The Education of a Photographer, Pg. 188, Allworth Press


Photographer and educator discusses the future of photographic education and looks with hope tothe next generation.

Of all the visual arts, photography is the most accessible. Advancement in technology, visual literacy, and cultural affluence have contributed to the medium's penetration of all aspects of commerce, culture, and daily life. Contemporary life increasingly involves the seeming desire to document and observe and celebrate daily life photographically. And the photographic medium is elastic, accommodating the vast multiplicity of ideas, references, uses, contexts, genres, and agendas that construct this age of information. One of the advantages, then, of working within the medium is its availability: at its threshold, photography is an egalitarian medium that is seductive and appealing. The gradual education of a photographer, however, is contrary to this accessibility. To achieve a degree of significance and originality involves an unusual degree of commitment and rigor, and an embrace of this contradictory toggle between the vernacular of photography and its ambitions as an individual or cultural voice.Photographic education proposes a shift from the assumed importance of the subject, to the significance of the interpretation. It often privileges the mundane and ephemeral and achieves relevance not through the literal subject matter, but the attitude, passion, and conviction of the photographer. The premise of a strong photographic education is the assumption that all individual voices can be amplified, and that the potential for photographic distinctiveness is as axiomatic as our status as individuals. And that photographic practice can accommodate many differentapproaches, from the methodical to the impulsive,the cerebral to the instinctive. The best photographic education is as interested in the in enquiry as in the resolution, and the medium as a vehicle for the lifelong accumulation of information and knowledge. Curiosity fuels most photographic endeavor; memory and fear often provide the heat. An institution engaged in photographic education must remain responsive and flexible inits hiring and curriculum to insure that courses are relevant and inventive, and reflect issues and interests in the professional photographic community.It is through the course curriculum and faculty that ideological diversity is encouraged, and a vigorous and deliberate dialogue between student work and contemporary photographic ideas. Students of photography can be empowered by seeing their work as part of a cultural matrix, as entering into a conversation with the professional and historical community. The best photographic education is no longer segregated by opposing photographic genres, identities and ambitions, but is rather an education that seeks a plural and overlapping and fluid combination of forms, vocabularies and contexts - paparazzi still life for example. The barriers that have traditionally separated different photographic practies will continue to erode and the best photography - whatever the genre, will be informed by an inventive an unpredictable self-expressive motivation. Photographic education accepts all forms of the medium, from the rhetorical to the practical, from both the heart and the mind.

I have written to the students: you are the future we could never predict. You wil subvert all our tired assumptions, our cliches, and conventions. You will redraw our maps from our seeds unfamiliar and disorienting forms will sprout. Our catution will become your risk. When we seek the reassurance of answers you will commit to the elegance of inquiry. You will outdo us, confuse us, and approach the unknown future with an open heart.

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