My approach to teaching photography
My approach to my photography classes is very similar to the way I learned photography and the accumulation of information and experiences I have learned along the way.
A couple of fundamental principals.
Practical over theory
Watching, doing and doing again with feedback and critical review is paramount to learning and practicing photography. This will never end.
Knowing where “you” come from will help you on the journey (of photography).
Knowing the history of photographs and the photographers who created them whether famous or not is extremely important. I call this assembling your photographer DNA. There are very few new ideas, but we learn from the past to allow us to create new and unique expressions.
Photography is partly a “technical” craft, and there are processes and practices to learn and understand. Once we master these “tools of the trade” and their rules of use we can then adapt, transform and break those rules. Some principles are basic science, and we need to learn them to use them to make pictures. Others are meant to protect us and others from harm or loss of our capital investment.
Collaboration is key to learning and the practice of photography.
As photographers, we often work alone, but we learn photography better in small groups. Helping is learning by doing for someone else. Collaboration is one of the most valuable aspects of learning photography. Please don't undervalue this experience.
Failure is okay.
As long as we avoid damage to expensive gear, or to each others safety, having a photographic failure is rarely life-threatening. Trying something that doesn't work is okay. Only trying things that work every time means you are not trying hard enough.
In my classes, I do these things.
Every workshop is unique. I teach each course adapting to each cohort of students who bring unique questions and experiences to each class.
I like the classes to be relevant to the photography community, as well as what is occurring in the international photography world.
I share historical photographs as well as contemporary images and the photographers that make them. Pittsburgh has a beautiful community of artists and professionals, and I introduce their practices and work through studio visits, guest lectures in the classroom and gallery visits. I call these experiences with the Pittsburgh Masters.
Although we meet once a week; I make myself available for 30-minute sessions to talk about photography, class work or virtually any topic over coffee as long as it fits into my schedule. I believe that once you are a student, you are always a student of mine. So this offer extends beyond this semester.
I aim to make in class demos as practical and as hands-on as I can. The learning often happens after we have a chance to reflect on the experience as we are looking at our work. I encourage you to ask questions, I may not always know the answer, but I know that we can find it together.
I am a working photographer; there are occasions when I must travel or work during a scheduled class activity, I make every effort to keep to the mission for the course and bring in guest or have events that are unique and on the mark for our class.
These courses include.
- Practical / hands on demos and exercises.
- Theory / Lectures and referred reading via slack app.
- Historical / Current - state of the art and craft - looking at Photographs and photographers.
- Critical review and feedback looking at our work and that of our peers in class.
- Personal one on one feedback and advice
2. photographer presentations
3. projects and critiques
If you feel that during the class critiques you are not getting the feedback, you need or desire, please let me know and we can plan for a more 1:1 review. If there are specific goals or outcomes, you are looking for just ask.
I plan each workshop like a 3 act screenplay. There is a mission, an objective, and a conclusion. An arc with multiple plot points and characters each with their issues/conflicts and challenges to overcome. Each week moves the story along. Occasionally the story doesn't go as well as planned, and improvisation is essential. In the end for each student I want them to be able to see where they started and where they finished. For each student, the outcome may vary.
I choose to live a creative life, photography has allowed me to live this way. I hope you find an aspect of photography that satisfies your curiosity, creativity and mental wellness.
Thank you for joining my workshop and the community of photographers in Pittsburgh.