Blog #74 Keep on Keepin’ On
Learning is not the goal of life, it IS life, someone very clever once said. A post in a photography Facebook group asked recently if a university degree in photography was necessary. There were over 50 comments that followed. Just about every comment was about a resounding “No!”. However, I wonder how many of those “No” responses were from individuals who actually had gone to school for photography. I work with photographers who have bachelors’ and fine arts degrees in art or photography, and they never seem to have regrets. How can anyone argue that there is no value to pursuing a degree in photography? Higher education is a wonderful experience taught by professors with decades of formal, life, and professional photography experience.
Is formal study in photography necessary to make great work or to be successful (however you might define this) as a professional photographer? Most would agree that is is not. That being said, it couldn't hurt.
When I returned to photography about five years ago, I considered this course of action. I needed a more flexible learning program as I would have limited time to commit to learning photography, although I did want a comprehensive program. So instead of enrolling in a university program, I opted for an online course in professional photography (www.nyip.com). During this time and afterwards, I read everything that I could get my hands on, attended museums and shows, bought books from the greats, and generally took a deep dive using the “self-taught” method. I am still pursuing this. Last month, I completed the MOMA: Seeing Through Photographs from Coursera . You can choose to take this short six-week course for free or pay $50 US as I did to support the program and the MOMA and receive a certificate upon completion.
In the course, there was just the right amount of history presented alongside modern artists to keep things interesting. Instead of submitting a final project that included a photograph that we made, participants needed to submit an image and describe how it related to the units of study in the course. There were two 500 word written assignments that were required in the class as well as a few peer reviews.
I went through the class in a couple of weeks and the materials were very good. I would definitely recommend it to someone interested in photography at any level. They do not pay me to say that, by the way. I got my certificate for completion and it was a nice summer learning project.
The take-away here is that there is no end to the learning, although some effort is required to make it a deliberate process. It’s such a wonderful time to be photographer as there are a plethora of online resources, live workshops, face to face courses, and everything in between. There is really no excuse not participating in some form of improvement program on a regular basis.
Find what works for you, complete it, and repeat. Your vision will improve, your pictures will improve, and you will feel better about your art and yourself in the process.
The light is always right.