Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Photoshop -- it'll put a sparkle in your eye [and anywhere else too]

This evening, Christina and I went to check out a photography school she's interested in, namely the Center for Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University which was having an open house. This is a program that concentrates entirely on digital photography, as opposed to most other photography programs which are still heavily into darkroom-and-toxic-chemicals technology. While she was initially a little skeptical about their program, she warmed up to it by the end of their presentation, so she'll probably end up starting their evening program in January.

Highlights from the open house:

- They need to work on clearly distinguishing between their Basic Photography Certificate and their Professional Photography Certificate. From their brochure, the difference is 2 classes [out of about 14], but the cost difference is $9000. When that apparent discrepancy was brought to their attention, they hurriedly explained that what looks like 2 classes in the Professional certificate program is actually 2 blocks of 6 weeks each and each block corresponds to 6 "classes" in the Basic certificate program. In other words, the Basic certificate actually only takes half the time that the Professional certificate takes, hence it only costs half as much.
- They're unashamedly a vocational/craft school ie they want to teach students specific technologies and skills that will be useful in helping them make a living from photography, they aren't trying to run an academic program that teaches things like "History of Photography". That's a pretty good fit for Christina, since she a) wants to make money from photography and b) already has enough academic degrees. From my perspective, I like the fact that they're not apologetic about this focus, but rather emphasize it -- being clear about who/what you are produces much more coherence.
- All their instructors have lots of real-world experience, as well as apparently being pretty well-connected with well-known commercial photographers. That sort of access to a network will probably come in pretty handy when it becomes time to look for a job.
- The director of their program is funny, though maybe unintentionally so. At one point, he had a bit of a Gollum attack and said "lenseses ... es ... es". He also characterized some of the "joys" of working with computers pretty accurately: "You spend a day trying to figure out why something doesn't work, and then you realize it was something stupid and trivial, and you aren't any smarter or stronger because of it, all you've done is lost a day."
- According to the director of the program, digital photography has finally gotten to the point where it's really revolutionizing commercial photography, and so there are lots of opportunities for people who are conversant with the new medium and technology as older/more established photographers may have a harder time making the switch. This sounds pretty similar to what's going on in molecular biology: computational methods are becoming indispensable for dealing with the mountains of data being accumulated, and so what's needed are people who are comfortable with computation but also understand biology deeply; the "traditional" biologists who still think Excel is the end-all, be-all of data analysis tools are going to have a hard time staying relevant. So, Christina and I are both getting into fields that are undergoing some pretty radical changes, and have the chance to be part of the new wave. Pretty nifty, if you ask me.

[Maybe we'll have her take a digital picture of me analyzing biological data on a computer -- that'll be such a cutting-edge picture, it'll make you bleed just to look at it ;-)]

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