Facing today's photography students

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by ilya1963, Feb 16, 2009.

  1. ilya1963

    ilya1963 Member

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    I have been asked to speak in front of a classroom of 18 students at the university of Maine on the 25th of this month , I accepted .

    I will bring my prints and my 8x10 , I am really looking forward
    to this, I think I stand to learn something about myself by doing this and in the process maybe get someone inspired to do traditional photography.

    The class is about vision , seeing ,it's pretty wide open , I will have about an hour and half or so

    how would you approach this challenge , just trying to get some ideas, may be you've done this sort of thing and have some comments, just thought I would ask here since I know that this forum is a huge source of information and knowledge.

    ILYA
     
  2. arigram

    arigram Member

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    Just tell them that size matters, they will understand.
     
  3. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Morning, Ilya,

    I can't offer much. The only thought which immediately occurs to me is to bring along a night shot or two and discuss how often the results show something which you didn't even notice when doing the shoot.

    Put a student under the dark cloth and listen for "Everything's upside down!" Then explain that you really need to replace that old lens which has been doing that lately. I always had that reaction when I did a photography presentation to high school students. It gave me a chance to assure them that, before long, viewing the upside-down image seems entirely natural.

    Konical
     
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    ilya1963

    ilya1963 Member

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    Ari , I am bringing the 8x10 not really to show off , but because I have not touched anything else for the last 5 years: http://www.ilyaaskinazi.com/ . I know that you went to one of this good schools here in the states , at least I think I remember you saying it , so how you and your teachers were approaching learning seeing , are there certain exercises or assignments ?

    Konical, thank you . I am planning to bring variety of work.But seeing how do you teach someone to see? it seem to be automatic to me and I looked as far as I can remember and I can't seem to recall anybody teaching me this , it was all trial and error thing , I only spent a semester at a School of Visual Arts in Manhattan back in the early 80' so I don't have a formal education and have no idea what they teach, especially now in a digital world , I am just trying to understand what I am about to walk into.

    Thank you, ILYA
     
  5. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    I do this twice a week for the entire semester, so speaking only once is a piece of cake.

    Good to bring show and tell. Besides setting up the 8x10, you must insist that each student get off their text messaging butts, get under the dark cloth, and look at the image formed on the ground glass. I'd start with that, then ask the students questions of what they noticed. If you don't start asking questions right away, they won't talk. They sit there on their text messaging butts.

    Once you answer their questions, if there is anything they did not ask about the camera and how it functions just like their camera (this is the most important thing I have to say: your presentation should not be about you, but about them), then you start describing the camera in relation to their gear. How it is the same; how it is different.

    Only then do you show them your work. Your images without the camera demonstration will be out of context with the gear and how you made your images if you start with your images.

    When showing your work, ask questions about their work, and what is different about their images and yours.

    Once you are finished showing your work, then open the floor to discussion. This is a good time to bring the professor back into the presentation. He or she will then use your demonstration and talk, to steer the students into thinking about how to apply what you present.

    Good luck, have fun, don't bore them with things outside their knowledge base, but instead inspire them to apply what you are presenting to their own work.

    Now I've got to get back to preparing my lesson plan for tomorrow where I demonstrate how an enlarger works so my students can print their own images.
     
  6. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    What an honour! Teaching someone to see in an hour and a half... that's a challenge.

    You will get much better advice from pretty much everyone else here at APUG, but you might want to show the difference between a snapshot and a finely crafted photograph of a similar scene. Show them what it takes to make the viewer of a photograph see the scene as you envisioned it. Guide them through the process from composing, focusing (especially if you had to make use of significant movements to fine tune your image) exposure (especially if you are using the Zone System or a variant thereof) developing, and making a fine print. If this were an advanced photography master class, you could easily stretch this much to an hour and a half, but if they do not have much of a grasp of the basics, ten minutes would be plenty.

    Make sure someone videotapes your presentation. You could have a master class for us all. By the way, you have some amazing work on your website. I would love to be a student in any class you taught.

    [edit] I just read your "about" page. Your photographic journey is something your students will need to hear. That, if nothing else, should inspire them... it has inspired me.

    Cheers,
     
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  7. BWGirl

    BWGirl Member

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    I guess I'd open up by talking about how kids see the world. If this is about seeing and vision rather than equipment, that might be a good place to start. Remember when you were a kid and you first blew the dried seeds from a dandelion? You saw the grace of movement there. That is 'vision'. I would probably prompt them to look at the familiar as if they were new to it... seeing it for the first time. I would tell them that the camera (any camera) is a way for them to record that moment.. to capture that point in time & light and area; to capture their vision.
    Just a few thoughts; hope it helps! :smile:
     
  8. arigram

    arigram Member

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    I had a point though, in regards to size.
    Very few modern people know, even photographers, that the size of the film/sensor makes the difference not any other mumbo jumbo. Even MF digitals are starting to pick up now. So that's a good way to start.
    The size, also demands a different approach to photography as you know, so that very different way of thinking and working, which also leads to different creative decisions, would be for me the main sale point. Photographers born into digital only know the "machine gun frames - check preview screen - make changes in Photoshop" approach, a vastly different way of creating art than when using an LF film camera, or any other film camera for that matter.
    Its not just a different kind of technique and material in one discipline of Art, its almost a completely different discipline. Many photographers don't believe in the approach and materials, they only care about the final results, whatever method they used to get them. But an artist cares about the method and materials because they affect the final outcome, the philosophy of the artist and even the whole artistic discipline by itself. Its different kind of art when you digital stitch an image and when you create it by the press of a single button.
     
  9. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Good advice, BW.

    I recently came across an article on "How To Write Haiku". In it, there is the definition of Haiku - "Hai" meaning, roughly, "Happy" + "Ku" meaning, again roughly, "Experience".
    To write successful Haiku, one must first have, and be emotionally affected by, the experience. From that, the Haiku will appear.
    To attempt to write without the "ku' will only, and invariably result in what the author called "Desk Haiku" - an unsuccessful assemblage of words without power and significance.

    Desk Haiku is relatively easy - it is adult writing, with reliance on traditional form and conventions, it follows strict rules, slavishly. There is little risk in Desk Haiku, and adults, wise to the ways of the world know there is little chance of - God forbid! - offending the critics.

    Good Haiku is the opposite, the writing of a child, seeing the world through the eyes of a child- oblivious to the dangers that lie out there in the "art world"

    It is also fresh, original, innovative...

    Now, I would re-read all of the above and substitute "Photography" for "Haiku.

    Can "vision", or "seeing" be taught? The more I think about it the more convinced that the answer is no.
    We can try to affect pre-conditioning in the student - to try to direct their attention to the ku, to try to determine and describe what the effect of the ku has upon our inner self. From that the good photographs WILL appear.

    Something to think about!
     
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    ilya1963

    ilya1963 Member

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    Thank you all for putting some thought in to your replies... they are all very helpful ...

    If anybody comes up with some more suggestions or ideas please post , I still have till the 25th ...

    Thank you,

    ILYA
     
  11. ROL

    ROL Member

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    Ilya,

    I take it for granted that you have been asked to speak because someone has recognized your work, your vision - and I think because of that you already know what to talk about. In my view, there is only one way to approach this opportunity. Talk about your prints, what motivates you and your process. No doubt that when it comes from the heart, you will inspire or motivate students, no matter their process.
     
  12. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    Ilya, it was in a different context, but when I was about to give my first lecture (as a grad student in history), I asked my mentor for advice. His response: "Before you go into the class room, make sure you have your lecture notes and that your fly is zippered up."
     
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    ilya1963

    ilya1963 Member

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    :smile: , John ............... great , it'll be on the list of things to check .... funny
     
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  15. Ian David

    Ian David Subscriber

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    Hi Ilya. I remember being pretty intrigued when a photography teacher first told me about Minor White's idea of photographing something "not just for what it is, but for what else it is". I think this can get students thinking about symbolism and the impact - subtle or powerful - that images can have beyond their immediately obvious contents...
    Ian
     
  16. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Just be yourself.

    I've given many lectures over the years, I don't make copious notes, just a a few bullet points, I prefer to interact with the audience and also be different.

    Think about how you'll present the prints, I'm usually showing exhibition sets, mainly framed images but also some new work in progress. So I stage a mini Exhibition inviting the audience to look at the prints first. Then I give a short talk 30-40 minutes usually discussing the background to the work and referring to some of the key images. Then a short break to allow the audience get a better chance to look at the images again.

    I usually finish with some questions about the images then show & briefly discuss new work in progress, I also have additional material, to show quite different projects & ways I work for anyone who might be interested.

    The most important message you must convey is why you make the work, and what are you trying to say with it.

    Ian
     
  17. nyoung

    nyoung Subscriber

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    When I start "teaching vision" (sometimes an oxymoron) I use a slide of a fairly cluttered but strong scene projected on a screen for just a few seconds (five or fewer), then ask the students to tell me what they saw.

    Invariably, they lock in on the largest or most dominate image in the frame - as is normal.

    After a brief discussion of their first impressions, I put the slide back up and spend some time pointing out the things in the frame they hadn't seen.

    From there we talk about how photographic seeing requires an awareness of everything in the frame or viewfinder in addition to what you think is your subject.

    Then we talk about selection and moving things into or out of the frame to create the picture your are seeing in your mind.

    Once you break the ice and get a conversation started, their answers to your questions will move the class along.
     
  18. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    What I did in one classroom lecture was position an LF camera with a small video camera focused on the GG, and showed roughly how the movements work and why they matter. If you don't have that much time then you could simply do a little show and tell and circulate prints showing whatever points you wish to discuss, be they artistic or scientific or whatever.

    I took a bunch of cameras to a seminar and everybody really loved the oldies, I have a few 100+ year old wooden field cameras. Everyone can appreciate a reaaaaally old camera! The questions I got were things like: why use an old camera? Is it better/worse? Do you use modern cameras too? Are those old lenses any good? Etc. Very good starter topics for informal discussion, and they can be handled on a technical or an artistic level, as you please.

    Bottom line: motivate those questions that you most want to address. Have fun and they will too!
     
  19. rthomas

    rthomas Member

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    I have the same question about "learning to see" as I always seemed to compose my images, even when I was 12 and shot with a Kodak Instamatic. When I think about it, it was exposure to all types of art including photography, different genres of music, architecture, etc... Mom and Dad both used to be very avid photographers. So, when I get the opportunity, I tell people to look at art, listen to music, expand your expressive horizons. Sometimes it's hard to make a connection between, say, Miles Davis and photography but you get the idea.

    When I first really got into photography, one of my friends in music school joked "what are you going to do, work for W___ Camera?" This went on for a little while, until I showed him some of my slides. He immediately said I had a very good eye, and he turned me on to Edward Hopper, one of the great American painters. I think exposure to other mediums is very important to seeing, although I don't think that means you have to try to copy those methods.

    My favorite quote is in my signature and I think it's true in a couple different ways. Technically, the camera and lens impose limitations that our eyes don't (and therefore the camera sees "more"); also, the eye/brain combination sees in real time, while film is cumulative (simply put, all photography is a time exposure, whether it's a night shot or not). It's capturing a FOUR dimensional world in a two dimensional medium.
     
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    ilya1963

    ilya1963 Member

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    Richard , last night while printing I was listening to Coltrane -Impressions (1963) , visual and sound combination has been on my mind for a very , very long time , my mom was a sound engineer in the movie industry when I was just a child , it was then that I learned that visual has sound and sound has visual , that is definitely going to be talked about at this class ... interesting part is that while in the darkroom we listen to music , when we are out and shooting most of the time we do not , but mind seem to be full of sound... thank you for bringing music up , I am definitely on the same page here.

    What I am concerned about is an ability of a 18+ year old to dig this , I mean how many listen to Miles or Coltrane? I love some stuff they listen to because of my daughters - Allies in Chains, Marilyn Manson( some), Nirvana............that grunge era music to me is very much continuation of the music from Coltrane/Davis --- I am sure some here will think I am crazy .... it's a bit of a shoot in the dark thing when you bring up your music vs.. what they listen to today
     
  21. rthomas

    rthomas Member

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    Wow, where do I begin? I've never had any formal art training... my undergraduate photography degree is in "Technical Photography" and not Fine Art, but my colleagues in that program where all into Coltrane, Miles, and yes, definitely grunge. I love Nirvana; have you ever checked out a jazz group called The Bad Plus? If not, do so, you may be in for a nice surprise. Another recent group for you to listen to - now defunct - is Morphine. Unlike most "Rock" groups they rarely used guitar, it's mostly sax and slide bass.

    These days, it seems to me that the more intellectual college students (in my grad program at least) are into acoustic music, and draw from a lot of different genres. One of my friends is in a mostly acoustic band, with standup bass, guitar, and just a kick drum and snare, and they cover Billy Idol's "White Wedding" among many other songs. Another group I've seen recently is entirely acoustic and they cover The Violent Femmes!

    I think some photography students will get the music connection, if you bring it up. Not all of them listen to Justin Timberlake et al! Rhythm especially is a compositional technique, and contrasting colors... when I was studying music 20 years ago, one of my theory teachers was really into how different key signatures have different "colors" (moods, but slightly more complex than just sad, happy etc). Architecture, one of my favorite photographic subjects, also has lots of rhythmic elements.
     
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  22. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    Announce that a meteor will strike the earth in 30 minutes:
    we will all be consumed in a fiery explosion.

    The students who don't reach for their cameras are not photographers,
    and may be dismissed.

    The two that remain, calm them down,
    and go out and shoot anyway.
     
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    ilya1963

    ilya1963 Member

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    df.- you are right as usual .... and bring up a very interesting point that I have been tormented by since I came up to a fatal car crash three years ago , I was the first on the scene , there was a woman hanging down out of her drivers door dripping with blood , her torso was still twitching in my arms when I tried to pull her out , I had to back off, because the fire from under the dash where her knee was pinned was taken over the car , I watch her skin bubble , she burned in front of me , I stood there completely helpless, I screamed from the bottom of my being, why am I saying this , well I reached for the camera when I first got there , but the second reaction was to try to save this woman ... I never touched my camera until that late afternoon , when I photographed some grass covered with water drops ...

    Does this make me a photographer or not? What would you do?

    ILYA
     
  24. wclark5179

    wclark5179 Member

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    Work on an agenda.

    Bullet Points.

    Have a time to begin your meeting.

    A time to the left with each bullet point.

    Example:

    8:00 AM Meeting Begins
    Introductions - Purpose of the Meeting
    Objectives & Goals

    8:05 AM Topic One

    8:20 AM Topic Two

    And so on.


    Make time for Q&A.

    Include a summary at the end.

    Adjourn on time.

    Use visuals, props & other materials such as handouts to support your purpose & objectives. Get help with the handouts, props, visuals, easels, etc. Your focus should be on you. The other items are to support you!

    Look at the outline. Put it down. Look at it again. Improve.

    Three signs of a great speech:

    Be Brief

    Be Accurate

    Be Gone
     
  25. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    Hmmm, lots of ideas. I just googled "University of Maine" + photography. Most of what I found was at Augusta. Is that where you are going? If not, I think what I have to say would apply generally to other programs as well.

    Their program has two options, either an associate degree in photography (usually these are 2 year programs and rather practically oriented) or photography as a part of the BA degree in art, at 200 and 300 levels, that is, second and third year, basically. I'm ignoring the color and photoshop courses. The Art degree offers a concentration in photography as one option, or lists the photography as options in the other concentrations (ceramic, painting, printmaking). I'm guessing that the class you would be addressing (if I have the right campus) would be the PHO 101/Art 235?

    Have you been to the campus before? Do you know the professor well, or at all? Do you know the mix of students you may be working with? One thing that popped into my mind is that you mentioned that there would be 18 students, then later you said that the students would be 18+ years old. You may well be surprised to find some 50+ year old students. Also, you may find that some of the students have had little to no photo experience but some may have had a great deal. For example, one of my former students (1984 or so) from a two year commercial photo program went back to the U of Washington last year as a freshman, to emerge with a BA in art, concentrating in photography. She had worked as a professional photographer in the interim, for some twenty years.

    Generally, university students are a bit more uniform than the students in community colleges, but in today's world, with changing careers, changing conditions in the job market, people disillusioned with their former boundaries, I would be very surprised if you could characterize the population of the room with any accuracy at all.

    Also, those taking the course will have a variety of goals. A ceramics major, for example, may get a great deal more than s/he expects from the course, but the primary motive for signing up could well be to learn to photograph three dimensional materials for portfolio. There could be students from other disciplines in the class, as well (programs differ on this; UW does not allow non majors in the photo courses). You will also have students who are very interested in the subject and some who only need the credit. There may be one or two who think photography is an easy "A" since anyone can take pictures, and you may have someone who is taking photo to avoid having to take a drawing class.

    The point is that a class is not monolithic. It is amazing how one class differs from all others. It's always a surprise. You will be dealing with a collection of individuals, about whom you can make very limited generalizations, so you can't assume that an approach that comes from a particular aesthetic orientation is going to fly.

    I can tell you how I have thought of it when I bring people in as I did in January when I had to miss the first week of class. I wanted someone entertaining, enthusiastic, and who could bring interesting things to look at. I didn't expect him to actually teach content; only to provide something that could interest to a broad collection of individuals. I brought in a friend of mine with no particular academic credentials, one who is more an old time photographer than an "artist", who could come with lots of props. He brought, among other things, a twelve foot wooden tripod he built himself for his cirkut camera, and a wide variety of other cameras. He set up the cirkut and took a fake group portrait, 360°, without using film. He brought a bunch of cirkut prints, and a variety of other cameras. Big hit. Students told me that he must have made about ten trips out to his truck to bring all the stuff in.

    You can't do what he did, most likely, and your aesthetic will show, no doubt. That's ok, because it's you. You will bring what you have, and it will be enough. In general, though, I'd suggest that it might best to avoid philosophical or aesthetic positions and keep it open. I'd try to let the audience drive the event. I very much like Ian's suggestion - be yourself. I'd suggest that you bring as much stuff to look at as you can. More prints, rather than less. Actual objects, rather than talk, will breath life into the event.

    I think you can plan too much, and that won't be helpful. Your job is to provide a focus for them, something to stimulate their own thinking. I suspect that anything you bring, and your own story, would do that job just fine.

    Next time I need someone to fill in for me, you can have the job, but be sure to bring Cardwell with you.
     
  26. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    I'd do the same as you did. Photography is a crappy religion.