F

During my first year of college after getting out of the Army (a less than creative entity), I took a philosophy class and really struggled. I failed my first two tests, miserably, got a D on the midterm and then, to my surprise, an A on the final. When grades came out, I got an A for the class. When I asked the professor why after such a miserable start (I assumed that he had made a mistake), he said that my early lack of understanding was moot. In the end, all that mattered was that I got it.

Of all my college classes, photography and otherwise, it was the most useful thing I learned. I wish I could remember the professors name so I could thank him properly for that gift.

I bring this up because, for this academic year, the local college asked if I would take over the photo program as budget cuts meant they were unable to hire a proper, full-time, tenure-track MFA recipient. I took the job as I like teaching photography, and I hoped it would help inspire me in different ways.

But I forgot about grading.

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I hate grading.

I really, really hate it.

Traditional grading is an archaic and overly expedient method of evaluation. Not only that, it’s demeaning to students as they not only have to please the instructor, but they have to compete with their classmates to be atop the curve. Education should not be a competition. This is made even worse when we factor in the evaluation of artistic creativity. I mean, can creativity be objectively and fairly assessed into one of five presets grades. I don’t think so. But, it has to be done.

My first and only responsibility is to the students. I don’t give a rat’s ass about grading curves or the reputation of the school. I want the students to learn. To come away not only better photographers, but with more open minds. To be better people. I do my best to make that happen and, if I actually do my job right, nothing would make me happier than to be able to give all the students A’s.

Even if that means I get an F.

 

 

Selling Out

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Yesterday I attended a meeting of local artists and arts organizations as part of a state-wide initiative to help better serve the greater arts community. During this meeting, on attendee stated how artists need to learn to be better business people and to stop making art that people are not buying. We need to pander to the consumer. Compromise. In other words, if we want to sell our art, we have to sell out.

Wait. What?

The very core of any true artist is a desire, a need, a compulsion, to create. Not for others, not because of any external obligation, but because of something innate, something internal, something intrinsic to our souls. We create because we must, and because we have something deeply personal to say, yet don’t know any better way sharing.

Sure, the desire for popularity and print sales is alluring. Worse yet, it’s easy. The world is full of beautiful places, and beautiful places are made for beautiful pictures. And beautiful pictures sell. What could be easier?

And what could be more boring?

Photography, as with any artistic pursuit, should be about the experience, about the discovery, and about revealing a subjective truth. It should be personal. In a manner of speaking, it should be an open and unabashed self-portrait.

Even if it doesn’t sell.