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News | The Sunday Night Question

February 28, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Has your MFA in art or photography made you a better photographer?

  • Tom Leininger

    Simply put, yes. That said, the MFA is not always needed/a good fit for everyone.

  • Darryl

    no, but the subsequent teaching position did and still does

  • Tyler Hewitt

    Better photographer, no. Better artist, yes.

  • Kirk Gittings

    Yes, but not in the way you would expect, but by learning photo history, criticism etc. It also gives you credibility in some circles, like for teaching at universities, for grants, etc

  • Jessica Somers

    Absolutely not. But I did learn what sort of teacher not to be subsequently making me a better instructor. I also learned that opposition is a wonderful way to become stronger in your own convictions.

  • Levi Wedel

    Yes, quite useful in certain ways. No-name university but good profs, and perhaps more importantly profs who were traveling a path similar to my own.

  • livelearncreate

    WIthout a doubt. It was needed and it was the only pratical way to follow my desire to teach. No regrets; good solid program and great mentors.

  • julie

    I agree with Tom that the MFA is not meant for everyone, but I found it to be really helpful in making myself a better artist and photographer, if for no other reason that I would have never been able to section off that much time to work on my craft and skill level and develop bonds with a community of grad students. Also, I would have never been able to pursue teaching on the college level as I am now without it.

  • John Photos

    Yes, for the simple reason that it gave me a lot more time to practice.

    Ironically, the loans have made it nearly impossible to be a photographer.

  • consumptive

    i always figured you were buying time, access to facilities, and the good ear and kind eyes of a peer group. fifteen years ago at a state school with regular teaching assistant funding and scholarships it was a no brainer. these days, at these prices? i don't know. what a good experience will do is set you on your path, give you the confidence to stay on that path, and a persevering inner monologue to keep the crazy lonelies at bay, because outside of school all you got to rely on a lot of the time is you and you and you. did it make me a better photographer? i don't know. made me a better person. do it again tomorrow.

  • davep

    There are many paths one can take to become a better photographer, earning an MFA was a good choice for me. First, as several have said already, having time to focus on your work, access to facilities and being around a critical, but supportive peer group helped me quite a lot. Being a teaching assistant helped maybe even more by having to teach the craft and aesthetics to others, the students put your skills and beliefs to the test. Last, my professors tended to treat us as soon-to-be peers and really made an effort to make sure we became their equals.

  • Keith Johnson


  • Isa Leshko

    Here are a few articles written by Henry Horenstein that are relevant to this discussion:

    You may also be interested in a few articles written by (then) graduate students about their experiences:
    I don't (yet) have an MFA. Still not sure yet whether I will pursue one….

  • Jeremy

    The MFA did not make me a better photographer–technically–one should be at a high technical level before entering an MFA program. My program has helped me refine my vision and, most importantly, learn to construct the codes for others to understand my artistic work.

    And it has taught me quite a bit about image theory and photo history along the way: "the photographic image: it is a message without a code"–'The Photographic Message', Roland Barthes