Two related items for your consideration this afternoon: first, Terry Hart's defense of professional photographers at Copyright Alliance. He seems to be making about four points at once, but the gist is clear—that people aren't sufficiently appreciative of what professional photographers bring to the table. And, no surprise, aren't enthusiastic about paying for it fairly.
More specifically, it appears that Apple's "Shot On iPhone 6" campaign is going to come to signify, in the words of Jonathan Band, "the enormous creativity of ordinary people enabled by digital technology." Okay, except that, as Terry Hart points out, we know that a number of the photographers featured in the iPhone 6 campaign were professionals. So although it's likely that from now on the Apple campaign is going to be trotted out as proof that anyone can take a great picture with a smartphone, the facts also support the opposite conclusion simultaneously—that experienced, talented photographers are still needed to make great pictures, even when using commonplace equipment.
Photography as a profession has never been easy or secure. In my day, print advertising dropped off a cliff during the First Gulf War and nobody has ever adequately explained why; it just did. It's always been a profession that's a lot easier to get in to than to succeed at, and over the decades it has wended its jumbled path from crisis to catharsis to goldrush, leaving business casualties in its wake like chum in the water behind a deep-sea fishing boat. Haphazard metaphors intended. Times are not particularly happy for the profession now, but it's not like this hasn't also been the case in the past.
Item Two: The Brooks Institute in California and the Hallmark Institute in Massachusetts are closing their doors. Founded in 1945 in Santa Barbara, California, by Ernest Brooks Sr. to serve returning veterans on the G.I. Bill, Brooks Institute of Photography (as it used to be called) was in the vanguard of the photo education wave and was known for its no-nonsense professional education programs. In recent times it has undergone reorganizations and changes in ownership that presaged its decline.
Ernest H. Brooks Sr. was described as "a commercial and flower photographer" by Deep surf magazine. His son Ernest H. Brooks II had a strong interest in underwater photography that came to be reflected in the school's curriculum.
The closing of the Hallmark Institute of Photography probably can't fairly be linked only to cultural changes and the business climate; it was defrauded of millions of dollars by its former owner, George J. Rosa III, who pleaded guilty to charges in 2014. I know enough about the finances of photo schools to guess that that was a tough blow to recover from.
It's ironic that new regulations cracking down on for-profit schools has negatively impacted photography schools. I taught at a number of schools in and around Washington D.C. in the '80s and '90s and was launched, for a while, on a career as a photo teacher. I loved the work and believed in the mission, but I was always troubled by the largely unexamined yet steadily implied correlation between schooling and jobs. Nobody ever seemed to question that a photography degree should, or at least could, lead naturally to a career in the field. Yet that connection was never terribly strong, even at places like Art Center, Brooks, and RIT, which focused more intensely than most schools on providing vocational skills and practical job training. I don't have any figures, but I would doubt the best photography school in the country saw 50% of its graduates still working as photographers fifteen years after graduation. Let's put it this way: if a business school landed as few of its students in business careers as a typical photo school lands students in viable photography careers, it would not last a hot minute.
I personally think photography is best studied in a typical mix of courses in a University setting—just as a traditional liberal arts student would take courses in poetry, philosophy, or other studio art classes that have great personal value but little vocational usefulness. Still and all, it's tough to see once-vibrant vocational schools in our field wither and fade from the scene.
(Thanks to Chester Williams and Chris Stump)
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Jim Bullard (partial comment): "I am saddened to hear that Brooks Institute is closing. When I was young that was my dream school. I never made it there, all the way across the country. Instead, I learned through NYI's correspondence course and the Army's Signal Center and School at Ft. Monmouth where I also taught briefly. I still regret not making it to Brooks—a matter of money and distance."