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Tuesday, 23 February 2016


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It feels like I already got my MFA from reading TOP everyday for the last eight years.

[ :-) That's very kind of you to say, Dave, thank you. --Mike]

You comment about extended concentration makes me think: what prevents people from just taking time off work and doing this by themselves, thus saving the tuition?

Taking a year or years off feels "expensive" to me, even though it would be objectively cheaper. Missing out on being surrounded by people similarly immersed is certainly one thing you wouldn't get, but is there a way to achieve that by some other means?

This kind of reminds me of your lottery posts: I think this sort of thing is more achievable than many people realize.

[I wouldn't underestimate the value of instruction, the structure of assignments and deadlines, and the input of classmates. Doing it alone wouldn't be quite as hard as taking time off to give yourself a college education on your own, but halfway there I'd guess. --Mike]

I'm certainly all for people taking time out to do their projects. So far we've been able to make this program very inexpensive for students. They receive a tuition waiver and a stipend for teaching. The point of the MFA program is, as Mike noted, in the end to be able to teach. So that result is quite different from taking a year off to do project work. And, as a colleague likes to remind my students. Nowhere else in your life will you have this kind of concentrated time to do and critique of your work as you when you're studying in an MFA program. :-)

Paying them rather than the other way around might, in fact, concentrate the mind better.

Charles Mason, my fellow participant in "Rip It Up" back in 2006. :-)

Mike, I don't think the lack of a MFA has cramped you very much as a teacher. True, you weren't in a classroom, but I think you're a very fine teacher indeed, all the same.

Just my 2 kopecks worth.

With best regards,


After reading your writing for many years, including The 37th Frame and Sunday Photographer, I think it's fair to say that you are a teacher.

My only visit to Fairbanks was in the dead of winter (February), and it was -20F, at least. But the aurora borealis at night was spectacular, and in the middle of the display one night the UAF crew at Poker Flat launched a brace of sounding rockets into it.

Sadly, the budget kerfuffle in Alaska currently with the low price of oil and previous inability to not spend on megaprojects like sailors on shore leave has left the state budget (and the UA system budget as a result) in a bit of dire straits. Hopefully our governor and elected state representative-persons can find a reasonable path through the hard times that doesn't result in both slashing and burning, but we shall see.

I say that as:
1. an Alaskan for the past 11 years
2. having only come to photography after moving up here
3. a UAA alum myself (M. Sci Engineering - hi John Krumm!)

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