Benefits of - or recommendations for - an MFA

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by KIR, Jul 19, 2009.

  1. KIR

    KIR TPF Noob!

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    Hi all - have a question for everyone who wants to add their two cents.

    Background: I am in the Army and in 1-2 years will be out, with the new GI Bill benefits. The long and short of it is that I can pretty much get my Masters for free. I would like to at least work towards a career or paying hobby in photography. Foolhardy though it might be, I would like to get a Masters geared towards photography - possibly an MFA, possibly an MA.


    Question: Is it worth it? If I wanted to be hired to go places and take pictures - what degree would be best? (Workshops are not paid for in GI Bill benefits, and I don't have the $$ to pay for them myself)

    I do understand a few things - if my photos suck, there are no chances of a career in photography. But for the purposes of this thread, lets assume I'm not hopeless at it. And also I do have backup means to make money - because this certainly isn't a cash cow type of job. If all else fails I could probably join the Army again...

    Thanks for your feedback and thoughts.
     
  2. BKMOOD

    BKMOOD TPF Noob!

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    If you really enjoy photography to the point of wanting to make a career out of it (and a MFA is free) why not? Go for it. Photography, like any other creative career (dance, writing and acting) is a craft that must be studied and learned.

    You can learn it on your own by trial and error (which often takes longer) or you can do it in an organized setting (college) with constant and constructive feedback. A formal program will probably expose you also to the history of photography, theory and so forth. You’ll also probably be exposed to other styles you hadn’t even thought of, making you a much more versatile photographer. A formal education certainly won’t hurt you. The question is if you don’t go will you study all of this on your own?

    Do you really need to go to photography school to have a career in photography? No, not really. If you’re outrageously talented, employers don’t care if you were raised by wolves, they’ll hire you. But how many of us are outrageously talented?

    What if you suck? Well, suck is relative. One man’s suck is another man’s masterpiece. Even if you do suck today, who says you'll suck next week after you’ve actually learned what you’re doing? Art careers are funny things. It’s not like being an accountant.

    I’ve been in the arts now for about 30 years (20 spent in New York City). I know many artists who sell crap; I know geniuses who can’t give away masterpieces. It’s a crap shoot and you just never know. There’s a really crappy movie I wrote at Blockbuster. I thought the script sucked. Yet somebody paid for it and produced it. I have another script, easily the best thing I’ve written in 30 years. I can’t give that sucker away. Oh well… I’m self producing that one.

    Enough of my rambling… I think a formal education is a good thing. I think it adds depth and versatility to an artist. Sure, you can train yourself and do quite well. But I think a formal education will give you a leg up, at lest on paper. Then your brilliant talent would have to take over.

    As a writer, I sold my first network sitcom script before any formal training at all. But by the time I left NYU, where I encountered other artists and film styles I didn’t even know existed, I was a better artist for it.

    Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2009
  3. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

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    BKMOOD hit the nail on the head. An MFA is a brilliant step. Keep in mind that as your education grows so will your talent. Only thing needed from you is an everlasting dedication to the arts. It is a tough racket for sure, but there is a lot of money in it.

    Love & Bass
     
  4. The idea of spending a couple of years surrounded by other creative people fully focused on fine tuning their creative skills sounds like heaven.
     
  5. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    This is a question with many facets. Will a MA give you a higher salary? No, never. I know poeple with and without MAs in photography and without exception the top 10 highest paid are self-trained photographers... oh, that list holds 11 people... lol

    Will it make you a better photographer? I'd like to think so. As IF said, just the thought of being surrounded by creative, intelligent and learned photographers cannot do anything BUT make you a better one yourself. That said, I can find creative people outside of an educational facility too.

    It depends on what you want from that degree. If it is knowledge and ability, that is realistic. If it is money... dream on... lol That MA means nothing to a paying customer. It *may* get your foot in the door, but YOU and YOUR results are what will or will not keep you there.

    Degrees are important, just not any form of guarantee of quality or even competence.
     
  6. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Question: If you want to work in photography...would you rather work for yourself or work for someone else? And/or would you want to run your own company or not have to deal with that and just concentrate on photography?

    It's probably easier to make money if you run your own company, especially if you are catering to the general public (weddings, portraits etc) but you may find that it's more running a business than actual photography. And in this case, an education in business might (would certainly) be more beneficial than a MFA.
     
  7. KIR

    KIR TPF Noob!

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    Thank you all for your thoughtful responses. I have to say I was neither raised by wolves, nor am I outrageously talented, alas! The question, would I study all the art, craft, theory and history without going, really made me stop and think. Probably not. I'd be to busy doing something else, like I always seem to be now.

    Big Mike - good thought. I think I should at least look at taking some classes or minoring in business, because I hate working for other people! lol.
     
  8. jealous

    jealous TPF Noob!

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    you can teach yourself anything and dont need an MFA to be awesome. BUT keep in mind that should you wish to work overseas it is a HUGE benefit to have a degree after your name when dealing with immigration/government/visa crap
     

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