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Photography or Photojournalism

Having recently finished my undergrad I have a question I’d like to hear your opinions on. I started a post a couple months back on getting into documentary/conflict photography and got a lot of great and helpful responses.

I have a scholarship that I can apply to most any accredited university in the U.S. an many abroad for 2.5-3 years of study. Given that I have this scholarship I think I would benefit greatly from time to focus on photography given that I have very little background in the subject. My question is this: Given the chance would you go into a photography or photojournalism program? Is the photojournalism program going to be more focused on people with some background in photography and focus on journalism? Assuming I have little to no background in photography, which one would benefit me more?

I know there is no single way anyone gets into this line of work and I also am aware it’s not the easiest to make a living in. I’m not really considering using my scholarship money on this to gain “connections” for future job prospects as from what I understand it’s not your degree people ask for but your portfolio.

Thanks again for the help!

by RivRod at 2013-07-08 15:32:00 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

I"d vote for both. Get some photography under your belt before taking PJ courses. PJ courses usually assume you have basics of photography. Many of the best photographers are self-taught however and studied other stuff in college like economics, languages, etc. If they went to college at all. The late Bob Gilka, former Director of Photography at National Geographic magazine use to say, “I’m up to my ears in photographers but only up to ankles in ideas”. That’s key to any success you might have – your ideas. Also, you probably haven’t been doing it long enough to determine if you have an “eye” for photography. Either you have it or you don’t. No amount of training will give you a vision. Good luck with your career.

by John Robert Fulton Jr. | 08 Jul 2013 16:07 | Spring Lake, Michigan, United States | | Report spam→
Thanks for the advice. Any thoughts on the value of a one or two year masters program in photography? My undergrad is in Philosphy and Political Science and I was thinking about maybe getting a masters in something along international relations or maybe something in post-colonial studies to come out with something other than straight photography or PJ.

by RivRod | 08 Jul 2013 18:07 | | Report spam→
While it’s not always true for everyone, I would say, for the vast majority of students, constant practice is the best path to mastering photography. Go for it in photo-journalism and see where it takes you and if you want to go there. PJ work is 24 hours and you’ll have the opportunity to shoot ALL the time——Wedding happen on the weekends and it’s not likely a wedding will break out downtown at 10 pm on Wednesday night—-but news breaks all the time and everywhere --it’s highly unlikely you could travel to Tajakistan and get a commercial shoot for a locally made yogurt campaign, but you could shoot an S-load of news there.

The speed required to successfully complete a PJ assignment will come in handy with any type of photography——maybe even more importantly, your eye for what is a photograph and what is not will come to you much faster in PJ work than anything else—-that is as long as you are shooting all the time——I think Fulton touches on it when he talks about ideas——experience and repetition will help to isolate what has been done and what needs to be done—-if you shoot a lot and you see what works and what does not, you will develop a direction and a better eye.

It’s not that other forms of photography—-fine art, commercial & advertising ie; portrait, product, catalog, etc—-do not have critics because they have their clients that hire them back or not, but it’s really in the form of not calling you on the phone and you never hear from them again or it’s the voice of an un-trained eye that says the shot was nor purple enough——-PJ work has an photo editor, layout editor, copy editor, news editor et al, that will give you constant feed back because their job depends on your photo as much as yours does——

I don’t think enough has been said about finding your niche in photography—-Choose a location for your student work that will have the greatest potential for what you are interested in and what you want to photograph——-New York City will not have a big angle on wheat farming but if rural life and times are your thing, then choose wisely——rural could mean anywhere in the world just as much as you could pull niche expertise for urban life from NYC, Paris, Mexico City or Buenos Aires——get a common denominator of several niche areas that interest you and hook up with the school closest to the source—-

I believe the key to living a successful working life in photography is finding that niche where any media outlet that needs images for that special story, they will consider you work in their top three—-most often out of that relationship comes assignment work that is related to that niche—-but not always——a photo editor could easily see how your persistence in getting that Chinese silk beetle shot in the rain and apply to asking you to shoot a difficult parliament vote two countries over a month later——in fact, having said that, it’s persistence and answering your phone as soon as you can that you get anywhere——

Good Luck, bro


by David Bro | 08 Jul 2013 20:07 | Orange County-Los Angeles, United States | | Report spam→
Ohio University in Athens, Ohio has a great program in photojournalism. They have a masters program, too. Magnum’s latest nominee went to OU, fwiw.

by John Robert Fulton Jr. | 09 Jul 2013 02:07 | Spring Lake, Michigan, United States | | Report spam→
I hadn’t thought about looking for a school that fits a niche. That’s definitely something I’ll have to think about.

Someone previously mentioned the Corcoran College of Art & Design, any thoughts about it?

I’ll look into Ohio’s program, thanks.

I wonder if it might be worth getting another BA or go for an MFA? If I could get into an MFA, they all ask for portfolios, I wonder what caliber of work they’re looking for.

by RivRod | 09 Jul 2013 11:07 | | Report spam→
RR-Be sure you check Ohio University NOT Ohio State University. It’s usually referred to as “OU” as opposed to “Ohio” which is the other school. No biggie just want to make sure you end up at the right place. Good luck.

by John Robert Fulton Jr. | 11 Jul 2013 21:07 | Spring Lake, Michigan, United States | | Report spam→

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RivRod, RivRod
[location unknown]
John Robert Fulton Jr., Photographs John Robert Fulton Jr.
Spring Lake, Michigan , United States
David Bro, freelance editorial David Bro
freelance editorial
Orange County , United States ( LAX )


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