Ross J wrote in post #13647699
SethDuBois makes an interesting point of discussion about hands-on training because photography technique can only really be learned in practice. Each photography school or department is going to be unique in the sense that the instructors are unique as individuals. However, my general experience is that there are two basic types of schools. The first is the hands-on school that is heavy into technique but light on theory. The second is the classroom type of school that is heavy into theory but light on technique. Generally, the vocational type of art schools are the most hands-on while the college/university system is the most theoretical.
Balance is necessary to be really good at something, so a person really needs to have both hands-on technical training and a good liberal art history/ theory background in order to be the most well rounded. Unfortunately, it's not usually possible to get both of those at just one school and almost impossible to get them by being self-taught. The bad thing about being self-taught is that it lacks the context of a knowledgeable community. At school, there is a lot of competition so each individual student can judge his work directly against the work of his peers. Most self-taught folks only have friends, family and casual acquaintances as an audience so they never really know if they are "shooting up or shooting down." In other words, they lack the competitive community experience to help them figure out of they're actually improving or just getting stuck repeating themselves. Folks like Ansel Adams were self-taught BUT his close friends were top members of the arts community of the time so he still was part of a highly competitive community. It's very easy to please an average audience but really hard to please a knowledgeable audience and that's the achilles heel of most
self-taught photography education.
Yes because most of the time and most (not all) only learn what they want to learn and stay away from things that they probably should learn. Good schools will force you into situations that many would never go into. Photography is a discipline. The easy part and one part that can really take years to get extremely proficient at, is the technical side. The really hard side and the side that can really only thrive, usually after the technique as become second nature, is the visual side. Art history and the history of photography are so important as learning things like 2 dimensional design and color theory.
A good school will focus on both and I was very, very lucky to have had several professors that had studies with some of the best. One got his MFA from RISD and had Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind as teachers. I actually got to meet Callahan before he had his stroke because of the friendship this professor had with Harry.
Learning and working along side other creative people in a very creative environment is so beneficial and has helped me in ways I can't even begin to explain. And then theres the connections and friendship that you make. They can be so valuable and many of mine have been and will be life long.
Adams was self taught kinda I mean when your circle of friends include Weston, Stieglitz, Georgia O'Keeffe, Cunningham and far to many to really mention, most of the significant artists of the time, its a constant education.
Many greats were educated formally. Bresson spent years in school learning art. Uehlsmann has an MFA from Indiana University.
A formal education can cut years off the learning curve and open your mind to things and move you in directions that you might never explore otherwise. I know it helped me and without my education and working for some of the photographers I worked for after graduating I wouldn't be working in the field of photography that I now work in.