Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

My last blog was on the state of photographic education in schools compared to attending workshops.

It received about 300 views in 24 hours and generated a large number of comments.

Teachers whinged and whined that I clearly do not understand photography. It doesn’t matter how the image’s produced, it’s the image that counts. Use a ‘phone, steal an image, collage other people’s work. It’s all good. Camera controls? They’re for the anally retentive  train-spotters who believe that craft is superior to taking short cuts.

Equally, ‘photographers’ whinged and whined that as ‘creatives’, photographers were somehow exempt from the requirements of true occupations. Rattle off a bunch of images on high speed then play with them on the computer. White balance? Who needs to understand that stuff when you’ve got photoshop.

Modern cameras are very, very good. In real terms photography has never been cheaper.

This has led in schools to the idea that grades can be improved by taking pupils with limited talent and letting them loose with some really quite good technology.

As great cameras have got cheaper and easier, photography as a hobby has been opened up to a whole tranche of people who simply would not have had the ability or patience to learn how to use a camera half a century ago.

And yet, despite all this, I see the’ straight out of camera’ masterpieces of  Bruce Smith. The Yerbury’s continue to produce, on a variety of equipment including large format film, utterly stunning work. And Damian McGillicuddy continues to amaze me with images produced with incredible technology.

And then I look at the kids I teach. Those amazing young minds full of ideas, who stop me in the corridor to ask the most random, yet insightful questions. Can we fire a flare in school? (No). Can we freeze  movement to a fraction of the highest shutter speed of our cameras? (Yes). Can we try the Brenizer method? (Maybe – if the school computers can handle it).

Around me I see photography teachers who can’t take photographs, and photographers who know nothing about photography.

But I also see inspiring artists who really know what they are doing. Artists, who have the craft of photography in their very DNA.

More importantly, for me, I see a bunch of kids who really inspire me and make it worthwhile turning up for school in the morning. OK, we have a budget of zero, and no-one gets what we’re doing most of the time, and yes, we’re let down time after time, but these kids are learning about the world around them in a unique way.

So frankly, I’m trying to stop caring about the things I can’t change.  I’ll let the art, media and English teachers convince themselves that by knowing nothing about a camera, they’re experts on photography. Likewise, I’ll try to ignore the sense of entitlement that last year’s hobbyists have acquired through ‘likes’ on facebook and instagram. I’ll continue to learn from those that truly know what they’re doing, and I’ll continue to teach those kids that  truly want to learn.

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