My Teaching Philosophy
In the years I have been a photography teacher I have realized that technical considerations and composition can be taught simultaneously. My classes have been evolving over the years to resemble more and more a traditional studio art class where technical skill is never separated from the aesthetic. In my classes students are using equipment and taking pictures right from the start. A critical part of my teaching model is use of assignments which build on each other and are carefully designed to provide students practice in whatever skill or concept is being taught in class. I am a big believer in "learning by doing"! Teacher feedback is another very important component in the instructional model in guiding students' progress.
Both as a teacher and as a learner, I appreciate the importance of individualized instruction. Classes are small, allowing plenty of time for one-to-one teacher/student interaction. By getting to know each student as an individual I am able to customize instruction. this is always more satisfying for student and teacher!
My teaching philosophy is based largely on my many years of experience. But another important influence has been reading the book "Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards back in the 1980's. Her message, simply put, is that we learn best when we are relaxed, feel safe and are willing to experiment, quieting the inhibiting influences of the inner-critic that rules so much of our day-to-day lives. By lifting ourselves out of the mundane we discover that "eating the apple and drawing it are two different things" (to paraphrase Cezanne). Though the advanced technology of digital photography invites us to shoot quickly, the question becomes how to slow down and to learn to trust our intuitions. In our photography classes we are always aware of the benefits, once we have made this shift and discovered the "flow".
While people take pictures for many different reasons, with many different goals, I must admit that to me the relationship between photography and art is always somewhere near the front of my mind. I love the interplay between photography and the fine arts (painting and sculpture). In my classes, we often look at the photos of the masters, as well as other types of art, to inspire our work. Some of my higher level classes dive into the issues of photography-as-art-form, but from the first beginning classes, we are aware that we each have a unique personal style and way of seeing the world. One of my goals is to help students see the artistic possibilities in what they are learning to do with the camera.
Digital cameras are very complex, even intimidating. By breaking things down into as few variables as possible and carefully building knowledge and skills my goal is to help the student master the technical aspects of picture-taking, so that, in the end, we know that the picture is always more important than the camera.