Photography Teachers?

Photography Schools

I have recently noticed several advertisements of those that are “teaching” photography.  At a school of photography as a guest speaker I was asked what my thoughts were regarding the whole “I can teach you photography” thing. Well here goes. I don’t subscribe to that concept for many reasons. One is how to stunt the growth of a new student by teaching them rules about what is and what isn’t right for a starter.  Another is the often over used formulas that in most cases these “specialists” teach the naive student as gospel

I do however have no problem with a school that assists one in understanding technical issues or a school that deals with the historical and artistic aspects of photography. But a school that deals with issues such as cropping, lighting style etc…Well that’s where I put my foot down and say an unequivocal NO, Nein, Non.

I have had so many poor lost assistants whom I would rather not pinpoint specifically, that have no clue what so ever who they are. If they did come into a school of photography with the hopes of coming out an individual, well that notion was sucked out of them by the energy vampires. I’m not saying that all profs are frustrated unsuccessful photographers that couldn’t make it in their field. However from what I have seen and heard, one could not help but make that assumption.

I am saying that guest speakers, workshops and specialized subjects dealing with specific technical issues might be a reason to seek out advice or when a guest lecturer has come in to speak of his or her experiences, as I did at the Orleans School of Photography in France. Do your research. Read, experiment, take tons of photos inspire yourself and grow as a human. Build up your vocabulary in all disciplines and your life shall be richer as a result. It has been proven that the greater the vocabulary the richer ones life. Take a deep breath and do what comes naturally. If you get stuck creatively, take a short break.  If you need some technical advice, just ask questions.

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About Benjamin Kanarek
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Fashion and Beauty Photographer. Some of the magazines I have shot for include: VOGUE (China, Portugal, Brazil, Italia, Paris and South America & Mexico editions), RG VOGUE Brazil, Harper’s BAZAAR (China, en Español & Latin America, Hong Kong, Italy editions), L’Officiel Paris, ELLE (Spain, Portugal and Greece editions), Madame Figaro (France), Cosmopolitan (France and Italy editions), Glamour (France), Votre Beauté, Jardin des Modes, Dépêche Mode, New York Daily News, Fashion District News, New York Times Magazine, W (British edition), WWD, Fashion Magazine (Canada), Flare (Canada), Oyster, Tank, WestEast…

  • @: Well, I have been working as professional photographer for last 20 years and 6 years ago I take the oportunity to make a “substitution” in the educational (spanish) system for only one month… That unique month has turned in a 6 courses now.
    The problem I have found is: almost no teacher of photography are photographers. Usually they have the equivalent of a grade on “audiovisual comunication”, this is: they now a lot about Television Production and about visual theory of communication. Only a few are photographers (amateurs). The lack of knowledge and preparation in photography is alarmant. They resume all the knowledge in a bunch of “rules” they do not critize.
    The main problem is the “artistic issue”. They tend to see the professional photography only as a art manifestation which can be achieved by the aplication of a few rules. For example, talking about my fiel of specialization, the lighting, the courses say “We are going to see 17 schemes of lighting”. And they teach the position of the lamps… never the need of the position. Do not teach the results of the light, the efects on the space, on the figure. The centre in the formulas to set up the lights, not the way to know where to put them. The teach to put the lamps where there is a place for them, not teach to put the lamps where you need them to be.

    About the formulas. There is a foundation knowledge. You cannot forget it. The build o your work needs that knowledge. I do not understand if we, here in this post, are talking about “do not teach formulas” or “do not teach about formulas to construct the buildings”. There is TWO class of formulas: the “principles” which stablish the foundation of your work. And the “rules” which try to solve the entire construction of your work, from “toe to head” with a “cook recipe”.

    I see “creative” teachers do waste the alumns. Too much “creative” intentions without teach any. Think in this: you are a teacher of driving and say to your alumns: go into the car, and let your inspiration make the job…

    No. The creative spirit must be stimulated with the knowledge of what you can do. Do not teach recipes. But do teach the foundations and help the alumn progrese with their assumptions and believings.

    The perfection in the technic must be the foundation. “Principles” are not to be forgeted, but used at your own.

    (Of course. Rules must be dimished)

    (I am deeply deceptionated with the educational system. May be this or the next year will be the last in the system).

    Photography is not an art. And we should not be ashamed by this.

    (Or, photography can be seen as more than only an “art”).

  • Benjamin Kanarek

    @Adam:

    Wonderfully expressed…

  • Adam

    It’s only possible to nurture talent in pupils, not to instill. I have known friends who were dismissed by teachers as having no potential to achieve mastery in the face of such academic summary execution.

    If you instill (dictate) how others should approach something, then all you get is clones; parrots who woefully go through the steps mechanically. If photography is about individuality, then there will be none by the end of this.

    If this goes unchecked, then eventually those who analyze the work, could do so perhaps by the same mechanical means. You can delineate the theoretical and practical into two camps. The theorists are caught up lavishing time on the camera whilst the practical shoot fluently from the hip, purely on instinct, purely by feel, purely by soul. This is not taught. The theorists are envious of the practicals and call them ‘undisciplined’, ‘unorthodox’ – as if they were somehow inferior, but chance is the way the universe works, and the theories are only the instructions for that probability.

  • aashish

    @: i feel if it ur style it is good for u and u must not care for the rejections but go the +ve side of ur style u never know what might come out of it…

  • David Stone

    Agreed. Unfortunately, we’re living in a time where education has become a commodity. Thankfully, with the economy in the garbage it has become more difficult to capitalize on the need for education and people are taking a “back to basics” approach.

    On the flip-side of this coin is the reverence of certain blogs and forums (i.e. strobist.com) which I think are becoming highly over-rated. Then again, let the huddled masses bathe in their pool of blissful ignorance.

  • Michael

    Honestly very refreshing. My family and friends (not photographers) have been harping on me to get my degree in photography for years now. What the hell can someone teach me beyond the technical? While we can all agree that there is a certain point in which a shot is just blown and not artsy…a point where it is just a bad picture, we can all also agree that you can’t teach someone how to shoot from their soul.

  • Tiffany

    Amen. Had I been “taught” to take photos, I wouldn’t have my “style” and that is what gets me business. Some of my client’s favorite photos have been completely slammed by teacher-types and other photographers. Sure they aren’t “technically” perfect – weird processing and/or interesting composition… but when people hire me because of these “non-perfect” things, then I guess I’m doing something right!