Photo technique as taught in art school

Discussion in 'Education' started by bjcarlton, May 20, 2012.

  1. To my (I think fairly educated eye), my daughter has a gift for photography, which became apparent when she started taking better photos than I when she was about 12. She's majoring in art at the university, and I encouraged her to take a photo class. Here's what she reports: she is in danger of failing, because her TA insists that for each subject, she must turn in 72 images, none of which can be, in his words, "filler." Now, I can understand that an infinitely talented photographer could take an infinite number of brilliant images of any given subject, but for normal humans, this just seems bizarre. My understanding of the traditional argument is that you generally have to take a number of shots of your subject before you really begin to see it (one would take fewer shots using a view camera, of course!), but the idea is that you work your way up to some ultimate shot, which, with some luck, you achieve. This business of coming up with 72 really good shots strikes me as bizarre. But then, I've never had formal, university-level training in photography. Any comments? Is my daughter doomed in an academic setting?
  2. Some professionals (or past professionals in my case) spend years making 70 top-notch images. My keeper rate sometimes is 1 or 2 per roll if using film, hard to say with digital.
    That said, I'd say the TA is out of line. What are his/her accomplishments and/or credentials?
    You also should remember that academia is about 15-20 years behind the current world. I would question the TA.
  3. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    What are his/her accomplishments and/or credentials?​

    The TA should be a good teacher. That's what matters.
    You also should remember that academia is about 15-20 years behind the current world.​

    Can you document that? I've never heard that, in fact, have seen just the opposite at local academia.
  4. Maybe the TA is pushing the students to think about every possible point of view when shooting the object. Just because we may disagree with the TA's style or method does not mean that the TA is bad. It is good to work with people who push us beyond our normal boundaries and make us look at things differently, and IMO, that is one of the most important things you can learn in school.
  5. You failed to mention the time period of the exercise, turn them in now - a week - a semester? With the application of basic principles of the craft and demonstrating, by example, the understanding of these ideas - one would easily deal with the task. If the TA want's 72 completely inspired and award winning 'life changing images" that's something else all together. If I were your girl I would request a little more information and confirm the goals and expectations of the TA. It may be her gut reaction interfered with the actual facts of the matter. Yes, we shoot "process" shots in order to arrive at the "hero" - so those 72 represent hundreds of takes. Remember the time for thinking is before and after the shot - never during the take.
  6. Jeff-
    Yes. While trying to help my father's doctors in 1993 (who were spooked by the evil internet) isolate and diagnose his suspect case of TGN (Trigeminal Neuralgia, a very random and painful disorder), the most recent professional white paper to be found was from Tufts University, published 1986 with references back to 1982. Tough disorder to combat, only Neurontin supplies temporary relief at the expense of rotting your teeth).
    Are Tufts, Rutgers and other University level research programs up to your #$%#$ rigid standards? Jeeesh. You need to watch a person go through an episode of TGN to humble your ass.
  7. Jeff, to reinforce my statement, my collaborator on the rush TGN project was my younger sister, who hold a drawerful of degrees from Marietta, Georgetown University and George Washington University in otlaryngeal disorders such as TGN and others; she's also a board-certified SLP (speech language pathologist) in Sarasota, FL.
    I rest my case.
  8. I think the request is reasonable. When I was younger, I'd shoot hundreds of shots a day (not much filler, but some varying compositions and exposure). You can't become competent with anything, without a lot of practice. Further, you won't find your style until you shoot enough to show your vision and style.
    The flip side is that I'd hate to be the instructor who has to evaluate all those images.
  9. If the student in almost failing over this issue, and this info comes from a TA, not the instructor, I would go straight to the instructor to get clarification. Some TAs can be just pompous pains in the posterior.
  10. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I rest my case.​

    If the topic was medical school, maybe there's a case. Maybe not, also. One incident does not justify a blanket statement. My cancer doctor is a professor at Stanford Medical School and she's the world's leading expert in what I have. I'd take her over anyone else. The point being that it doesn't matter. For art school, which is the topic here (see the subject line for instance), not medical school, things are different. The teaching method, not technology or research, are what is being discussed. Other than the addition of online learning, art education really hasn't changed much in a very long time.
  11. This appears to be a case of the instructor pushing the student.. This tactic is harsh but can produce good results.
  12. Actually, my main curiosity is whether what my daughter describes is anything like a standard procedure for learning photography. I certainly agree (and would hope) that a good teacher will push his or her students; it just seems to me that a rigid, have-to-get-X-great-shots approach is unusual. But, as I said before, I've never had university-level photo training, and am curious to find out if my assessment is wrong. So I'm particularly interested in the views of anyone who has taken formal photo classes.
  13. Some professionals (or past professionals in my case) spend years making 70 top-notch images. My keeper rate sometimes is 1 or 2 per roll if using film, hard to say with digital.​
    The TA didn't say that the images needed to be top-notch. He/she said that they can't be "fillers". This is to prevent a student from procrastinating and spending a few minutes taking the photos just before the deadline. 72 photos is equivalent to 2 rolls of film. This may NOT be unreasonable-especially so with if this is digital capture if there is a reasonable time frame allotted.
    That said, I'd say the TA is out of line.​
    We have absolutely no idea of what the student has done in this class. I once had an "extremely talented" student (her father's description) who failed and introductory photo class. When her father came in to complain-that I didn't know what I was doing and that his daughter was a much better photographer than I, had to point out that she had completed only 1/2 of the assignments. The work she turned in was good, not extraordinary compared to others in the class.
    While some TA's are poorly trained and are in the classroom to the detriment of the student (along with some professors), before you bash the TA, you should actually have some facts.
    What are his/her accomplishments and/or credentials?​
    He/she is a TA. Generally, in the US, his/her accomplishments/credentials are being in a graduate degree program. The hope is that he/she is a good teacher
    You also should remember that academia is about 15-20 years behind the current world.​
    You are using a single incident with a medical school to make a general assumption regarding all University programs? Using your own word, "Jeeesh". Are you saying that we don't need to take as many photos as we did 15-20 years ago? How does this address the number of images that the OP is concerned about?
    I would question the TA.​

    In the US, if your daughter is an adult (18+), you can't question the TA without your daughter's written permission or presence at the meeting-even if you are paying the tuition. It is against privacy laws to disclose any information about the progress of a student.
    Also, why hasn't this come up earlier in the semester? It seems a little late to bring up.
  14. Actually, I'm not planning on questioning (or confronting) anyone. It's not my business (I'm just the pay-rent). Even if every last one of the people on PN agreed that the TA was nuts (though in that case I might relay such sentiments to my daughter, who at the moment is suffering a crisis of confidence, just to make her feel better). But even more important to me would be to hear that what the TA is doing makes sense, in which case it would represent a needed reality check for my daughter. After all, it's she who still has to make her way in the world, and if that's the way the art/photography world works, she'd better realize it now. Really, as I've now said twice, I'm just curious about this reported teaching method, and whether it's standard practice in photo education. Perhaps I should conclude from the responses I'm getting that there's really no consensus?
    As an aside, I've also posed my question to a photography professor friend of mine (different university). He also didn't really answer the question, but pointed out that if someone is training to make it in the art world, they had better be able to demonstrate a consistent ability to far exceed the requirements of their class assignments. If that's so (and it sounds reasonable) and if my daughter is failing to thrive in what is in fact a standard photographic instruction environment, then she should perhaps be considering a change in major. But if she's failing to thrive in what is just someone's idiosyncratic system, then maybe she should stay the course. Hence my inquiry.
  15. There are usually 13-12 weeks during a College/Univesity semester. That would mean about 6 pictures per week. It does sound like allot but it is definately doable. I use to hand in about 10 pictures a week when I was taking a class once and this is back in film days.

    What gets difficult is trying to hand in 6 or 7 top-notch pictures of varying interesting subjects. Usually you are told to narrow your subjects down, but I don't think this is the type of class.
    If there are more than 20 students in the class that teacher is going to have a hell of a time trying to edit and grade all those pictures.
  16. Hi Barry, get her out of there, your TA is too stupid to be permitted to teach. I've been a photographer for 65 years and a professor of professional photography full time for 22 years, not to mention 450 magazine articles puplished.
    Just because you have lots of memory and a digital camera, that doesn't mean that repeating the same mistakes 72 time will help. What she needs is a skilled teacher. I graduated from Brooks Inst.of Photography, was a frequent lecturer and advisor at the Art Center School (now the Art Center College of Design). Other than those, I heartilly recommend the Southern Illinois University of the dozens of universities I have been acquainted with. There are 6 or 8 community colleges teaching photography as a profession including mine. These CC's teach the realities of photography together with the amount of art that is needed, more of which, the student can decide what more to deal with.
  17. It does sound like allot​
    but is written a lot.
  18. I have a somewhat short, thankfully, story that answers your question based on my experience w/ this. More years ago than I wish to remember, I was (and remain) a self taught artist (painter/printer). One day I met up w/ a painter who was painting on the streets of San Francisco. He was good, and classically trained in London. Brian and I became soul mates, and when I asked him whether or not I should go to get proper training like him he answered that it might be OK, or it might not be. He himself often wished that he hadn't been trained in an art school.
    Figuring that unless I tried it I'd never know I moved to Albuquerque and enrolled in the University of New Mexico to take a basic drawing class and a basic painting class. Big mistake. It was my teacher. We weren't suited for each other at all, and one time when I was asking why I should do something her way rather than another way, she told me that "if you don't want to do it, then I suggest you drop the course". I did too! She was used to teaching young beginners, and had no idea how to relate to me, an older guy who already had a skill set. If I had been able to get the teacher that I wanted (his classes were always full), things may have turned out differently, but who can say.
    I recommend she study the old fashioned, time tested way, as I finally did. Travel and see the master works in museums all over the continent, and beyond, to know what things are supposed to be. Work hard and don't be deterred by other's criticism, unless it's by someone that you trust. A simple "her feet are too big" can be a tremendous help. Run like blazes from people who tell you to do it their way, or else. Possibly find an artist that you like and respect and ask to study under them. Don't be surprised if it doesn't work. Great artists are often not great teachers, and vice verse. And even if they are a good teacher, remember that nothing grows beneath the shade of a great oak. We all have to find our own voice.

Share This Page