Postaday2011 – 39/326 Teachers & Photography

The quest for today’s blog is to write about your worst teacher. I’m sorry I can’t remember any teacher at school that inspired me or even listened to my views they were all bad.

My in-house moderator has deemed that the rest of this blog is offensive and therefore I shouldn’t use it. Although I disagree I respect her judgement so I will turn it around and tell you about someone who did inspire me.

But first I want to make one comment on the current education system in the UK. I strongly believe that allowing someone to go from sixth form to uni and then back into a classroom without ever experiencing work as the rest of us know it is mad. I think it is imperative that to give young people a balanced view of life those responsible for their education should spend a minimum of five years working in a position completely unrelated to teaching. I would go further and suggest that teacher training courses should only be available to those over thirty years of age.

When I was seventeen I wanted to buy a better camera, I had been using a Zenit B for some years and if you remember it you will recall that crude would be a fair description but they were cheap. I was an apprentice and wages were low so it required a lot of saving and my mother was naturally worried that I might waste my money. At that time there were two good camera shops where I lived and my choice was between a Nikkormat FTN and a Praktica LLC. The difference between the two to the untrained eye was that the Nikon was visually a less attractive piece of equipment while the LLC was black and shiny and sported the latest features. I bought the Praktica being young and impressionable and to be fair although it was undoubtedly the wrong choice I did take a lot of great pictures with it. Because I had spent almost one hundred pounds, this was 1971 after all, I was obliged by parental pressure to go to night school and learn some techniques from a local professional photographer.

Our man was probably in his fifties, small wiry with grey hair and he smoked a lot. My companions numbered about a dozen and ranged from a boy still at school to several older people of my parents age who appeared to be along for the ride. I had been taking pictures for several years and had a fair idea what to do but this man proved to be an inspiration.

As a teacher his knowledge was passed on with the sort of enthusiasm I never experienced at school, his father had been a photographer and he had carried on the family business. He was full of little gems for example what’s the difference between f4 and 2.8? The answer being about half an hour. The logic behind this is that 2.8 is a faster lens, it lets more light in therefore you can continue to shoot for longer as light fades. While this may be true it’s not an answer that would satisfy any examiner. Another favourite maxim was that smoking in the darkroom was OK because the cigarette glowed red and therefore would not “fog” the paper – black & white safe lights being a reddish orange colour.

One of the most enjoyable evenings was spent by the river photographing the ships that used to bring grain up to the flour mills. Long exposures with tripods, printed onto glossy paper produced great black & white prints. He was an exceptionally good tutor and yet he had never received any training in how to teach. He taught from the heart, giving knowledge to people who always wanted more. Humour kept him going and under his guidance the quality of my work improved greatly.

This then is my point, to teach well you not only have to know your subject inside out but you have to love it. To be able to relate it to the real world. Make it pertinent and people even children will listen and learn.

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