Is a photography degree worth doing?
The debate about whether a higher education in photography is relevant or even helps to get a job after graduation is one that has no clear answer. Many people would say it’s worth it, and just as many will say it isn’t. Both sides have positive and negative points, but what can an education offer that self-learning cannot? Is a photography degree really worth it?
This essay formed part of my Open University study for the module A344 – Art and its Global Histories and was my final essay at the end of the unit. For this essay, we had to formulate and research a subject based on the shift of art history away from a western viewpoint, and look at the different issues this involves. I chose to study the Durbar Room at Osborne, and compare this with the Viceroys’ house in New Delhi. I scored 80/100 which I was pretty chuffed with.
Being a photographer who is interested in both local history and art history, it seems fitting to look at a few pictures by the one of the most famous British Victorian photographers and sometime Isle of Wight resident, Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879).
Much has been written and reviewed about Cameron’s work, not all of it in a favourable light. However, I think there is a lot more to her work than meets the eye (semi-unintentional pun). Cameron took up photography seriously at 48, and rather than amassing a body of work over her lifetime, nearly all her major works were taken during an 11 year period while living in England.
This photograph by Martin Parr was one of the first that made me stop to think and appreciate the picture. I wasn’t even that into photography at the time. I must have been about 16 or 17 when it caught my eye in the newspaper. So much so that I cut it out and placed it on my noticeboard dead centre in between giant posters of mountain bikes. A small three-inch tall black and white photo evoking calm and solitude amongst the garish saturated noise of action sports.
Film photography. I’m lucky/old enough to remember film well. I started out on my photographic adventures with my fathers Contax 139 and a few rolls of XP2 way back in 1998, taking photos of my friends mountain biking. Back then the only choice was what film to use, then the three day wait to see if what you’ve photographed actually turned out ok. Digital turned the photo-world upside down. It made the learning curve quicker and easier with instant feedback. It levelled the playing field and allowed everyone to be able to take a half-decent image.
Many were saying that digital would spell the end of film but it could never match up with the quality, spawning the ongoing film vs digital debate. Indeed, lots of film stocks have now been discontinued as companies make the shift into more profitable areas. However, in recent years film has started to have a resurgence. Is this simply nostalgia for a past golden age, or is this the start of a new, more sustainable chapter in the story of photography?
As people who know me know, I love art and photography. This site is intended to run alongside my photographic site mikeophoto, but where I can post up more written work. That’s not to say there will be a complete absence of photography, just the main focus of this site is a place to post up personal writing, essays, reviews and thoughts relating to art and photography. Plus the occasional random post every now and then.
In the last year I’ve become a lot more interested in the theoretical side of photography and art. This has led me on a very interesting journey into the ‘why’ surrounding photography. It’s opened up a whole new view on the photographic practice, one that I hope to feed back into my own work, but also one that’s made me think a lot more on the process of photography. As I also enjoy writing, combining the two seemed the next logical step.
I hope that things on here will be informative and hopefully make you think and in turn help you with your own photographic practice.