consett and derwentside professional wedding photographer and photography blog covering durham Tyneside Newcastle county Cumbria Stanley Chester-Le-Street
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Consett and derwentside professional wedding photographer and photography blog covering Durham Tyneside Newcastle county Cumbria Stanley Chester-Le-Street




An issue of the learning journey is, how do you get the first step to
happen? To answer this question photographer/teacher John Sexton
relates, “The single most important thing Ansel [Adams] shared with
me was an excitement for photography. By inspiring me he made
learning photography automatic; he created a sponge for learning
photography. He turned on the switch with excitement, then he
provided the information needed to succeed.” In John’s words, “The
teacher has to be there to create an interest and then be there with
technical support.”
We are not Ansel Adams but still need to turn the switch on for
those who have come to us to learn. The ways we find to inspire our
students will go a long way to start the learning journey with vigor.
Examples of what can be done, a history of previous successes, is
one way. Depending on the success of previous learners, this will be
effective to activate learning.
One of our colleagues who taught statistics to photo students
discovered on his first class session that the students felt no need
to learn statistics and had little interest in the subject other than it
was a required course. To remedy the apathy, he spent the next two
sessions, not in teaching statistics, but rather on “selling” them on the
importance of statistics, not just to photography but to their whole
way of thinking. Once they bought into this, the path to learning was
cleared.
A particularly good way to encourage is to show work beyond
expectations. This gives exciting goals for learning. This tends to be very
effective in intermediate learning situations. If there is very strong work
from learners at the same level as those starting this step in learning,
that can be shown in connection with high-level examples reinforcing
the goal of the learning. Comparing learners’ excellent work with estab-
lished photographers provides positive examples. When others see that
someone at their level has made exceptional work that is compared to
high-level work, they can transfer their own goals to that of comparing
favorably.
While the level of learning shown in the assembled photographs
may be beyond the reach of the learners, encouraging trying to attain
the level shown provides the confidence that will be required of
them to reach their goals. It is as important to encourage as it is to
present information and methods. The earlier in the learning process,
the more importance the encouragement will be in turning on the
switch.
16
TEACHING PHOTOGRAPHY
As an example, assemble a group of visually exciting work includ-
ing the best historical work from an individual at the level of learning
desired. It is quite common that early learners in photography will
make astounding images that will compare well even with work of
established photographers. After presenting the group of images to the
learners, challenge them to find the “learner’s” image. If the historical
image is strong it may be difficult for others to correctly discern the
work at their level of learning. When this happens the new learners
transfer their perception of their status as photographers to a higher
level. A major switch was just turned on.
Regardless if the difference between the “learner’s” image and the
established photographers’ images is found, there are benefits to this
approach. When the new learners are asked to define the reasons for
their choices or the qualities that formed their decision, they internal-
ize the steps they will need to accomplish to attain the goal level of
learning.
The caveat for the learning journey is that it is very dependent on
the level of the learner. This leveling is both biological and experien-
tial. Approaching issues before the learner is ready or prepared is
counterproductive. For the most part, photography is a vertical learn-
ing paradigm going from one related and interconnected subject to
the next. The sequential nature of photographic learning reinforces
the concept of the learning journey. As the learner progresses they do
not stop using previous learning but continue it on to succeeding steps
of process or information.
“Certain subjects yield a general power that may be applied in any
direction and should be studied by all.”
John Locke
When Ralph Hattersley was teaching at RIT, one of his former
students had landed a position in Hollywood creating glamour photo-
graphs of movie stars. Ralph asked him to send some of the photographs
he had taken for the students to look at, and he did. Hattersley placed
the photographs on a display panel in the classroom and had the
students study the photographs for a time. After about 20 minutes of
looking and talking among themselves, he asked them to comment
on the photographs. They all had high praise for the work. When they
finished praising the work, Hattersley shocked them by pointing out
a number of ways the photographs could have been improved. The
17
2 Learning, Knowing, Owning
students were stunned and will long remember not to be taken in by
glamour when assessing the quality of a photograph.
Photographic learning also has levels of mathematics and science
embedded in most areas. Because of these interrelationships of subjects
and expanding technical levels, sequencing of learning is important.
Part of the learning may need to be simple math and science.
“’Reinventing the wheel’ is more than a cliché. It is a process...a learning
process.”
Lois Arlidge-Zakia
University of Rochester, NY
Because of the linear nature of the photography process, there is a
need for the learner to become aware and internalize the way the
parts fit together. This includes more than simply understanding that
there are interrelated parts of photography. To make the most out of
the learning, the algorithm of the photographic process must become
part of the learning path. Therefore, like much of math and science,
the way this system relates its parts is as important as the information
that makes up the steps. Or, as has been said in Gestalt Philosophy,
the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
When we look at the various levels of education in photography
we see that these facets of the way the learning is structured means
that effectively helping others learn entails being aware of “age-
appropriate learning” for younger learners.While this book does not
deal with the developmental stages in learning, it is clear that the
human brain develops and that certain aspects that will be learned
in photography will have to wait for the physiological development
of the learner to reach a level where certain concepts can be
learned. This is true for both technical and aesthetic aspects of
photography.
Learning Objectives