In all fairness, after I posted my final thoughts, I gave the professor a call and asked for his point of view. I thought we had a great talk and he had some very valid points.
He pointed out that he was teaching in an art department and that the goal was for artists to be able to produce works of art. There is NO doubt in my mind that black & white photography is a great form of art. Black & white forces the artist and the viewer to concentrate on the subject and not be distracted by the colors in the image. Black & white brings out the textures and details of an image.
He also pointed out the communal experience of a darkroom. In a large darkroom, it is possible for individuals to work together and collaborate on both technique and composition. The students get feedback on the image right away.
We also discussed the differences between an art program and a vocational ed program such as those found in a community college. In a vocational ed type of situation it is all about learning how to capture the image; the process. Art is not about the process, but more about the final product and is VERY communal. It takes the artist and the viewer to create a piece of art.
Finally, and probably most importantly, he said that he surveys every class and in every survey the overwhelming response is that students want to learn how to develop film and make prints in the darkroom. Honestly, I can’t argue with that. I got into photography because I loved watching the image rise out of the paper in the developer turning a blank sheet of white paper into something that I had created. It is a magical feeling when you create something with your own hands.
I would still argue that an artist is only as good as his skill with the tools he is using and a beginning class in any art medium should cover the mastery of those tools. I have said all along that film and other photographic mediums have a place in the classroom and should be introduced to students, but after they understand how use the tools to capture their vision.
I kind of consider this like photographic subjects; not everyone is going to like every subject. I like nature and landscape photography and others like street photography. That doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the effort and craft of a good street photography image. It just means that isn’t the type of images I want to look at and I don’t want to go out and make that kind of pictures.
The bottom line is that he is teaching the class and doing what he thinks is right for the students and the program. Being a teacher, I have to respect that. I don’t agree with it, but I respect it.
I found the instructor very open to discussion and more than willing to share his point of view while listening to mine. I hope I can maintain an open dialog with him in the future.
I welcome your comments and look forward to the discussion that could be created from these ideas.