Sunday, October 14, 2007

Worlds Within Worlds

As of March 2008 I'll have been a photographer for 50 years. I began with an Ansco Readyflash that shot 8 photos/roll on 620 film. I still have the camera. They don't make film that size anymore although I could re-spool 120 onto 620 spools if I wanted. I don't. I've graduated from two schools of photography, taught photography in one of them and in evening courses. I was a 'pro' for a short while when young but it's a tough way to make a living and I had a family to support so I have relegated it to a passionate avocation for most of my life.

Recently I had the notion that I would like to pursue an MFA in photography in my retirement. I found an accredited school on the West coast that has an on-line MFA program and I inquired about it. Aside from the cost being prohibitive (it's hard to justify spending about $40K in borrowed money for a degree in something you don't plan to make a career of) I decided after reviewing their program that it wasn't a good match for me anyway. They proudly advertise that they train 'conceptual' artists. I'm not into conceptual art even if, as they claim, it is the 'dominant' art form today. My concept is that I'm a visual omnivore. I don't limit myself to a particular subject matter or way of working. If something catches my eye, I'll photograph it and share my vision of it with anyone who cares to look. I try to make images that convey the experience of being there.

I looked up some of the people whose work they train photographers to emulate and found several who are billed as "one of the most influential photographers of all time" or words to that effect. Now in my 49+ years of continual study of my craft I have encountered the likes of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Caponigro, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and literally dozens (maybe hundreds) of others, Muybridge, Curtis and on and on and on. The list seems endless as tens of thousands of their images swirl through my memory. The funny thing is, I never heard of any of these photographers the school lists as being the most influential of all time until I started researching this MFA program. I don't know who they've influenced and looking at their work... they wouldn't have influenced me even if I had heard of them sooner. I'm sure if an accredited MFA program and the galleries think these people are "influential" they must be to someone but I still don't like their work and have no desire to emulate them. If I had $40K I'd rather spend it on the photography I like doing and am proud to share with my audience than to learn to produce work I dislike.

No comments:

Post a Comment