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October 12, 2004
Educational photography

I have been taking digital photography classes, and have already stuck up a lot (and I do mean a lot) of digital photos of this (and some spiel about it all) on my Culture Blog. Those were taken a fortnight ago. But then a week later I got a few more really nice ones, and I thought, what with it being education - teaching and learning anyway - I'd stick a few of the best up here. Click on the small pictures here if you want to see bigger ones.

At first all I wanted was a home for this lady

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who is from Peru. She came out really well, I think.

But while I'm at it here are some pictures of the class teacher, André Pinkovsky.

André was at his most dispirited when trudging through the paperwork at the start of the course. He had to get us to fill in lots of forms to inform the local authority of what was going on so they could feel comfortable by having a stack of paper about it all. Necessary, I suppose, but about half of the first morning was taken up with this. When he got around to talking about photography he was happier. And when we got to actually play with our cameras and he could wander around just helping and encouraging us (reinforcing all those facts and concepts all the while) he was happiest of all. It helped at lot that last Wednesday was, I now realise, the last really nice and reasonably warm day of 2004. André's mood was, as I hope you can see, positively sunny. The one on the bottom right is included because I like the colouring, and despite the cropping, which is as it was in the beginning, I'm afraid.

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He does not completely look like Alan Rickman in Die Hard, but there is a definite resemblance, reinforced strongly by the fact that, like "Hans Gruber" if not Alan Rickman, he is also German. We tease him about this. He doesn't seem to mind. For in personality he is the opposite of Hans Gruber, very kind and very patient, and is willing to repeat himself, as often as we ask for it.

This is a particularly important quality for the kind of teaching he is doing, I think. Learning something of the fundamentals of photography from scratch, as most of us are doing, means becoming acquainted with a number of alien and interlocking concepts. Shutter speed. Aperture. Depth of field. And the point is that such things are not mere "facts". These are concepts, concepts that he wants us to internalise until they are part of our inner natures as photographers, and that takes time. Which is why they need to be repeated. On the other hand, lots of facts are also involved, and because there are so many of them, they too need to be repeated.

On its own, each fact each concept even is reasonably easy to learn, but there are too many of them for us to grasp everything first time around. When we might have been absorbing the next fact, we were still pondering the significance of or simply trying not to be confused about the previous one. So, we need reinforcement and confirmation at exactly the moment when we are attending to something. I do, anyway.

This, after all, is the problem with merely reading the documentation, or even reading helpful X-for-dummies type books. The answer to your particular question right now is usually there, but how to find it? And if you do, will it make sense to you, without you already knowing the answer to two other questions? A teacher, if he knows his stuff, can answer your exact question straight away, and if you don't understand his first answer, you can try again until you do, approximately speaking. And, when you forget it all and want to ask the same question again an hour later, you can, if your teacher is like André. In such circumstances the "But I've already told you that!!" style of instruction would be very demoralising.

One of the ways of remaining a good teacher, I think, is to subject yourself to teaching from time to time. That way, you are reminded of how it feels to be taught.

And since I am shovelling pictures onto my blog, I might as well shove up the best of the rest of the pictures taken that day.

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As you can see, I like to take pictures of digital photographers, and that includes taking pictures of myself from a reflecting surface when taking digital photos, as is the case in the photo of the guy in the blue glasses.

Next lesson tomorrow. I leave it to you to decide if they are having any effect.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:46 PM
Category: Adult education
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