Somewhat Shattered

My photo professor had a guest lecturer in today.  His name is Justin and he is a graduate student at Yale University studying photography.  He’s a really great guy, awesome photographer and just super nice.

He told us about his journey from a trade school graduate hopping from job to job and with no desire to be college graduate much less a graduate student to a teaching assistant at Yale.  It was sort of a pictorial display of time but non-documentary.

Justin uses a 4×5 film camera for most of his shots, well he did originally.  Now he uses a Hasselblad type medium format film camera.  These 4×5 cameras allow for tilt/rise/fall/slide etc etc.  If you don’t know what these things are, you’re probably normal.  But for us photo geeks, it means capturing pictures with great, GREAT accessibility… Not the word I’m looking for.

Think of it this way.  When you take a picture of a building, looking up, it gets smaller at the top.  By tilting/shifting/raising the lens you can keep the building perfectly square.  It’s what Ansel Adams used.  It’s what architectural and fashion photographers use quite often, if not exclusively.  They are the old looking, accordian style cameras you probably thought were pieces of crap.  Not so!  I really want one and am trying to figure out how I can find the money for the camera and the film and the lenses… All in time.

After the great lecture, I got to talking to Justin (weird to type that name and not be in third person) and my professor as well as another professor about going to graduate school for a masters in fine art.

All three of these guys studied at Yale University.  It is arguably the best MFA program in the country, as far as photography goes.  And the price isn’t too terrible at around $25,000 a year.

My professor seems to think I could get in to Yale, Stanford or UCSF with my current portfolio as well as some new and better things.  Wow, I sure didn’t think so.  I still have a long way to go, both in time to apply and time to take more and better pics but still…  Stanford and UCSF, according to the two professors, are or can be free.  No tuition for MFA students.  Weird right?  Apparently a little known true story, or widely known and not talked about haha.

So.  I get excited at this prospect.  While I’d kill to go to Yale where my idols teach, Sally Mann, Gregory Crewdson… etc etc.  UCSF and Stanford are in the very area that Ryan and I want to move.  And possibly free.  Awesome right?

I call my parents to share this news and get their opinions.

They don’t seem too excited, positive or supportive of the idea.  My dad says, “Well it’s something to think about”.  I guess I was expecting, “Wow Justin, what an awesome opportunitiy, tell us more!”

Not so.  So now I’m bummed.  It seems only my friends are optimistic about my photography.  I don’t get much encouragement anymore from family and even Ryan doesn’t seem very excited about this passion of mine.  I understand people can’t be 100% into everything I am in, but this is just about my greatest creative love.

Hmph.  I’m pretty down about the whole thing now.  A few hours ago I was all-a-glow and now I’m in the dumps.

I’ll leave you with a few old pictures I took but never put on the internets.  They were all taken before I ever had a photography class, not sure the importance of that but… whatev.

Yeah.  Feel free to comment on what you think I should do.  I’m torn now.  Graduate and get to work taking over my grandmother’s advertising company, go to graduate school, work for a photo studio or start my own studio and teach photography on the side.


12 thoughts on “Somewhat Shattered

  1. I will personally kick your ass if you don’t make photography a huge part of your life! You are gifted at it, and you love it! Sure, there are lots of people with creative sides that fancy photograpgy, but your’s is a passion that goes beyond a simple lust or tryst with a “hobby”. You owe it to yourself as well as the universe to pursue what is truly intrinsically beautiful about you; it is your gift to expound upon and to share with others.

    Now, it is your choice whether you make it your life’s work via your own studio, grad school then something else, whatever. Regardless of how you do it; it is what you need to be doing.

    I love that color photo of the bridge (one of many simple but gorgeous shots a la Justin).

    So yeah…Justin Scott, you are going to do great things with a camera. People are going to take notice.

    Karens last blog post…Ouch

  2. You should absolutely go after the awesome opportunity in front of you. Your photography is phenomenal and don’t let anyone’s apathy toward it dissuade you of that. I am sure that you will regret it if you do not try for an MFA at each of these fantastic schools. (I am not sure why Ryan wouldn’t be completely gung ho about this opportunity for you and proud of your photography, but he should be).

    Ginas last blog post…Yes we did!

  3. Dude,

    Here’s what it boils down to, and I’m saying this as a nearly 25 year old guy who hasn’t completed more than 2 semesters in college. You need to do what will make you happy.


    The opportunity to get your education for FREE is something nobody should pass up. In fact, I want to know more about it for myself. If your parentals aren’t excited, or don’t support it…what does it matter? Have they approved of everything you’ve ever done? What’s one more thing if it means a better future for you?

    On a side note, you don’t need a Med-format camera to use tilt-shift lenses. Hop on google and search for them. There are several for both Canon and Nikon. If I remember correctly you are a Nikon guy right? Check out the Nikon PC-E Nikkor 24mm Tilt/Shift. It has good reviews. They just released a 45mm and 85mm model as well.

    Medium format is very expensive to get into, so check out your other options before you jump. Yes, they are great. Yes most upper level pros use them from high-end commercial work. That gap is narrowing though and you CAN make due without one and still get what you want to achieve.

    I’m ranting I guess, but I’ve been in this business for a long time now and I don’t want to see another photographer get discouraged because they don’t have the gear they think they need.

    From what you are saying, you can either spend 5-6k on a whole new camera system, or you can spend under 1.5k for a badass lens.

    Seems like a simple choice to me.

    All the best,

  4. Very true on all accounts. My parents would support me in my decision in the end, I’m almost sure of it. But right now, when it matters to me at THIS moment, the lack of enthusiasm is discouraging.

    Regarding free MFA’s at Stanford and UCSF, here’s how it works as per Stanford…

    Through a combination of fellowship funds, college work-study, and teaching assistantships each student receives an aid package that includes tuition and stipend

    That’s pretty sweet right?

    Regarding the Tilt/Shift lens. Yeah, I actually used to have one of those, well my dad did. He loaned it out to a friend and never got it back, and never cared about to ask for it back. That lens does most of what I would want to do, I am just in this phase where I want to take pictures and make them HUGE prints. I think all art photo students go through that phase haha. And in the end, I’ll be getting a Nikon D3/D700 much sooner than a Toya field camera.

    Thanks for your encouraging words. I am at a point in my life that I want to do what you are doing. It’s something I am aching to do, commercial and fashion photography… and then some!


  5. I’m currently in a situation similar to this with a friend. To me the answer is always simple.

    “If you don’t choose greatness, mediocrity chooses you.”

    In some respects, it was kind of nice growing up with grandparent, whilst I was young they really treated me like a child, but when I got older they expected me to act like an adult.

    If you choose to stay, and then 20 years from now, you have a happy life you’re doing good, and things are just great. And you’re parents found out that you stuck around because of them. It wouldn’t matter how great you’d have become, they’d still feel like they held you back.

    If going to Yale excites you, if it gives you the conflicted cold sweats and should-I-leave-my-live-here-to-go-there butterflies, and you find yourself talking in your head explaining that you’re not good enough. Then I’d guess that you’d just trying choose mediocrity when success is just begging you to come hang out.

    -Prozacgod (okay, so a little over-dramatic, but .. well it’s me)

    David Haglers last blog post…BBBS Interview

  6. Just because they don’t understand doesn’t mean they won’t support you in whatever you choose to do, especially Ryan. As for which path you should take… only you can decide that. Whether you choose to make it your life’s mission or not, photography is one of your great passions and it’s something that (in my opinion) you are very good at. Don’t let anyone discourage you from pursuing it if that’s what YOU want. You should most definitely continue to perfect your skills and apply to all of those schools. At worst you lose the application fee, at best you go one of the most prestigious schools in the country. Either way you should try because you never know until you try and even if you turn it down it’s quite impressive just to be accepted. I would love to walk into J. Scott Studio some day but even if that’s not the path you take, remember that you should never give up what you love just because someone else doesn’t share your feelings about it. Justin, you are great at what you do and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise!

  7. I’m with Kevin – apply, and then decide.

    You are seriously talented and it would be a waste if you couldn’t use your photography professionally. However, you have to do what makes the most sense for you. If that’s taking over your grandmother’s advertising company, you can still use your artistic side.

    A degree is a good thing … but a graduate degree, especially a free one from a good school, is even better. 🙂

  8. Justin,

    The fact is that people were making huge prints with digital when it first came out, and the Canon 1Ds at 11mp is practically identical to film in grain and reproduction. Granted, slide film can still do more.

    Email me and we’ll get together and do some work. I have some ideas I need help executing, and who knows maybe you’re the person to help out. Even if you aren’t, if you want to be somewhere different than where you are…I don’t know, maybe I can help.


  9. “Yale” is a good brand name, but it’s not clear that their degree will put money into your pocket any sooner than a different brand name, “Stanford.” And if “Stanford” really is tuition-free for its graduates, you’ll avoid the burden of student loans. Joel Leivick at Stanford graduated Yale many decades ago, pre-Papageorge, and his reputation for “placement” of his graduate students is no worse than Papageorge’s.

  10. Hey man, for starters, yes you need to get a medium format camera, I want one too. So bad. Second, they make tilt shift lenses for nikon DSLR’s, but I’m sure you knew that… Not nearly as amazing as an actual medium format, but you’re still going to come close with it.

    Finally, don’t give up on your dreams because people aren’t as supportive as you’d hope they’d be. I’m in the process of figuring out how to just get into college for photography because it is all I want to do. There are so many obstacles for me to overcome, and most people think I’m retarded for wanting to pursue photography as a career given the state of the economy and everything in general, but fuck it man, I won’t let it stop me.

    Keep shooting, keep dreaming, and keep posting man, I love your work.

    – Tony Tripoli.

    Tonys last blog post…Cheap Photo Work

  11. By “money into your pocket” I don’t mean gallery shows and collections and fellowships that allow you to return to cleaning motels or living off trust funds or adjuncting at a succession of schools, all the while hoping for the next bit of support that allows you to do your creative work. I mean none of that chump change, none of that walking way out there “on a shoeshine and a smile.” I mean full-time teaching, with benefits, in a college: the nearest thing photographers without trust funds have to a tenured lifetime sinecure. That’s the true economic prize.

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