My creative path – part 2 – photography school

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My creative path – part 2. Right now, I’m reading the book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by David Epstein. In this book he is arguing and talks about how you will become better prepared for success by having a broader expertise and experience than if you deep dive into one subject. Meaning experience from many different areas that you can use.

In one chapter of the book he is describing his own windy path leading up to his job as a journalist. These posts are inspired by that.

So, I was hooked on photography! For the first time in my life I really knew what I wanted to do – I was going to be an action sports photographer! Determined to continue to study photography, after high school, I went into search mode. I googled and read the (now late) Swedish photography magazine, Tidningen Foto to find information about photography schools. Back in early 2000 there weren’t many of them in Sweden. One was a university program in Gothenburg that focused on art photography, and then there where one or two schools that was focused on press or documentary photography. 

Not much fun for a young and hungry soul wanting to be an action-sports photographer.

Suddenly, I stumbled over an issue of Tidningen Foto, where they had listed a folk high in Åland, Finland. The school had a 1 year’s photography course in nature and landscape photography. It wasn’t skiing, but it was close enough! I got to spend time outside in nature, at least. I took some weeks to shoot the images I was going to apply with. Some nature and some skiing. Still not a clue what exposure, composition or even aperture, for that matter, was. I just saw stuff and took a picture of it.

Some weeks or month later, I received an e-mail or a regular one, that I had been accepted. I was thrilled! I was going to study photography and become a real photographer, and I got to move into my, almost, own place! 

Iceland and Åre. From my days at photography school. 2003 I think.

Photography school

Even if I didn’t get to do any ski photography until my graduation project, I loved every minute of it. So many hours spent looking at images (just as Mr Bean; “I sit in the corner and look at paintings”), getting and giving critique, spending time outdoors and the most important thing – learning the craft. For the first time I got to learn and understand exposure theory, lines and composition and everything else I needed to know.

If we weren’t out shooting images of the different scenery of Åland or rock climbing in our spare time, we were looking at pictures: from learning about visual- and photography history to give insightful critique to the class. It was a full year of constant learning, development and trial and error. I’m glad I learned the craft of photography back in the analog time, on positive slide film. This meant that, when using slide film, exposure errors (image too bright or too dark) where more noticeable and severe, than on today’s digital cameras. 

Teachings: Without this year at the folk high in Åland I would never had been a photographer or any type of content creator or communicator really. As important it was to be able to play around and having fun in high school, the same applied to this year. Now, it was having fun, but with learning and purpose with a desired or expected outcome.

This year was crucial for what was coming later on. I got the tools, guidance and support, from the teachers and my fellow classmates, to really learn the craftsmanship behind photography. This, together with an insight and taste of what a professional career for photography would be. 

Even if it wasn’t 10 000 hours, it was deliberate practice almost every day for two semesters. I got a taste of what photography could do, as in visuals and creativity, together with as a profession. Even if I never had any plans on becoming a writer of any sort, my first ever gig as a photographer included writing text for an article I did. And long that my second gig followed in the same pattern.

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