BJP #7862: Look & Learn

In our third annual edition focusing on photography education, BJP visits schools around the world to discover what it takes to “see photographically”. From one of the oldest photography schools in the UK, to pioneering institutions in Germany and Denmark, tutors stress the need to appreciate the mechanics of a photograph – light, shape, space and perspective.
“Our bodies learn to adapt to the camera that is shaping our experience,” explains Thomas Sandberg, photographer and co-founder of the Ostkreuz School for Photography in Berlin. But Sandberg adds that learning about photography is just as much about getting to know yourself, and the school promotes this self-exploration with every project. “I do strongly believe that photography goes through the body, and that you have to learn, train and try it out,” he says.

Ostkreuz has a back-to-basics approach which ensures undergraduates appreciate the fundamentals of making a photograph – first-years are expected to complete one module using neither a camera nor a computer, and another using a basic 1950s camera. “How your body and vision work with different formats dictates how the photograph is, and this should not be underestimated,” reasons Sandberg.
North of the border in Copenhagen, his ideas are echoed by Morten Bo, who founded Fatamorgana, the Danish School of Photography almost three decades ago – and has changed very little since. “I always say that to be an artist is not a profession, but a way of life,” says Bo, adding that photographers should organise their domestic lives around their work, and not the other way around.
Fatamorgana, whose name roughly translates as ‘mirage’, has an open, harmonious philosophy, in which students are encouraged to discuss “photography and [develop] our own language for it”. The students run the faculty, Bo tells BJP, adding: “I tell them on the first day that this is their school. They all have keys and have total access to the school 24 hours a day.”

The story is echoed closer to home at the University of South Wales in Cardiff, in a photography department that’s moved from Newport to the Welsh capital but remains otherwise exactly the same. Set up in 1973 to help re-skill miners and steelworkers, it swiftly became known as cutting-edge, and has retained the reputation ever since.
The school’s mission is to teach how “to understand the industry of pictures and how you tell those stories” according to Paul Reas, the course director, adding that each image should be an evocative and bold statement. “[Students] acquire what we call the ‘alphabet of the visual language’, to make pictures that clearly and unambiguously communicate what you’re thinking,” he tells BJP.
The recurring theme is the need for photographers to perfect their craft, and explore themselves. This ethos is replicated by the winners of our Breakthrough Awards for graduates and emerging photographers – Ryan James Caruthers, Jocelyn Allen, Cathal Abberton and Todd R Darling, whose projects consider sexuality, displacement and identity politics.
Plus, we investigate an all male liberal arts college in the California desert, reflect on social divisions since the struggles in Northern Ireland, and review the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II.
Our latest issue, Look & Learn, is available to buy now from The BJP Shop. Find it in the App Store from 4 July and in shops from 5 July.

BJP’s Education Issue 2017, featuring work by Cathal Abberton, Undergraduate Single Image, and Todd R Darling, Undergraduate Series winner, in our 2017 Breakthrough Awards
BJP’s Education Issue 2017, featuring work by Todd R Darling, the Undergraduate Series winner in our 2017 Breakthrough Awards
BJP’s Education Issue 2017, featuring work by Ryan James Caruthers, the Graduate Series winner in our 2017 Breakthrough Awards
Buy the latest issue now from The BJP Shop