Statement of Teaching Philosophy
In formulating a philosophy of teaching, I turned to myself, my experiences, and what I believe has brought out the most in me, creatively and effectively. Assessing which approaches had the most impact on me, and how I applied these lessons to my practice I know the kind of instructor I am, and how I can impact the students and their growth as artists and creators. An evolution of the student starts from within, and grows through an understanding of themselves. Once they have that solid footing, they can begin to place themselves and their work in the world, and become part of the larger creative community.
Learning is an ongoing process, in all fields, but particularly in art. Technologies change, theories come and go, and artists need to continually push themselves and their practice. Photography in particular is a medium that requires strong technical, if not scientific, ability, as well as all the qualities that a creative mind possesses. I believe in handing the students the tools to achieve their vision early, by initially focusing on strong a understanding and mastery of photography’s technical challenge. Whether exposure, developing, or printing, understanding and controlling the way all these steps interact and the effect one can have on another is important so they become second nature.
As the student progresses through a program, things get less clear cut and move into the area of an artist’s practice that is very personal. For me, this is the area where an instructor has the most obligation to the student to bring out the best in them. There are a number of ways to approach this, and no single ‘right’ way. Early on I want to get the students to think about what it is that inspires them. What drives them to want to create? I push to develop a personal, internal understanding that can grow into a sophisticated external expression. This early stage can be explored through writing, reading, and open discussion in a seminar format. This also serves to help the student gain confidence in expressing their ideas and discussing their work.
As students reach their final years I then like to get them thinking about the greater art world at large, and the place they want to occupy in it. It is the time for them to ascribe to their work a much broader theoretical context and begin to really nuance their ideas and the philosophies of their practice. At this point it is all very personal, and on an individual level I try to push the student into looking at prevailing theories and current practitioners in regard to what they are creating, and how they can evolve, subvert, or exploit this in their own practice.
In the end it is my desire to connect with the students on an individual basis that I feel really makes me an effective instructor. In my experience it is the teachers that have taken that little bit of extra time to really ‘get’ me that have had the most impact. Teaching art is like making art - there is no one way, and the best instructors are fluid in their methods, but true to their philosophies.
My experiences in learning abroad and teaching in various capacities has helped me understand the benefits of diversity. By including all cultures and points of view people are shown that the way of thinking they were raised with is not the only one. This is particularly key for creators, as being able to see from many points of view is an amazing way to be able to interpret the works around us, and create work that can inspire and educate.