Saturday, May 2, 2015

A Self-taught Photographer... Is it a Stigma?

“What really matters is what you do with what you have.” (H. G. Wells)
There’s no one lawyer or a doctor without formal education. How about photographers? Many of them are autodidacts.


Two terms are usually used when we describe someone’s knowledge acquired without formal education: “autodidact” (means a self-taught person);  “self-taught” (means having knowledge or skills acquired by one's own efforts without formal instruction <a self–taught musician>).

In the list of autodidacts you’ll see names of many great people:
- writers: Rabindranath Tagore (Nobel Prize of Literature), Ernest Hemingway, George Bernard Shaw, Ray Bradbury (and others);
- artists: Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Quentin Tarantino, Jimi Hendrix (and others);
- architects: Gustave Eiffel, Le Corbusier (and others).

Definition “self-taught person” sometimes has negative connotation with regard to photography.
There are many jokes about photography jargon and about the meaning of some expressions.

When photographers say
I’m completely self-taught
They actually mean…
Hell, if you don’t think my pictures are any good now, you should have seen them a few years ago, before I read a photography magazine!”

That’s why when some photographers tell that they are self-taught they admit they probably sound like they are ashamed of that fact.

Surely everyone might have his/her own opinion about the subject. And all of them are right or wrong (depending on your own opinion :)).
Sometimes photographers are compared with painters. There’s no secret that there are many artists with no formal training who are better than some people who have a degree. Passion to the art, intelligence and keenness are the things that will never be taught in formal training. What really matters is the body of work.

I would like to share with you some encouraging quotations.

“Technique can be taught. Seeing is a gift.” (Ken Pivak, a pro advertising photographer and phot).

“I am entirely self-taught. I read photo magazines and then I tried all the techniques I read about, mostly in the special effects arena.” (Jim Zuckerman, a book writer, photography teacher, photo workshop leader, and world traveler)

“Many of us have never gone to photography school. I personally haven’t. I was fortunate enough to be born in the era of the internet in which I learned everything through the web.” (Eric Kim, a street photographer, blogger, photography teacher).

“…Became interested in photography through photographing my young children. No formal training.” (Fay Godwin, a photographer known for her black-and-white landscapes).

“I had been teaching myself photography.” (Ree Drummond, a New York Times bestselling author, food writer, photographer).

“I am a former economist. I never went to photography school to learn photography.” (Sebastião Salgado, a world-renown social documentary photographer and photojournalist).

Certainly, there are basics, rules and guidelines in photography. But the only way to improve your photography is to go out and just to shoot.

Thank you for reading!
What are your experiences with photography?
Stay tuned for more photo-related articles.