Teaching and Creative Tension

March 09, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Teaching and Creative Tension

Out of all of the careers I have experienced, life-long, the most rewarding is that of teaching. This is especially true about the time I taught, mentored, or coached the photographic arts.

I recently had the pleasure of working with a number of photographers one to one in addition to teaching two classes, one on black and white landscape and one on seeing in black and white. For those of you who have taught, you know that teaching is one of the best ways to learn and grow in one’s own work. Here are just a few of the insights gained from these experiences:

•    Becoming aware that photographers are truly open, even somewhat vulnerable, to expanding their photographic voice.

•    Being prompted to further explore aspects of one’s own photograph making that may have been left dormant for a while.

•    Realizing how important it is to be aware of the difference between ‘taking’ and photograph and ‘making’ a photograph. There is also the felt distinction between the attitude of ‘shooting’ a subject and the ‘momentary capture’ of the subject’s essence.

•    Being cognizant of cross-over learning moments that could be shared between the student and teacher. This realization is essential for mutual respect and openness in the learning environment.

This leads me to encourage us all, who have a certain measure of confidence in the photographic endeavor, to find ways of not only sharing learnings by presenting our work but experiencing formal/informal conversations with others.

One aspect of being in conversation about photography or any other art medium is the tendency to fall into critiquing whether it is desired by the other person or not. In order to keep the critiquing mutual and helpful is important to be clear about the type or level of critique needed by the photographer who is sharing their work. There is a fine line between being ‘fully’ honest and perhaps hurtful, and being honest in a more ‘limited’ way unless a more ‘detailed’ critique is requested. Teaching or mentoring when a critique is expected does require a finesse and awareness of what is supportive and helpful and what is hurtful when there is not a fully disclosed readiness on the part of the one being taught or mentored.

It is in the interplay of these teaching exchanges that makes a wonderful opportunity possible for a creative experience even when there are times in which the conversation becomes tension filled, creative tension so to speak. My encouragement is, for all who feel confident readiness, to share what you have learned with others. You are going to like it!


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