TA Post: Inspiration & Visual Literacy

Dear Photographers,

Schuyler here, your TA… remember? First, my background. I started making photographs in the B&W darkroom of my high-school, Friends Seminary. My participation in the Tisch P&I SHS class of ’05 was highly influential in my decision to pursue photography at the undergraduate level. I hold a BA from UCLA in Studio Art and French, having also completed significant coursework in art history. At UCLA I worked almost exclusively in color, developing the body of work you may find on my website. After school, I completed the Workshop Internship at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, and the Work-Scholar Program at the Aperture Foundation, where I currently work as Education and Public Programs Assistant.

My best advice to you, as persons on the verge of entering their academic and professional careers, is to realize that the work you do now matters. Sure, making your first print may not feel serious, or give you the satisfaction of crafting a masterpiece. But the work you do now, will lay the foundation for your career. We all must start somewhere. So, I encourage you not to waste any time; attack this (and any) class with the verve and intensity that you would devour a long awaited Thanksgiving dinner. A buffet of knowledge is at your fingertips.

Every artist, from great literary figures to the painters of yesteryear, draws upon inspiration in order create work. But what is inspiration, really? Is it the innate creativity of the artist, springing forth like a fountain from a well, spilling words onto the page, paint onto canvas, chemistry onto a print? Or, is it a language learned, a visual dialect picked up by looking, perceiving, reading, writing, and participating in culture. I would make a case for the latter. Art is work. The former position allows for none of the playful, joyous, experimental qualities that make photography an art; and furthermore, talent is nothing without willpower. The work must be done. Thus, I encourage you, dear students, to keep a catalogue of the things you look at. Your catalogue could be as simple as a list of websites, or as complicated as a series of photographs. It could be a journal or a sketchbook; or notes on your smartphone. As your list grows, you can begin to map the cultural landscape as you see it, and thus determine your position within it.

Sincerely yours,

Schuyler Duffy

Below are some items from the log of my own cultural wanderings:

Olaf Breuning

Simmons & Burke

Frederik Heyman

Sharon Core

Matthew Brandt

Nikolas Murray

Sergey Prokudin-Gorskii

Penelope Umbrico

Akihiko Miyoshi

Walead Beshty

Rafael Rozendaal

Minor White

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