an obsessed art student.  He throws all kinds of pictures at the wall and a lot of them stick. The pictures say something.

by Gretchen Drane

by Ciera Bilodeau-Cox

Gretchen Drane and Ciera Bilodeau-Cox approach art-making as a by-product of life-living. Their work comes right out of the Nan Goldin school of photography although I don’t remember if I showed them Nan Goldin’s work.

by Corrin Halford

During the first week of classes I usually ask students to talk about influences or photographers that inspire them. Ciera cited her friend, Corrin Halford, from a different section of my digital photography classes. Corrin is versatile and talented. That is a great combination for success for the working photographer.

I started this post thinking about why students should go to photography school. I think that every photography student should take a few courses. If fine art is what you want to make, then stay in art school. That is the place to get your vision together. If you are oriented toward photojournalism or some area of commercial photography, and those fields need vision too, you have to consider how much self-confidence you have. You need a lot of energy and stamina to make it on your own. Stay in school to build your portfolio, but jump into any photography situation you can find. The real learning takes place in the field or studio. Photography school is like a trampoline. Use it to bounce higher and higher until you can touch your dream.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kristen Miller-Deslauriers permalink
    December 10, 2011 8:45 am

    Frank, Thanks for posting this pep talk for those of us who continue to bounce around the fine art arena and wonder where to go from here. I’ve explored this question with my art major peers who find it equally difficult to keep afloat in this ever changing sea of challenges in art making, especially photography with all of its continual advanced technology. It’ hard to know where one belongs in the art world and It’s difficult to stay focused and to find the self confidence which -as you point out requires tons of energy & stamina -that at times my vision becomes quite murky. But every once in a while I happen to lay my eyes on an amazing landscape or a breath taking portrait and I am again propelled into the dreamy vortex of art making once again and this is when I realize what I must do…continue to make art and ride the waves of change until I reach my sea of dreams. Important to note here is that one of the most essential tools students need along this journey is the guidance and inspiration that teachers help to give. For that is a lasting, priceless gift…thank you!

  2. December 10, 2011 9:52 am

    Thanks for your note, Kristen. I was thinking about your comment on the “vortex of art making”. Does the artist do the art making or is immersion into the “vortex” where the experience comes from? Is becoming an artist a matter of choice or is one sucked into the “vortex”? Is it impulse or compulsion that leads one into art? I have a feeling every artist is different. Some have no choice but to make art. Others may enjoy the leisure time to pursue it.
    Photo history has its millionaire golden boys like Henri Cartier Bresson and Jacque Henri Lartigue as well as working stiffs like Weegee and Edward Weston. I love putting Weston next to Weegee in the “working stiff” category. I could also put Diane Arbus in the millionaire golden girl category with Bresson, but that seems unfair as she spent many years as a working stiff, too.
    Yikes, I’m spinning in a vortex of artists! Vivian Maier was a great artist who was a nanny. It didn’t seem to hinder her as a great photographer. Being a nanny just got in the way of being recognized for her artistic vision in her lifetime. I guess the point is to make art, live life, ideally make life your art, and don’t get hung-up on the ego part of it.

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