By Erin Martinelli
I am currently a 24-year-old student in my junior year of study at Oregon State University. I am working on my BFA in photography and was shocked to read the statistics in the T.O.P. post "Creative Livings," especially because they are so drastically different from graduate stats from OSU. Known mostly for its sciences, OSU actually has an excellent art school. Each and every professor is also an established pro in their chosen field. Though my class will sadly be the last to get a BFA in photography at OSU (the program has been terminated), I feel fortunate that both photography profs are not only extremely successful professionals, but have also both written books about photography and truly "know their stuff." When I receive criticism from them, I absorb every word of it. My skills as a photographer have drastically improved since starting the program. Of the 16 seniors to graduate last year, all 16 had extremely prestigious jobs lined up. One, for instance, is now employed as a photographer for CBS and another is working with one of the top equine photographers in the nation.
I guess that what I'm trying to say is that perhaps the school one goes to does play a part in their future success, and a degree may not be for everyone...however, there are many who don't utilize their degree and that is why they have failed in the field. My best friend, for example, graduated with a BA in Art from the University of Oregon only to work at Bi-Mart and now as a secretary at a medical office. To be honest, though, there are tons of opportunities out there for her...she just doesn't have the drive to go out there and pursue them.
Therefore, I think that a degree does come in handy if one wants to learn from professionals and has a mind that is open enough to realize that they know very little in the big scheme of things. School is also a great place to make connections and meet others in the field. Still, they student must also have the drive to do what it takes to succeed in the field. Almost anyone can get into art school and graduate, but I think that people assume that a degree is a free ticket to success. In reality, it is merely a chance to expand one's knowledge. A degree (at least at OSU) gives students the tools and experience to be a great photographer. But isn't this all that any school is expected to do? My father graduated from a great law school and worked as the Assistant D.A. in San Francisco because of some connections that he had. Still, he quit practicing after a few years. It wasn't because the school had failed, it was because he is lazy. I'm not in any way implying that those artists who don't make it professionally are lazy, but...a degree isn't going to hold the hand of its recipient and babysit them. I fully plan on getting my MFA once I am done with my BFA...not for the degree but for the experience. I want to better my skills so that I can use my drive and motivation to get my company off of the ground. I am not under the illusion that it will be an easy and smooth road. I have been through a lot in life and I know that few things are easy. But certainly, a little motivation goes a long way. For example, this past summer I checked Craig's List every day for free-lance jobs. I ended up with a lofty paycheck for several weddings. I don't think that I am a "great" photographer, but I put in the leg work. Graduates can't expect a degree to do that for them. In the end, school is for learning...it's up to the individual to do the rest.
Featured Comment by Doroga: "You now, in our country (Belarus) we do not even have a place where you can study Photography and receive at least a B.A. At least you have a choice."