A Photo Teacher |

The Education of a Photographer

Posted in PHOT 252 by Paul Turounet on August 12, 2007


The Education of a Photographer is a collection of writings on the critical discourse of photography and what it means to be a photographer. The book offers to “bring encouragement and insight to all of those engaged in lens-based media in the twenty-first century.” Edited by Charles Traub, Chair of the School of Visual Arts’ MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department, along with Adam Bell and Steven Heller, the book brings together various writings, interviews and thoughts on the nature of photography from early twentieth-century masters on to the contemporary visionaries of today. The diverse group of 54 photographers and writers offering their thoughts includes Robert Adams, Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Gregory Crewdson, Peter Galassi, Max Kozloff, Nathan Lyons, Peter MacGill, Susan Meiselas, Stephen Shore, John Szarkowski and Jeff Wall. Topics of discussion include:

Reflections on the Medium: What It Means to Photograph

How Others See Them: Considering the Photographer and Writers on Photography

Finding An Audience: Working with the Professionals and Photography Today: Interviews

Guides for the Uneducated: Higher Education and Photography and Shared Wisdom


Students and those interested in the medium are faced with questions on how to further pursue and refine their photographic vision. What is the path for becoming a photographer? Is it necessary to take classes and even go on to get an advanced degree such as a BFA and then, an MFA?  How does one develop their photographic vision?  What comes after the education? As an instructor of photography, I’ve been asked these questions on a regular basis and much to the disappointment of a student seeking an immediate and certain direction, I can only pose more questions than answers as the education of a photographer is an individual process.


Photography is experiencing a revolution that is as exciting and complex as when it was discovered over 150 years ago. The internet and photo-sharing websites, on-demand digital book publishing, and photoblogs are complimenting the traditions of the medium, including the increasing number of photography galleries, museums with dedicated photography departments and photography books being published. This is truly an exciting time for the medium which suggests that it will become necessary for the education of a photographer to shift as the medium continues to evolve, which is something both photographers and educators of photography have done since its inception.



Complete the assigned reading for each given class and address the following question in preparation of in-class discussion:


1....A Brief List of Self-Assignments for Artists 203

Prepare a brief list of at least three goals as it relates to your photography that you’d like to work on this semester


2....The Dos and Don’ts of Graduate Studies: Maxims from the Chair 190

From Charles Traub’s lists, identify one Do, one Don’t and one Truism that resonates with your own ideas about photography

Prepare a list of five Dos, five Don’ts and five Truisms (beliefs about photography) that you’d like to keep in mind in relationship to your photographic practice


3....Commitment 185

Identify what John Szarkowski means by commitment

Define what commitment means for you in your photographic practice


4....A Handy Kit for Do-It-Yourself Critics 194

List five reasons why you want your photographs critiqued

List five questions/considerations you feel are important to address when looking at and critiquing the photographs of others (including those in class)


5....Colleagues 32

Identify at least three thoughts that Robert Adams discusses about his admiration of fellow photographers

Identify at least three philosophical points of view / ideas you feel define who you are as a photographer


6....Photography at the Crossroads 7

Identify at least three issues that Bernice Abbott suggested about why photography was at a crossroads in 1951 and is still (or may be) relevant today

List five important issues that a you believe the young photographer should consider as part of their photographic practice in the twenty-first century


7....Something Better, Or At Least Something Different Website / Discussions

Identify at least three (3) photographer(s) and other influences (artists, literature, film, music, theater, current events…) and describe how these artists are informative and suggest the possibility of pleasure for your own photographic practice, whether it be subject matter and/or conceptual approach, aesthetic sensibility and/or technical approach (submit a link and/or include an example of their work)

Identify what you’re thinking about with your own work and approach that suggests how you may consider challenging these influences to something better, or at least something different


8....Unprecedented Photography 199

Identify at least two new elements and/or approaches you’d like to investigate and experiment with your photography

Which contemporary photographer are you drawn to that is currently working in an experimental manner (conceptual, aesthetic and/or technical) that reflects Moholy-Nagy’s views of an unprecedented photography (submit a link and/or include an example of their work)


9....The Artist in the Marketplace – An Interview with Charlotte Cotton 168

Depending on your interest in photography (art, fashion/commercial, documentary), what are Charlotte Cotton’s views on that particular genre

What are your thoughts about how you’re approaching your photographic practice in relationship to Cotton’s views on art, fashion/commercial and documentary approaches


10..What’s Next

Given the body of work you’re about to complete this semester, what are your thoughts on what success means for yourself at this moment, and how it informs your thinking about success in the near future



Your response is required to be submitted in the Comment section below, on the Course Canvas Page or the Instagram site (@a_phototeacher).

See Course Calendar for Due Dates and Times




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: