Monday, March 3, 2008
I was at a cocktail party recently, and I found myself speaking with a few people about the current state of photography education. It's ironic that in an era of the most sophisticated tools in the history of photography, far too many instructors seem to cling blindly to the past. At the party, we talked about a program at a major university where the head of the program refused to allow digital tools to be used.
When I was in school, my professor was of a different mind-set. It was a time in my life when I was more apt to embrace the romance of an old way of doing things. All I wanted to do was shoot 4x5 fine-art black-and-white. I adored time in the darkroom spent processing negatives and then hours and hours working on prints. At the time, Photoshop was in version 2. Not CS2, but 2. Even then, my professor saw what I did not. The future would be digital. Back then I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to a computer to work on images. The darkroom was cool, the computer was fake.
Thanks to an inspiring and forward-thinking professor, I was cast into the digital era with an excellent education. It wasn't that I became all digital at that time, but I learned that I had to be able to move forward with the technology, even if I didn't always fully embrace it.
For emerging professionals and students today, it's critical to have a solid background in digital imaging. I'm dumbfounded by instructors who tell their students even now that digital isn't real photography and that they should have nothing to do with it. Instructors can and should, in my opinion, give their students a thorough foundation in film photography just as I believe it's important to learn about the great past masters of our art. But that foundation should be the base from which new photographers build into the future.
It has been said that in order to reach great heights, we stand on the shoulders of giants. Great artists and innovators provide the platforms from which we're able to climb, pushing photography ever forward.
On January 24th of this year, our friend Henry Froehlich passed away. Henry was the chairman of the Mamiya America Corporation, and I was a low-level editor with another magazine when I met him 11 years ago. In the ensuing years, I never met a person who more perfectly fit the description of “gentleman.” He was a pioneer in the American photo market when he saw the potential for Japanese-made cameras and other products. In 1951, Henry founded Konica Camera Company, which merged with Berkey Photo in 1962. Later, in 1987, he and two partners, Jan Lederman and Paul Klingenstein, formed Mamiya America when they obtained the rights to distribute Mamiya and Toyo products in the United States. Henry also was an advocate of the International Center Of Photography, and he became a member of the President's Council of that organization. He was a friend to photographers the world over. To me, he'll always be a true gentleman.
—Christopher Robinson, Editor