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Author Topic: "Photography Teachers?" Revisited  (Read 8501 times)
DarkPenguin
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« Reply #20 on: January 22, 2010, 10:43:57 AM »
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Quote from: RSL
Joe, That's exactly why I try to find books that include some of the masters' contact sheets. The "expanded" edition of Looking In, the catalog for Robert Frank's show currently at the Metropolitan has the contact sheet for each of the photographs in The Americans. There are couple of Cartier-Bresson's contacts in his Scrapbook. But in the final analysis, what difference does it make how you decide on a vantage point? The important thing is that you decide on one.

http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/t...ammo-books.html
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Justan
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« Reply #21 on: January 22, 2010, 12:16:47 PM »
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>Justin, Your points are well taken, and, yes, I overstated the case and possibly (in the spirit of full disclosure) pulled a few legs.

I know, but it was still an erroneous premise of your argument. You can do better.

> Now, was Henri "successful?" He wanted to be a painter and failed, even though he'd had an extensive formal education in painting. He'd never thought of being a photographer and never had a "formal" education in photography, but he ended up being the most influential photographer of the twentieth century.

To the point of success, to the individual success is a vastly different thing than it is to the objective viewer. “Success” is more about perspective and feelings than objectivity, at least in the context you’re describing.

> "Painting has been my obsession from the time that my 'mythical father', my father's brother, led me into his studio during the Christmas holidays in 1913, when I was five years old. There I lived in the atmosphere of painting; I inhaled the canvases."

> He studied painting under Andre Lhote, but never was able to become the kind of successful painter he wanted to be. It was a God-given ability he simply hadn't been given. As it turned out photography and the "decisive moment" was the gift he'd been given. He never went to school to learn photography.

You pointed out that he had a long formal education in painting. My point is NOT that one needs a degree in photography, even though training obviously helps all but the most benighted. My point is that to be successful at anything you need a formal education, unless maybe you are that 1 in 20 million that has a gift beyond compare. And even then, historically the vast majority of the most successful artists were members of some guild or artistic community during at least their formative time.

Consider as examples that both Michelangelo and L dV trained for years in guilds, and they were definitely amongst those 1 in 20 million. Henri started his formal art education at the age of 5. He was also amongst those 1 in 20 million.

> Late in life he gave up photography and went back to drawing and painting, which was his first love.

Have you seen his drawings and paintings? Did he suck at it or was his inability largely imagined?

It’s good to change things after a while. No matter how good the career, there comes a point when all but those bereft of spirit say “It’s time to do something different.”

> Yes, I do mean art history, and, believe it or not I have some idea of what it takes to become familiar with the history of art. By the way, recently I discovered the lecture series put out by The Teaching Company. I own and have gone through the 48 lecture series on "A History of European Art," the 24 lecture series on "Masterpieces of American Art," the 24 lecture series on "Museum Masterpieces: The Louvre," and the 24 lecture series, "From Monet to Van Gogh, A History of Impressionism." I commend all of these to anyone interested in visual art -- including photography.

I don’t know the series but what you are describing is way more than a good start to a study of art history, but it’s not nearly the same thing as actually studying it. I suggest you or anyone audit a survey class at a local college. That’s steps beyond an art appreciation class, btw. You will like it if you want to learn something.

> Actually I do think that if you want to be a painter formal education can save you a lot of time. There are so many materials to consider, etc., that trying to learn the basics on your own is a Herculean task.

Formal education/training is all about saving time by accepting guidance. What one does with that, and dumb luck, often plays a bigger role in one’s success than anything else.

> Music's the same way. I studied the piano for ten years and thought I wanted to be a concert pianist. I didn't have the talent, but by the end of ten years I certainly knew the mechanics. Without the formal training I'd never have gotten off the ground. But "success?" Depends on what you mean.

Here we come to your other point, about going through a considerable formal effort and finding no pot of gold at the end. Certainly not all paths through education, formal or otherwise, lead to putting one at the top of any heap. I'm not suggesting otherwise.

The best you can get from education is the opportunity to be the best trained you’re willing to work for. If you do your best, you will run into and learn how to get around a number of limitations. You will also find some you can’t get around. If you do less than your best, then that’s what your education will be. Guidance goes a loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong way. Education is what took culture out of the dark ages. Our culture values education highly because it works.

The issue on the relationship between education and success is much more subtle than yes/no. Success can’t always be quantified by the ability to meet a specific goal. In other words, success doesn't offer rewards on a linear scale. Despite whatever impasse you came to with piano playing, your broader comments here clearly show a long series of successes. Mostly because you were willing to try. I predict that every one of those successes happened because you did the necessary steps, and I'm sure you did it with great attention to detail. You learned how to approach detailed precise ongoing projects from….?

The obverse is also true: refusing to get an education all but guarantees a pattern of failure.

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RSL
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« Reply #22 on: January 22, 2010, 06:47:43 PM »
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Justan, I stand properly dressed down, though I haven't changed my mind about any of what I said. I still believe, based on the evidence available to me, which is considerable, that in art, music, math, and the kind of logic you need to do good software architecture, you either have it or you don't have it. Formal education can help you learn the mechanics but it can't change the gifts you've been given by your maker. To go even further, if you have a gift and it burns in you, you'll educate yourself, with or without the formal part.

To answer your question: Yes, I've seen enough of HCB's drawings and paintings to know that they suck, though I wouldn't say he sucks. After all, the kind of composition he was able to put into his photographs came from somewhere.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #23 on: January 22, 2010, 07:34:01 PM »
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Quote from: Justan
The obverse is also true: refusing to get an education all but guarantees a pattern of failure.

True, but you don't have to "get an education" from formal classroom study in a school, college, or university; you can often do as well studying on your own. I've learned far more on my own than I have from any college. I've never had a color management class, but I've learned enough about it through these forums, my own experience, and other sources to discuss the subject intelligently with world-class experts like Andrew Rodney, Jeff Schewe, and Ethan Hansen, and I set up the color management system at the US Capitol photo lab. I've never taken a formal physics or digital signal processing class, but I know more about these subjects than many people who have college degrees in related areas. I've never had a formal lesson, but I can play bass guitar as well as some pros. And I've never gone to school to learn photography. The key thing in all of these areas is that I've devoted years to studying them and learning whatever I could, even though that study didn't happen in a traditional classroom.

I'm not trying to denigrate the value of traditional education, I'm simply saying it is not the only way one can become educated.
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Rob C
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« Reply #24 on: January 23, 2010, 04:06:37 AM »
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Quote from: Eric Myrvaagnes
It sure sounds as if you're right, Rob. Surely nobody could ever teach you how to see. Fortunately, some of the rest of us have had the good fortune to encounter good teachers and to have an open mind about learning.  

Eric




Actually, you are right: I abandoned compulsory night school classes in photography at an early stage of my career when I realised very clearly that the teachers, full-time pros on an ovetime kick, were incapable of seeing anything themselves.

It came to a crunch when one of them remarked, in response to something I'd said about David Bailey, that were he to shoot fashion in that manner he would retire straight away. Instead, I did, from his classes. The full-time photographer part-time teacher continued to be a studio-bound employee of a large studio that eventually folded whilst I managed to travel much of the world on client expenses and cutting my own path the while.

As Jonathan indicates in this thread, you can teach yourself pretty damn well. I would add that that also demands that you already have it within you. My problem with the matter is that I see it as another commercial milking of the innocents, the selling of false dreams.

That is not to say that an interesting 'teacher' can't make for an entertaining  companion. Neither does it mean that working as an assistant will not help you along the line: at the very least it will show you how somebody else does it in the commercial world... I also believe that the big difference that exists between the photographic worlds of then and now lies with the digital revolution and the stuff that has to be learned concerning the production of digital images and their guiding through the computer. There, I think, teaching is paramount; but that's not seeing!

Rob C
« Last Edit: January 23, 2010, 04:07:28 AM by Rob C » Logged

RSL
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« Reply #25 on: January 23, 2010, 10:59:38 AM »
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I need to add a caveat to what I've said. Unfortunately, we've managed to get education mixed up with training. I certainly believe in the value of a good liberal arts education. (Please note the lowercase "l") Learning to paint, or learning to photograph, or learning to play music is training, not education. But by that same distinction ones appreciation of art or music can be enhanced through education. When I was at University of Michigan at the beginning of the fifties I took a course in Historical Cartography. I don't remember why I signed up for it, but I found it was fascinating, and I still can date a world map from early centuries pretty accurately. I haven't the foggiest idea why being able to date an early world map has anything to do with a satisfying life, but for me it has. I still stand by everything I said about needing a God-given ability to create art, or music, or advanced math, or a first-class software system, but I owe Justan this modification of what I said: I believe very much in formal education but I have much less enthusiasm for formal training.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2010, 12:22:51 PM by RSL » Logged

Justan
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« Reply #26 on: January 24, 2010, 09:07:04 AM »
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Quote from: RSL

> Justan, I stand properly dressed down, though I haven't changed my mind about any of what I said. I still believe, based on the evidence available to me, which is considerable, that in art, music, math, and the kind of logic you need to do good software architecture, you either have it or you don't have it.

My goal wasn’t to dress you down but rather to point out the glairing holes and factual mis-statements in your argument. People change their mind if and when they are open to valid input.

And last but not least, it appears we are talking about slightly different things. We were talking about artists. There is a wide range of abilities that we can call native skills. Within this range we can, for the sake of the conversation talk about 2 groups: Those who “can do” and those who can’t. Among those who can’t, I agree that some never get past their inability. I’m not talking about this group and I don’t think you are either, but it sounds like you are contrasting these 2 loosely defined groups.

What you’re talking about fundamentally is aptitude and what I’m talking about is developing skills. I agree that one has to have an aptitude to accomplish a lot. But aptitude is only the beginning, and will never amount to anything if not properly developed.

I’m also talking about those who can get past most inabilities. This is the “can do” group. I’m pretty sure everyone who reads this is a member of this group.

But first, inability touches nearly all in one way or another. Lets call the point of inability “the line.” What I’m expressing is that among those who can do, “the line” can be pushed back formidably by education.

Returning to your earlier point, which was that with regard to education, that artists are different: it remains a historical fact that the vast majority of well regarded artists from any time in history were at least members of guilds. Their education was based in a large part through an engaged community of people with similar goals. Henri is an example of this.

But now back to your point of if “you have it or don’t.” If you are among the “can do” group, the real issue is what you do with your skills and abilities. You said that Henri sucked at painting. I’ll accept that on it’s face. That was “the line” for him. The key point here is that Henri had an inability in one area, turned to another field, and excelled in that field. His knowledge and education in painting made that possible. It’s not the first time in history an inability brought out someone’s true genius.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2010, 09:18:04 AM by Justan » Logged

Justan
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« Reply #27 on: January 24, 2010, 09:11:29 AM »
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Quote from: Jonathan Wienke

> True, but you don't have to "get an education" from formal classroom study in a school, college, or university; you can often do as well studying on your own.

No you don’t have to get a formal education, but absolutely you will not do as well studying on your own. Can you provide any facts at all to back up your postulate? Can you show me any profession whose ranks are filled with self-educated people? A profession other than, ya know, operating a shovel or other similar “professions.”

> I've never had a color management class, but I've learned enough about it through these forums, my own experience, and other sources to discuss the subject intelligently with world-class experts like Andrew Rodney, Jeff Schewe, and Ethan Hansen, and I set up the color management system at the US Capitol photo lab. I've never taken a formal physics or digital signal processing class, but I know more about these subjects than many people who have college degrees in related areas. I've never had a formal lesson, but I can play bass guitar as well as some pros. And I've never gone to school to learn photography. The key thing in all of these areas is that I've devoted years to studying them and learning whatever I could, even though that study didn't happen in a traditional classroom.

Clearly a talented person. Read the following and take it for what it’s worth:

A friend started to teach himself about electronics from the time he was 7. His first job, at the age of 13 was at a TV repair store. While in his early 20s, he was in the Air Force and worked repairing electronics for all kinds of things. The group he was in literally created a new department to take advantage of his considerable skills. He’s largely self taught, only had 2 years of college, and has had a good career. His primary job deals with both physics and electronics that permit ultrasound machines to work. He is one of the designers of the most advanced ultrasound machines in existence. If you ever need to use one of these machines, you have in a large part his skills to thank.

He’s now in his 50s and has a job title of research empiricist for a major medical technology company. The vast majority of his co-workers are people with PhDs. He has no degree. He says many of his peers have been working in their current positions for 15 years. During that time, he’s been doing lesser jobs at substantially lower pay. He’s very talented, highly self-motivated, has achieved a lot, but didn’t get a degree. And that lack of degree cost him about 15 years to get where he is now. Your comment suggests you are heading down the same path. Again, think about it.

A talented person will always get ahead. The ones who put their intelligence ahead of their ego do not throw away half a life and hundreds of thousands of dollars in income due to hubris.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #28 on: January 24, 2010, 02:42:38 PM »
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Quote from: Justan
No you don’t have to get a formal education, but absolutely you will not do as well studying on your own. Can you provide any facts at all to back up your postulate? Can you show me any profession whose ranks are filled with self-educated people? A profession other than, ya know, operating a shovel or other similar “professions.”

Photography comes to mind. Most photographers, even ones who do photography for pay, do not have degrees in photography. And how many professional musicians have music degrees? Some, but certainly not the majority...
« Last Edit: January 24, 2010, 02:46:27 PM by Jonathan Wienke » Logged

tim wolcott
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« Reply #29 on: January 24, 2010, 03:25:33 PM »
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Jonathan, well said.  Its the quality of the work that counts.  Are they printed perfectly and are they well executed photographs.  All to many times people go by names and have you looked at the quality of the work.  That's what counts.  I would rather go to lecture by an unknown who has amazing work, than some name who isn't producing great images.  We have all seen this in the art world.  But you still need the passion and dedication to make it happen but also the ability to SEE.  Nothing great comes easy!

"There are no short cuts.  Great photography requires understanding light and composition, vision and patience – simple discipline – simple but never easy."

Tim Wolcott   WWW.GalleryOfTheAmericanLandscape.COM

Quote from: Jonathan Wienke
Photography comes to mind. Most photographers, even ones who do photography for pay, do not have degrees in photography. And how many professional musicians have music degrees? Some, but certainly not the majority...
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RSL
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« Reply #30 on: January 24, 2010, 05:45:51 PM »
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Quote from: Jonathan Wienke
Photography comes to mind. Most photographers, even ones who do photography for pay, do not have degrees in photography. And how many professional musicians have music degrees? Some, but certainly not the majority...

Justan, I'll add people who design and write good software systems. I've known a whole bunch of software engineers and programmers and I've never met one who was top-notch who wasn't self-taught. Which is not to say some of them didn't have advanced education -- as opposed to training. My closest friend in the field was a PhD in computer science. He was a very good programmer, but that skill didn't come from his education as a computer scientist. If you understand what's taught as computer science you'll understand what I'm saying. He had a particular ability to do the kind of logic system architecture requires and he taught himself how to apply it. The theory and research he immersed himself in from his formal education certainly made life easier for him, but that wasn't what made him the kind of system architect and programmer he was.
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Joe Behar
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« Reply #31 on: January 24, 2010, 07:07:17 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
Justan, I'll add people who design and write good software systems. I've known a whole bunch of software engineers and programmers and I've never met one who was top-notch who wasn't self-taught. Which is not to say some of them didn't have advanced education -- as opposed to training. My closest friend in the field was a PhD in computer science. He was a very good programmer, but that skill didn't come from his education as a computer scientist. If you understand what's taught as computer science you'll understand what I'm saying. He had a particular ability to do the kind of logic system architecture requires and he taught himself how to apply it. The theory and research he immersed himself in from his formal education certainly made life easier for him, but that wasn't what made him the kind of system architect and programmer he was.

Sorry Russ, You're off the mark here.

Self taught programmers are the main reason we see so much software that never makes it past version 1.1

Spaghetti code, complete lack of documentation, ignoring hardware architecture and needs, the complete disregard for scalability, programs that work on the machines they were written on, but not others, code that is not portable between platforms and the list goes on and on....

I doubt very much that Adobe, for example would allow someone without qualifications to design their software.

Yes, creativity in programming is indeed very important, but if the architect did not build the load bearing walls properly, the house will collapse.



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BenjaminKanarek
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« Reply #32 on: January 24, 2010, 08:27:48 PM »
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Quote from: Jonathan Wienke
Photography comes to mind. Most photographers, even ones who do photography for pay, do not have degrees in photography. And how many professional musicians have music degrees? Some, but certainly not the majority...

Exactly...Another approach is apprenticeship. In fact apprenticeship was the norm in the early 20th century for those wishing to practice Architecture.  One of the icons of that epoch is Frank Lloyd Wright.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #33 on: January 25, 2010, 12:06:18 AM »
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Quote from: Joe Behar
Sorry Russ, You're off the mark here.

Self taught programmers are the main reason we see so much software that never makes it past version 1.1

Not necessarily; relying on a degree or certification instead of actual skill/talent can bring about results even worse. While I was working in IT as a programmer & network administrator, the company I worked for was approached by a consulting firm that did programming. The sales pitch was that all their programmers had all the latest certifications and degrees, and surely they could improve on the existing software system (which I, having a total of one BASIC programming class over a decade earlier, had written in its entirety by myself). $30000 and several months later, the consultants managed to produce an abortion that ran about one-third as fast as my system, and still had major flaws preventing it from doing several of the most basic and fundamental processes correctly. And it was designed in such a way that implementing some of the upcoming changes to the company's business rules (which the consultants had been briefed on from the beginning) would be nearly impossible without major changes to their database structure and a complete rewrite of their code.

In contrast, my system actually worked, ran faster (a LOT faster), and having been designed to maximize flexibility from the beginning, only very minor changes were needed to implement the changes to the company's new business rules.

Guess which system the company decided to go with...
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RSL
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« Reply #34 on: January 25, 2010, 09:57:00 AM »
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Quote from: Joe Behar
Sorry Russ, You're off the mark here.

Self taught programmers are the main reason we see so much software that never makes it past version 1.1

Spaghetti code, complete lack of documentation, ignoring hardware architecture and needs, the complete disregard for scalability, programs that work on the machines they were written on, but not others, code that is not portable between platforms and the list goes on and on....

I doubt very much that Adobe, for example would allow someone without qualifications to design their software.

Yes, creativity in programming is indeed very important, but if the architect did not build the load bearing walls properly, the house will collapse.

Joe, I didn't say or imply that there's not a lot of crap written by self-taught programmers. What I said was that I've never seen a TOP-NOTCH software architect and programmer who wasn't self-taught. I wish I were in Colorado instead of Florida right now because back there I'd have access to my library on the subject. There's a fascinating study by IBM from way back there -- maybe 30 years ago about "super programmers." These were the guys who were found to be ten times as productive as the guys who weren't super programmers. Guess how those guys learned to design and program software.

As far as Adobe is concerned, I suspect they allow people who can do the job to design their software and I doubt very much if they rely on college credentials to determine who can do the job.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2010, 09:58:12 AM by RSL » Logged

RSL
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« Reply #35 on: January 25, 2010, 11:11:52 AM »
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Quote from: Justan
People change their mind if and when they are open to valid input.

Yes, but the input has to be valid.

Quote
But first, inability touches nearly all in one way or another. Lets call the point of inability “the line.” What I’m expressing is that among those who can do, “the line” can be pushed back formidably by education.

Yes, often those who haven't a particular God-given talent in a particular field of art can become more or less adequate in that field through study, help, and hard work. But, as you know, I'm not talking about the more or less adequate.

Quote
But now back to your point of if “you have it or don’t.” If you are among the “can do” group, the real issue is what you do with your skills and abilities. You said that Henri sucked at painting. I’ll accept that on it’s face. That was “the line” for him. The key point here is that Henri had an inability in one area, turned to another field, and excelled in that field. His knowledge and education in painting made that possible. It’s not the first time in history an inability brought out someone’s true genius.

Let's look at Elliott Erwitt, whom I consider an equal of HCB, and, in some ways superior, though he started later and never has gathered the same respect. As far as I know Elliott never had a painting class. That's not to say that HCB's training as a painter didn't help his photography. It may have, but the question you'd need to answer in order to validate your assertion is whether or not he'd have been as great without that training. I don't think anyone can answer that question.
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stamper
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« Reply #36 on: January 26, 2010, 05:28:49 AM »
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To consider yourself to be self taught you need access to sources such as books, the internet, videos and similar means such as knowledgeable people? These things have been created by certain persons who learned them from other persons? Therefore logically speaking they are in fact teaching you? What you learn you can't pluck out of thin air? What you don't get is a one to one teaching experience but you are being taught?
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« Reply #37 on: January 26, 2010, 06:13:51 AM »
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Quote from: RSL
You won't learn anything about the "best crop" from Cartier-Bresson because he didn't crop.

Maybe you can't, but I certainly CAN. Every one of HCB's image was cropped in his viewfinder.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2010, 06:19:58 AM by Chris_T » Logged
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« Reply #38 on: January 26, 2010, 06:19:23 AM »
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Quote from: kbolin
Reminds of a saying I once heard

"Those who can, DO!"
"Those who can't, TEACH!"

Hummm... where does that put some of as that do & teach?  

"Those who can't teach, WRITE!"  

On a more serious note, more often than not, good practitioners (of any skill) do not make "good" teachers. What makes a teacher "good" is yet another discussion.
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RSL
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« Reply #39 on: January 26, 2010, 09:57:58 AM »
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Quote from: Chris_T
Maybe you can't, but I certainly CAN. Every one of HCB's image was cropped in his viewfinder.

Chris, You can see what isn't in the picture? Wow! Wish I could do that.
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