Are you self-taught or did you go to school?

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Berkeley Mike

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Back in 1995 I was President of the College Photo Department Advisory Board. It was a school where I took a Zone System class in1982 that refined my skills and made me commercially more viable to professional photographers. I was off to the races.

In 2002 I was asked to teach. At the time I could not imagine teaching photography; you were either a photographer at heart or you weren't: I worked my way out of the darkroom and on to sets and lighting. I was chained to a 4x5 and stacks of Ektachrome 64, Plus X and boxes of polaroid 664 and 665. My place in the industry was a function of well developed work ethic and solid skills.

I teach now, as a part of my work. I have a long history of working with people and leading organizations. I work with administrative people and with a wide variety of students at different skill levels. In the past I also trained photo assistants who got to me from sheer hustle. (Former restaurant workers made the best assistants; constantly busy.) This site is full of shooters. So I ask:

Are you self-taught or did you go to school to learn photography?
 

chip j

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I went to the US Army Signal School at FT. Monmouth, NJ to become a Still Photographer.
 

BMbikerider

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Completely and utterly self taught. 56 years practical experience in both B&W and colour has got me where I am now. I have done weddings, CSI photography, Military photography and of course for my self including achieving an A.R.P.S. distinction with the Royal Photographic Society in UK. This is one part of my life I an very happy about.
 

sissysphoto

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Self taught. No distinctions, titles, or awards. 53 years since first Instamatic 104. Strong suits: troubleshooting and diagnostics in technique and equipment problems. Creativity level: fair.
 
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Berkeley Mike

Berkeley Mike

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Completely and utterly self taught. 56 years practical experience in both B&W and colour has got me where I am now. I have done weddings, CSI photography, Military photography and of course for my self including achieving an A.R.P.S. distinction with the Royal Photographic Society in UK. This is one part of my life I an very happy about.
What made you acquire these skills in the early days?
 
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Berkeley Mike

Berkeley Mike

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Self taught. No distinctions, titles, or awards. 53 years since first Instamatic 104. Strong suits: troubleshooting and diagnostics in technique and equipment problems. Creativity level: fair.
Brutal self-evaluation but I get it. What keeps you going?
 

Ian Grant

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Started first processing films and printing around the age of 9 or 10 with some help from a school teacher. Only became serious aged 13-14- self taught reading Kurt (Curt) Jacobson's books, "Developing" and "Enlarging". Was asked to teach younger students when aged 16. Had first magazine cover aged 16/17.

Studied Biological Sciences became photographer/photochemist manufacturing B&W emulsion for an applied process, researched Monobaths, Toners etc.. Participated in a number of workshops in the late 1980's,, and lead a few workshops in the 1990's Have a Masters Degree in Photography.

Ian
 

Svenedin

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I was taught basic photography and darkroom skills in the photographic club at school by a truly brilliant biology master (Mr Ted Bowen-Jones). We started with pinhole cameras and moved on to 35mm SLR's (OM2's). I learned to take photographs, develop film and print but nothing advanced. Then I went on to study medicine but shared a flat with another medical student who was a keen photographer (who has been my partner for 28 years!). We were lucky to have a kitchen in the middle of the flat that had no windows and made an excellent darkroom. We would go out to take photographs and I was much more creative and experimental in those days. I learned from books and numerous mistakes not aided by the fact that we would often get quite drunk in the kitchen darkroom.

I tend to take landscape photographs and sometimes architecture and animals. I am not at all good at photographs of people and will try to avoid having people in a photograph by visiting early or waiting until they have gone. I'd rate myself as technically reasonably competent at an intermediate level but not creative which would fit my personality and scientific mindset. So when I look at my photographs I often think yes well exposed, quite nicely printed but rather dull. Some of my friends comment that my photographs have an antique quality. Not the fact that the are black and white but the composition. This may be because I was influenced by old books and photographs from the Victorian and Edwardian era. I need some of that youthful playfulness back!
 
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TonyB65

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Completely self-taught, just taught myself to develop film in the last couple of years when I started shooting it again, apart from a few basic mistakes it was all pretty painless. No claim to any awards or anything but I can take a pretty decent image judging by the feedback I get both online and off.
 

Pentode

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Self taught in my mid 20s, circa 1993. A Minolta body, a couple of borrowed lenses and a book by John Hedgecoe.

After about a 7-year layoff I decided to take a course at a local community darkroom and see if there was anything important I missed the first time around. Verdict: nah, not really, but it was a good refresher.

The years off had no negative affects on my photography; My work is every bit as mediocre as it always was!
 

removed account4

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school taught ( highschool thru college, apprenticeships, assisting pros and book binding with a bookbinder )
self taught ( making photo emulsion, coating dry plates, view camera work, overcoming fear, using expired materials ... )

i learned a lot through the guidance of a teacher, mentor pro &c they only really set up the the foundation
everything else was through exploring and teaching myself stuff i had an interest in .. ( in addition to photography &c classes i took
studio art, art+architectural history, and science classes ...and classes in architecture, city planning and historic preservation planning.
currently been taking classes in human anatomy+physiology, math, writing and as i write this, physics ... you stop exploring + learning .. that's the end.
 
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Ian Grant

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Great. What did academics do for you?

That's an interesting question. The workshops I went on in the1980;s were lead by academics, well all but one, an they were also known for their photographic output as exhibiting artists. The one none academic was the UK's leading landscape photographer, Fay Godwin, who'd had many exhibitions and books published.

So from academics it's been mostly approach, how to evolve my own, which was going in the right way for me anyway. So later when I did my MA it was really about contextualising work, that of others and my own, I'd already been back to University to study Industrial Archaeology as my work had gone in that direction.

It's being able to understand and more importantly articulate why you make certain bodies of work, in my case that was itself largely self taught or rather thought through. Having the Academic rigour helps as well.

Ian
 

guangong

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It all depends on what is meant by “ photography”. As for as the technical side, I learned from books such as Newcombe’s 35mm Photo Technique, Leica & Leicaflex Way, Contax Way, the excellent series of booklets put out by Hasselblad. Very helpful was the series of articles on darkroom technique by David Vestal that appeared in Camera 35, the Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, etc.
Not by formal instruction but by example, I was close friends with photographers of no small reputation in a variety of styles.
I did study painting and sculpture with several great artists who had great control of their materials and technique. Books on drawing, etc and museums are also very good teachers. It is also useful to look at mediocre and bad work to understand what doesn’t work.
As for degrees, J. Barzun noted that we are now living in a world of certification and not one of ability. Does anyone believe that Lincoln could be elected today, since he wasn’t certified Ivy League? He was also the first president that suffered total resistance by Democrat Party, both Northern and Southern branches.
From my own obsevations almost all really good artists are people of vast learning and don’t just zero in on “art”. Most of the basic principles and methods of any art can be learned in a very short time. It’s refinement that takes time. There is no shortcut.
 

glbeas

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Self taught, propped up by reading an encyclopedia of photography cover to cover and any other photography related literature I got my hands on. I worked at my hometown newspaper for several years and learned to run the copy camera and graphic darkroom after a stint developing and printing for the reporters. After learning the basics everything else seemed just common sense application.
 

jim10219

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I originally went to school for electrical engineering. Then I went back to get my fine art degree (and a math degree).

But I taught myself photography and how to work on cameras. Well, that's not entirely true. My fiancé taught me a lot about photography, as she's a professional photographer. And I learned a lot online.

So for me, it's kind of a mix between the two. The elements of form, composition, color, texture, balance, etc. I learned in college. That's 90% of photography or any visual art. So the only real thing left for me to learn (not that I'm not still learning about the basics, because you never stop learning new and better ways to apply them), was all of the camera, computer, and darkroom stuff. And that stuff I learned outside of a school setting.
 

David Brown

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Self taught, but I had a good teacher ... :whistling:
 

jim10219

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Great. What did academics do for you?
Looking back, the two most important things about the art world that you pick up in academics are the ability to communicate, and connections. I didn't realize the later until after I was done with school, and made the mistake of not pushing myself to be more extraverted. It's hurt me ever since, and I'm still not very outgoing.

As for the "ability to communicate" part, what I mean by that is artists, gallery owners, and museum curators all have a specific language. They like their artist's statements written a certain way. They have specific words for things that probably don't need specific words. Much like the business world and all of their buzz words, or the science world and their Latin. It's just a way to communicate that ensures everyone is on the same page, and (and this is my own personal belief) to eliminate outsiders from just waltzing on in and acting like they belong without doing the leg work to get accredited. Like a secret handshake or something.
 

Bruce Walker

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Self-taught. A lot of reading, mainly photo books by the masters, a lot of online tutorials, references, blogs. A small number of workshops (appears I am allergic to them).

I shot 35mm film in the 1970's but though I was intrigued, I didn't stick with it. Eleven years ago, nearing my retirement I picked up my wife's P&S to divert me. That turned into a hobby and now pretty much an obsession as an art form.
 

Sirius Glass

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I read books and asked a lot of questions. I read Popular Photography and Modern Photography. I went to my father’s camera club. I got A lot of help and advice. That is why I contribute to this website, to help others as people helped me when I was learning.
 

Andrew O'Neill

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My formal education is in drawing and printmaking (intaglio, lithography, serigraphy...), back in the 80's. Photography then was only to gather information to use back in my studio (K1000). Photography students offered to develop the film for me (Tri-X, mainly). Was not interested in photography at all then. About a year after graduating, and living in Japan, I convinced myself to learn more about photography. All self-taught. It's been an interesting journey. I still draw and do a bit of printmaking...but photography is my passion. Teaching art and photography to high school kids has been interesting.
 
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