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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

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That sounds fun ... I was just involved with a our local Scholastics program, and the level of the "art" was astounding.

So where does mike fit in the above
truncated outline?
Let's see now. I don't make a living
from photography, so that relegates
me to amateur,hobbyist status and I
certainly can't be serious because
I don't aspire to be "adequately
remunerated" Why is it that unless
you can make money of something, it
is worthless or second class. Since
when is money the only definition for
remuneration?

Paul,
As I say, it's a truncated version of the outline. I only had 45 minutes with each class. Couldn't cover everything.

I did talk about two people I know who have worked assiduously at their art for years without much outward success, one of whom is remarkably content and one of whom is pretty bitter about it.

Mike

It would be nice to hear you talk about this.

Have you talked about the recent cases of the jelly bean jar photos in Times and in fact the post a couple of days before related to micro photo agent. Also, I think there should be a category for blog and web site. Both Photo net and dpreview and even TOP is earning a bit money via different means. Also, Ctein and yours "subscription" model could be quite interesting.

Probably no download for video / audio session for free or purchase.

"Since when is money the only definition for remuneration?"

Circa 1300, I think.

Congrats, then!

It is difficult to get a late teenager attention unless they are pretty much commited to what they want to do.

How did the students respond?
bd

My friend and former roommate Casey Lake works for the paper in Waukesha. Say hi for me if you see him.

Mike,

Can you post a higher-resolution version of the last picture so we can see what is so interesting about that red locker in back?

Best regards,
Adam

And to anyone who was wondering: no, I wasn't being serious.

Paul,

"Hobbyist" works for me. Just because "Serious" is the heading above people making some money doesn't suggest that anything else isn't "serious". So I'm a chronicler of family and friends (I actually like that) who occasionally dabbles in amateur art :)

So when are you going to post the full transcript of your talk on TOP? I'll be looking forward to that.

And by the way, the photo with the rearward-facing 17-year-olds speaks volumes about how silly the restrictions on photography have become. Does the same apply when the kids take photos of their friends?

I wish there was such a structured photography program when I was in high school in the 1990s! I did photography as a high school student in the context of Fine Art major ("3 Unit Art, practical major" in NSW Australia) and received support from my art teacher. He had no background in photography but luckily had a brother who was a professional photographer. He kindly gave me all his back issues of Darkroom Photography and Ansel Adam's three books (the Zone System bibles) and cut my teeth on Ctein et al's words of wisdom!

Best wishes to all the lucky ducks at Waukesha South High School, and kudos to you Mike for acting as a mentor for the keen students.

"in Wisconsin you can't take photographs of public school kids without parental permission unless they're 18". How bizarre. What is the world coming to, or maybe just the US.

Mike,
That sounds like a blast and a great learning experience - for you and for them. Although, if you didn't have one that age yourself, it might have been like being thrown to the lions. I suspect that your wit is quick enough to stay a step ahead.

"I did talk about two people I know who have worked assiduously at their art for years without much outward success, one of whom is remarkably content and one of whom is pretty bitter about it."

Wow. Do I get to choose? (Of course I do.) I think I'll keep my day job, and continue trying to be one of the "remarkably content" ones.

Well, words have power. I just changed the word "serious" in the outline to "transitional." You have to give me that I've known thousands of hobbyists over the years and not very many of them ARE truly serious...they love it, they do it, but with the "serious" category I meant to imply the people who are devoted to what they're doing, and really sacrifice for it, they just don't make their living doing it.

But I can see how that word "serious" would demean its alternative and trigger some resentment.

I remember once receiving a submission at PT and writing back, "This is great stuff, keep practicing!" I meant keep going, keep it up. I meant "practice" in the sense that a doctor has a practice, or that a Zen practitioner calls her meditation her "practice," or when we say we're "practicing" our craft. My correspondent however wrote an outraged letter in return, assuming that I had insulted him by calling his work "practice" in the sense of "training to improve proficiency." My mistake.

Mike

I assume the ban on picture taking without parental permission only applies in the school. Drag the class off the school grounds for a complete group photo.

"in Wisconsin you can't take photographs of public school kids without parental permission unless they're 18"

What's the rationale behind that? Did the Wisconsin lawmakers finally notice that anyone with a camera is some kind of pervert?

Seriously, this seems a bit exaggerated. It basically means that you can't even shoot pictures just for memories at school festivities or such. Great!

It is difficult to get a late teenager attention unless they are pretty much commited to what they want to do.

Agreed but it's too easy to tar all teenagers with the same brush (is that phrase used in the US?) and assume that they all like to just hang around outside McDonalds and do nothing all day whereas in reality there are many teenagers who have an interest in something. This can make all the difference.
I have met teenagers who are interested in photography and music and know of others with other interests. This is the key to them not being the stereotype typical teenager (which in reality probably isn't typical but is perceived as such).

"Words have power"... yes, they certainly do. I note you wisely skirted the word "professional", but not its pair-word "amateur" - a term with wider disparaging connotations in English usage, than are present in the French source language. "Amateur" often steers very close to "not serious". It's not possible to offend nobody, though, when exploring delicacies of self-image and status. Just because it offends someone's self-image doesn't make it untrue. We can and should classify the aspiration separately from the reality... and there's no point in getting bent out of shape by an acknowledged fact.

Also you skirted "entrepreneur" (according to a famous Bushism, the French don't even have a word for that).

There's a piece on the Intelligent Life website which suggests that the meanings of 'amateur' and 'professional' have to some extent changed places. It's worth a look, even if it's only half relevant to this discussion...

http://www.moreintelligentlife.com/content/ed-smith/are-we-too-professional

I think we all agree that the restrictions on photographing kids has become tiresome to say the least, but let's not go there again. Look at it from the teachers and the school's point of view. Their world is full of public officialdom, media hype and over-zealous parents who are ready at the slightest slip to make life hell for them, demand they be sacked or even sue. It's just not worth the candle, so whatever your personal views you end up just going along with it to avoid the grief - at every level - from classroom to the School Board and City Hall.

Why are recreational practitioners of needlework, woodwork, watercolouring, or bookbinding all content to be known as "hobbyists"; but that photographers bristle at the suggestion?

Rather than title or presentation "How to Survive as a Photographer" maybe you should have called it "How to Thrive as a Photographer".

Very cool Mike, the students were lucky to have you.

BTW, I'm a big "fan" (if that's appropriate at all) of Congressman Paul Ryan from your great state. He has some great ideas.

Paul: The topic of the presentation is "making a living as a photographer". In that light, the focus on the financial angle makes perfect sense to me. Mike was (very wisely) not attempting to address all photographic issues in one short session, he was addressing a rather specific topic; and a topic relevant to these students, I think (they're around the age when they have to start narrowing down what they want to do for a living).

General: I don't know if I wish there had been a photo program in my school or not. I might have benefited from more expert people to ask questions of, but in fact I did very well learning things from books (including very tactile stuff like dodging and burning). I don't know if more serious photographers would have spurred me on, or made me feel competitive in an unhappy way, or what. I was pretty clearly the most serious photographer in the crew during the time I was in highschool. I might have not enjoyed being a more average photographer as much.

Mike,

What is the state of High School photo class technology. Is any work done with film and developing and optical printing (sort of like taking Latin)? Or is it all digital? If so, how much is photography and how much is PhotoShop?

Andrew,
Waukesha South still has a functioning darkroom and the students learn darkroom work in their first semester. Ms. Windler said most students thereafter prefer to work in digital. The classroom had one printer that I noticed (you can see it in the top picture). There might have been others.

I learned something about myself yesterday, too--I found I quite liked the "Photoshop artwork" done by some of the kids whose work was submitted to the Scholastic competition...the work that was obviously manipulated. On the other hand, Mary said that my son's picture that was submitted to the contest might have been at a disadvantage because the judges might have suspected it was Photoshopped, even though it wasn't.

(And by the way, I don't in any way influence him--apart from buying him a camera, I haven't forced him to take photography nor have I ever influenced anything he's done. He's made his own choices. He can do any kind of photography he wants to. As he told me in no uncertain terms when he was five years old, "I'm a Zander, not a Mike.")

Mike

@George ["in Wisconsin you can't take photographs of public school kids without parental permission unless they're 18". How bizarre. What is the world coming to, or maybe just the US.]:

Actually, there is a very similar protection law in Germany, which says more precisely that publishing(!) photos of underage children (in particular photos from school situations) is allowed only if the parents agree. Which I find reasonable, especially given the fact that visiting school is mandatory in Germany (actually, a family of religious extremists from Germany has just been accepted as political refugees in the US because they did not want their children to go to a regular school, and in Germany they would be forced by law (and police, if necessary) to send them there). Or would you think that it is correct to police children into a situation where they have to accept to be photographed, independent of whether or not they want it?

@Mike O'D. [I assume the ban on picture taking without parental permission only applies in the school. Drag the class off the school grounds for a complete group photo.]:

Again in Germany, this rule would hold for all occasions, independent of the location, where the children are (supposed to be) under supervision of one of their teachers.

So, wait. You're telling me there aren't any 17-year olds in the third photo? Does the law state whether it's OK to take photos of certain parts of their anatomy? (i.e., their backs?) You did still take their photo, right? Or is it only illegal to take a photo of their face? Or?

(Just a clarifying question, not trying to be mean and hope it doesn't come across that way.)

Merle,
I really don't know. It's the first time I've given a talk to high schoolers since maybe 1988....

Mike

So a 17 year old can't choose for themselves whether to be in a photo or not? How bizarre.

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