Some Quick Thoughts May 14

Yesterday on FotoFika we did yoga with Stephanie and I was amazed at how relevant it felt to everything. Thanks John, that was a great idea. We will continue to talk about self-care over the weeks to discuss some ways to advocating for yourself with your institution or institutions or if you don’t have an institution any more–We will discuss paying attention to you art making over the summer. We are exploring the idea of break out rooms and dedicated workshops where people can further discuss these things in smaller focused groups. 

I want to respond to some email I’ve received and posts I’ve seen lately. Barbara Fillion wrote me recently to mention that she creates very simple screencasts in response to her student’s work. Its quick, immediate and not over produced. She wonders if maybe other people have discovered it–that doesn’t really matter what matters I think is that we continue to share solutions and solve problems together. Barbara’s solution provides immediate and voice responses to the students. Some videos need to be more polished than others–but some can be made for the moment. This isn’t entirely new but I think it bears repeating.

This leads me to the second point where someone asked if showing tech demos created by someone else would somehow devalue their class–if the students can learn it elsewhere maybe they will devalue the class. I want to encourage everyone to think of themselves in perhaps a different way, it is my thought that very few college students think that the main value of their professor is their knowledge of the relationship between aperture/shutter speed and ISO. Being able to point your students to vetted and well done resources is of much more value than you holding the key to some kind of specialized knowledge. Its my opinion that too much of photography education and culture has been based on this idea of the power of having tech knowledge (and it’s twin having the best equipment) — And by extension having these technical skills. In our program we are getting a lot of students who have learned a lot online–but they have very little understanding of why or how to apply their understanding, they don’t understand their own creative process very well, they may not know beyond wanting to get a bunch of likes on Instagram why they are making theses pictures, or even what the images mean. They may not understand how the tools they are using are affecting the meaning, how their work fits into a historical, socio-cultural or political context. They may not know where to find considered in-depth sustained work, or that there is a difference between art and commerce (of course it is an often blurry one).

As you create new classes, or revamp or adjust or just convert your current classes, don’t fall into the trap of over estimating the value of your own knowledge. If someone else can and has already explained how to use studio lights on location, or the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO, and you have access to there video or handout–use it. If you have a particularly funny or interesting or good way to do this–then by all means create a video for your students and share it with others. You are not a photo store guy whose self-worth is in meting out or lording your knowledge over your students. Your job is to get them to create stronger more meaningful work, to engage, to understand new perspectives. Your unique and specific experience which may well include technical skills and way of creating and way of seeing the world is what is most valuable in the class-room, virtual or literal. Maybe you are really great at explaining how a view camera works, maybe you aren’t.
Maybe a student created the most amazing discussion ever on Laura Mulvey and you plan to use their PDF for future classes.

I can’t stress it enough, knowing your own value will help you in this time. Lynda.com, The Art of Photography and videos from B&H and Adobe, — we can’t compete with them, we don’t want to compete with them, use them (although why why why do tech demos always use young white women as subjects?_-another discussion but sometimes I hate using the traditional tech videos because of that– that may be a case to make your own actually)–

Now is the time to make education and art as good and as valuable as possible, to assert the value of creativity, visual literacy, and the connections, understanding, empathy and richness. 

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