B.F.A. in Photography

Discussion in 'Education' started by adriana_cisneros, Jun 23, 2008.

  1. I would like to get my B.F.A. in photography and would like to focus on traditional photography rather than
    digital. Are there any schools that focus more on traditional rather than digital? I would really, really like to
    learn alternative and/or historical processes.

    I have my basics done so I'm just looking for a school to finish at that isn't way expensive since I can't get
    private funding.
  2. Even colleges, universities, or institutes, that have some courses that use film are going to have digital imaging in their curriculum. That is just the current state of imaging and cinema. If you are looking for a degree with a reduced cost you will likely be limited to state schools in your state of residence. Your first place to investigate would be to study the curricula of all the colleges and universities in your state.
  3. I am sure there are state colleges that offer BFA degrees that are "reasonable" by today's standards. You need to ask yourself two really important questions: what will you do with a BFA degree? Who would hire someone who has dedicated their critical education to a dying medium? Think of it this way. Suppose you decided to study to make wood carriage wheels two years after Henry Ford introduced the Model T. Alternative and historical processes are well documented, something you could learn on your own as a hobby. If you want to become a photographer, you need to become a good photographer (no easy task). How you present your work is one small part of the picture. I don't want to sound discouraging or negative. Everyone loves the "magic" of watching a print develop in a darkroom. But in practical terms, the changes needed to make a good print great can be accomplished in a few minutes with digital images, something that might take days in a darkroom. There's a good reason that historical processes are historical.
  4. I would say that if you are interested in historical processes and using a traditional medium you are going to have to look
    outside of the state universities and find an Art School. While these schools may be hard to get in (portfolios including
    more than just photography) and you may be required to learn to draw at some point of the game, they have a tendency to
    excel in film & historical processes. Some normal universities also have excellent photography programs that do not
    require the use of digital over film.
    You need to understand that if you want to do colour in film you are going to need access to a colour darkroom and you
    really just can't build a 30" colour processor into your home. This i feel is where some degree of digital proficiency is
    needed so that you can use digital as an output for your film.
  5. Robert- You are trying NOT to sound negative... but you sure do sound negative! ;)

    I am a current graduate student in photography in thesis at Louisiana State University (LSU). The first question should ALWAYS be "what am I going to do with my education?" Too many students these days jump head-long into the college world without having a clue about what they are actually going to do when they graduate. IMHO there should be more trade schools and less Liberal Arts and Sciences programs. That being said, my photography education is something that I have come to value GREATLY. I wouldn't have done a thing differently (except maybe consider an Art School for my MFA... maybe). To say that all one needs to do is study digital imaging is like saying that all one needs to study in painting is oil paint... yes, oil paint is PART of painting, a tool. I would even say that the majority of painters paint in oil... I don't (I am actually a painter before a photographer :) ), I paint in Casein, a paint that was traditionally used in Fresco work... pretty much unknown in the 21st C. I am actually one of the greatest proponents of digital photography at LSU, in fact, I am teaching a digital photo class here in the fall. I use a D2XS as my main TOOL in shooting and print with an Epson 7880 for most of my work... but the digital camera like a 4x5 camera or a plate camera is a tool, nothing more, nothing less. And although I am a proponent of digital photo, I think that learning photography on a digital camera is a sin. Too often the digital camera becomes a crutch instead of a tool. Again, IMHO I believe that the traditional forms of photo should be learned first, for the student to fully understand exposure and the workings of the camera. Back to the schooling part of your question- a good school will have a well-rounded program in photography. From the traditional to the non-traditional and everything in between. Here at LSU, we have traditional silver printing, traditional color printing (yes we have a 20" wide color processor) and non-silver processes, like, Cyanotypes, Van Dyke printing, Platinum printing, etc. etc. etc, as well as digital processes. I KNOW that we are NOT the only program in the country that teaches this way. I agree with earlier suggestions as far as money is concerned, if you are in the US, look at your state's schools. I will say also say that many schools charge out-of-state tuition for the first year and then after one year the student's status will be changed to in-state. This would also be good to look into. Sorry if this has become a long post. Let me know if I can be of any other help.

  6. "Who would hire someone who has dedicated their critical education to a dying medium?"

    Medium doesn't matter. The goal of a photography degree is to learn how to take a picture. Who cares how the picture was taken.

    I have seen pictures taken with a Holga that represent a firmer grasp of photographic skill than some digital pictures enhanced with HDR.
  7. Hi Adriana....It was nice toknow that other people are as confused as I am! I have done my two years master craftsman in photography and was looking at art schools....and the tuition fees was so high that I just sighed and
    said to myself....maybe in another life!
    Then someone told me.....dont get caught up in this education degree trap.....you cant teach anyone to paint write
    or create...it is inside you.
    Photography is what you see with your eye and your own perception.....
    and it is your very own....from your heart and soul.
    I am into fine art photography....do take time out to look at my website...www.camerawaali.com
  8. I know that people say that traditional photography is a dying medium, but I'd like to run with it as long as I will be able to.

    I want to receive my bachelors, and then continue school to receive my master's. My ultimate goal would be to be able to teach at the university level.

    I suppose it might not be that important to attend a school that has a strong course load dealing with traditional photography since I could study it on my own, but I guess it'd be great to learn from people who already know what they're doing.
  9. If you want to learn fine art film photography then check out SUNY Purchase. Most classes are film based. Only once you
    finish those then you can move on to digital if you desire. It is an excellent school and is well known for the Art+Design
    program as well as music, theater, and dance.
  10. You might consider looking into RISD. Expensive but good. Entering photo students are still required to have a 35mm film
    camera. Learn all you can, irrespective of institution, what you learn can be carried over to digital when and if need be.
    There will be another learning experience should you switch to digital but your film based background would not be wasted.
  11. i teach art and photography and have investigated MANY BFA/MFA programs for myself and my students....

    traditional, wet darkroom photography? art institute of boston @ lesley, hands down. christopher james is the department head; he's written what many consider the bible of alternative processes. however, it is a private institution and will be pricier.

    bard, in the hudson river valley section of new york is also excellent for traditional processes. an my is a traditional photographer who is on the faculty there...very well known for her work with a deardorff 5x7 camera.

    mass art is a state school that will grant state school prices for massachusetts residences. i've hear "love it" or "hate it" with their program though.

    the maine photographic workshops are a great stepping stone to meeting a variety of faculty members from a wide range of schools. if you could spend a week or two there, you might be able to formulate some opinions on programs from first hand experiences with their teachers.

    hope this helps.
  12. Sarah, thanks for concrete information.
    I am 63 and close to retirement. I am also within a few credits of a degree at the U of Minnesota. But I would prefer to finish my degree as a BFA in photography at a school that supports the love and appreciation of film, not as a "dying medium" which is ridiculous, but as a self-sufficient art form. BFA means "fine arts" not "vocational training." Sarah has cut through the understandable sociological issues of vocation and addressed the original question. I would like to reinforce the original question and add "and what program is receptive to older, independent (not wealthy) art students who want to finesse their craft in a pressure cooker/alembic of academia for a year or so?"

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