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Learning, or cultivation, which has an almost equivalent meaning, is the process of mental and spiritual pursuit and the need for intellectual adventure. It is always personal.

Learning often gives rise to a feeling of anxiety (especially in young people), perhaps because of the importance that society hypocritically places on it and the plethora of knowledge that is believed should accompany it. This outlook shifts the burden of learning to the collecting of knowledge and transforms the bearer of it into a receptacle of memory, events, references and information.

Let us, however, attempt to base ourselves on principles different to those usually propounded by "fanatics" of learning, such as for example:

That knowledge is endless and inestimable, so that even the most learned of persons can possess only a very small percentage of it.

That everyone has the right to try their luck at many and varied fields of knowledge, without the threat of being labeled "amateur", "unscientific" and "unspecialized".

That the world of knowledge and learning is entered through a single door (perhaps different for everyone), which leads to other half-open doors which until then were unsuspected.

That the goal of learning cannot be other than pleasure; the pleasure of realizing, of understanding, of wondering, of searching, of admiring and finally of creating.

That learning cannot support the dishonest intensions of persons who look to take advantage of it with ulterior motives.

That learning blooms with the intermingling and absorption of spheres of intellect in combination with life experiences, always with borders open to the unknown. Conversely, it suffocates when rigid areas of knowledge are imposed and when the oxygen of life is taken away.

That teachers are essential to the process of learning, because they guarantee a sense of continuity and propose methods of research. In the proper sense of things, one should be free to choose one"s teachers, so that the process of research is not shadowed by time-consuming and unnecessary distrust.

Then we may reach the happy understanding that what is most important is finding the start of the thread that will lead us along this road of curiosity and pleasure. From then on we can construct the course of our own personal voyage of learning. Then the next step we take is chosen as a result of our previous choice, so that the sum of these choices, after a certain point, will stop being a sum of knowledge and become our own invention, our own discovery.

However, from this viewpoint, true learning has very little to do with education as it is conveyed through the three established stages. If we are able to dredge from our memories some few shining exceptions they are always due to the presence of a few teachers that aroused our admiration and curiosity about something, thus opening up the door for us towards intellectual pleasure and critical thought. The only goal of formal schooling (whether it be state or family, school or extracurricular) is now the establishment of a profession, a (secure) career. The result of this is absolute specialization, the collecting of knowledge in specific areas, moving away from the whole in favour of the part. Worst of all is the placing of learning, from its infancy, on competitive terms. Young people, who are the least responsible for this established viewpoint, take on the anxiety of establishing themselves in a profession and in combination with the uncertainty of the very real danger of unemployment, it becomes a total regulator of their behaviour towards anything that has to do with knowledge, schooling and learning. Usually, parents appropriate their children"s problems, accentuate them and reinforce the feeling of panic, which is in any case inspired by ignorance of the future.

Let us, once more, attempt to base ourselves on thoughts that lie beyond how these problems are usually dealt with, such as, for example:

That it is wrong to equate learning with profession.

That the real armour against life, the one that helps you deal more effectively with adversity, is learning in its broadest sense, and more particularly with the criteria being the individuality, the abilities and the preferences of each person.

That no degree or professionally specialized knowledge secures a job in a society that changes economic orientation every five years.

That unemployment, as the example of past years has shown, is much more likely to hit hardest those middle-aged persons who, despite possessing professional standing and experience, can no longer attract investment in their long-term professional future.

That no longer can anyone expect to be tied for life to the same profession or even to the same sphere of endeavor, but must view making one"s living as a series of wide-ranging choices (of object and sphere) during one"s lifetime and within the limits of this earth. The feeling of freedom that should characterize each one of us and which can only be arrived at through a broad base of learning facilitates these choices.

That it is preferable to make the choice of professional employment based on personal desires rather than on whether or not it can be entrenched and secured, since this will always be uncertain.

That the absence of humanitarian education and generalized knowledge takes away from the professional everything that his specialization offers him.

That even a clearly technical training should be seen as a general education, which informs the spirit, and not solely as the license to practice a specific skill.

That the collecting of degrees and post-graduate qualifications is pointless, since it leads to even greater specialization. It narrows our horizons, but does not increase our job security, since each year there is an increase in the formal requirements demanded for jobs and more and more people acquire the degrees that a short time ago were rare.

Then we may reach the happy realization that education is but the basic first step of our entering into the adventure of learning.

That it teaches us discipline, method and an approach to the cognitive field in general.

That it opens the doors of many professional fields because it gives us the basis on which to support our periodic specializations. That we should accept education as something of brief duration so that it allows us all the sooner to taste the experiences and pleasures of life, or alternately as something that lasts a lifetime so that we can transform it from the manual for professional use that it is considered today into a tool of continuous quest.

The latter appears to be becoming more broadly accepted by people who are a little older and who wish to taste anew the joy of education by taking part in seminars and attending schools. Their choices, however, are more personal and less forced than those that predominated during their youthful years of schooling. This is because they are now aware that one fills in the gaps when one becomes aware of them and only when one wants to.

For these people education can lead to professional occupation, but not necessarily so, while it will almost certainly be the start of a new personal direction for them. They are, that is, closer to the real content of learning. Thus, it is possible that as school and higher education becomes more career orientated and more specialized, so there will be an increase in the number of perennially-studying, mature students.

Photography, perhaps more than the other arts because of its shorter history, stands in the confusion between the simple craftsman and the artist creator. This confusion is a lot more intense for all the arts at present, perhaps because for primarily economic reasons commonplaceness, commercial products and intellectual byproducts all claim the accolade of art so that they can exist and so that they can sell.

This confusion extends into photographic education where the teaching of photographic techniques has to serve at the same time applied/professional/commercial photography and the inexpedient result of artistic photographic creation.

Education, moreover, feels more certain when teaching the technical, something in other words which is hands-on and which has a useful end such as the exercising of a profession. In this way, everyone (parents, students, teachers, society) feel that that nothing is being wasted, especially time and money. It is characteristic that in the private sector where supply is more immediately adapted to demand, schools of art do not flourish, as they are unable to promise career heavens. Art schools (as well as schools of philosophy) are the prerogative of the state.

Since its first resolute steps, that is since the 60"s in America when schools and departments of photography were sprouting up like mushrooms, photographic education has proceeded in three directions. Firstly, and most apparently, in the direction of its technical production, secondly, its informational content as a means of communication and thirdly, its artistic capabilities. These three directions were usually served by different categories of people who were linked by a common anxiety and a common desire. This was to give photography rank, as well as credence and significance, so that it could compete equally with sectors of greater tradition, which had been established by centuries in the public consciousness and held a significant and indubitable position on the cognitive and intellectual horizon.

These noble intentions never the less hid a provincialist complex. What was overlooked, however, was that the principle characteristic of photography, that which gives it its revolutionary distinctiveness, is exactly its technical ease and impoverished presence. The production of a photograph is within the abilities of every person of basic intelligence and bears results that are cognizable (at least at a different level of acceptability) by that same person. Yet, photography does not usually illicit admiration for its technical achievements, since everyone is familiar with its method of production, but as a work of the intellect. Only, in order for there to be intellect in the production or conception of a work, it requires principally (as with all other activities) an intellectual person. This is something that unfortunately many teachers in all three of the above categories prefer to forget.

The teachers in the first category came primarily from the sector of professional photography, formally journalism and today mainly advertising and fashion. They had empirical knowledge of a certain technique. Their hallowed, if misplaced, desire to impart an allure to their role caused them to theorize the classically simple and practical technique of photography and to lead it into areas of scientific gravity. However, clothes maketh not the man, and so these photographers continue to waste time in something that may justify the requisite years of study, but does not alter the nature of the photographic medium, nor does it lead to a fundamental understanding of its function. It is equally superfluous to learn formulas in physics and chemistry in order to practice photography, as it is to have a knowledge of electronics in order to use a computer.

Teachers in the second category are not a phenomenon confined to photographic education, but are a generally essential educational flavouring of the past decade. Semiologists and communications theorists have imposed their presence in the field and (in their turn) have imparted on their role a weightiness which stems from the combination of uncorroborated "scientific" claims and cryptic "apocalyptic" truths. Thus something that could be just simple auxiliary critical thought is transformed into an indisputable theoretical interpretative tool for photographic images. The anxiety of young people (and perhaps their parents) about the "baseness" of the medium they have chosen is thus abated by the quasi-science of technique and its message.

The teachers of the third category owe their existence to the reputation of photography as also being an artistic medium. This reputation does not seem to have convinced even the teachers themselves (since often many of them consider the period of photographic history even up until the 70s to be merely historical and pre-artistic), but has despite this lead to schools also adopting an artistic direction. It seems, however, that even in this instance, what has prevailed is the fear concerning the apparent ease of the photographic image and the complex of the "poor relation" in the face of, on the one hand, the established arts and, on the other, the photographs that the photographers themselves are not in a position to categorize as artistic within their area of expertise.

Often, but thankfully not always, these teaching positions have been filled either by artists or persons trained exclusively in the visual arts, who have a nonexistent to miniscule knowledge and appreciation of photographic production. However, the eternal internalized complex of disputing photographic directness and ease overcomes even the majority of those people who fill these positions coming from spheres with more direct links to photography.

With this triple teaching combination, schools of photograph teach what is hidden behind the technical part of the production of a photograph, what is hidden behind the surface of what is depicted and how this surface can be converted into an object of art. Most times the designated ulterior aim is the "sale" of this "valuable" object or of its hidden (but meticulously overt) message. A would-be photographer is taught that he is going to make something and what this something must mean so that it will acquire value in the commercial or commercial art market.

In the logic of conventional education, as presented above, a schema such as this is correct. It provides explanations for everything, prepares for a professional career and allows photography to assert its rights to a university level recognition.

Let us attempt (once again) to accept a few assertions that are at variance with the above established position, such as for example:

That we could learn the art of photography on our own and that we need a teacher just to show us a few shortcuts that make an easy technique even easier and not more difficult.

That for professional photography what is required is a little more practical experience (because specialized technique is learnt only through work) and considerably less analysis of the childishly simplistic content required for commercial application.

That what alone could make a photographer a better professional are qualities that cannot be taught, or that would necessitate at the most an hour"s reference. Qualities such as conscientiousness, respect for the client, respect for oneself, diligence, cordiality and reliability.

That the biggest mistake one can make is to attempt to find parallel satisfaction as a professional and an artist within the same job. In this way we would betray the client, ourselves and the public. The satisfaction of a professional comes through the satisfaction of the client. The only thing that should cover both at the same time is respect. If respect for the client overwhelms our respect for ourselves then we need to reevaluate our work.

That, be it ever so brief, contact with a teacher that suits us is often enough to lead us to the start of the road of personal photographic pursuit.

That photography, apart from being a profession, apart from being an artistic expression, is a way of learning how to look, of discovering the equilibrium in the world and of weighing our creative desire and ability.

That the simpler a tool is and the easier its use, the greater are the demands for boarder cultivation and quality of critical thought, so that the result bears their imprint and so that one is able to distinguish those who have something to say (and who know how to say it) from those who are simply pretending. This is true today of poets and of photographers, but also of politicians, journalists, advertisers and the hoards of those who regulate and plague our lives.

That breadth of learning is essential for the professional, as it is for the artist and this in an age where as the demand increases for all professionals to be characterized as "artists", so the proportion of their intellectual and ethical grounding decreases.

If we accept all of this then perhaps we will be lucky enough to enjoy a new generation of photographic students who would know how to demand what they were lacking. Who would seek out a greater depth and breadth of learning. Who would respect and love the distinctiveness of photography. Who would take advantage of photographic training as a threshold to learning to which they are called to surrender themselves (and which they will never possess). Who would accept that the role of photography in their future could be that of a profession or an art or else nothing more than a service to an intellectual discipline. Who would understand Walker Evans, finally, when he urged photographic students to lead a cultured life, because with no further effort this would show in their photographs.