On Teaching Photography, Teaching Life

March 14, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

“We could teach photography as a way to make a living, and best of all, somehow to get students to experience for themselves photography as a way of life.” ~ Minor White 

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I love Minor White. I never met him, nor had him as a mentor, but his teaching and influence has impacted my life and my own teaching. I first found out about him an his work from my own teacher in high school. Along with being introduced to Jerry Uelsmann's work (who was a student of Minor White's himself) at the same time, these two master photographers became my virtual mentors. 

Minor White introduced me to black and white infrared landscapes, which led me to do a series of images for my first gallery show at the Center For Photography At Woodstock, right after high school. Like the very best teachers, Minor taught not only the great detail of craft and technical knowledge that goes into photography, he taught a philosophy of vision, and as such, a philosophy for life. 

 The only way I know to teach, to give a student the very best I have and what I truly believe they deserve from any teacher, is to teach photography from the point of a way of life. Putting the subject in that context gives a richer experience of what can be a difficult thing to understand. I see many students get bogged down in technical information and certain rules. When a teacher/mentor can break down and then build up the information in a way the student can really understand, in a language they can relate to through their own experience, you get the proverbial light bulb moment.

"Ah-ha!" moments are great to see, and even better than that, for both student and teacher, is when those moments propel a student to further and deeper exploration of their own sensibilities. Nothing makes me happier than to see a student shine on their own and find new ways to implement something we've been discussing and working through. 

A passion for photography, a pre-requisite for understanding this artform, is something we should never lose. Any truly gifted teacher should forever consider themselves a student. I do. I think Minor did too... 

 

(Images of Trace teaching: Copyright © Nan Mac used by kind permission.)


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