Charles H. Traub’s Do’s and Don’ts of Graduate Studies

The Do’s and Don’ts of Graduate Studies: Maxims from the Chairfrom the book The Education of a Photographer by Charles H Traub, Chair of photography at SVA

The Do’s

Do something old in a new way
Do something new in an old way
Do something new in a new way, Whatever works . . . works
Do it sharp, if you can’t, call it art
Do it in the computer—if it can be done there
Do fifty of them—you will definitely get a show
Do it big, if you cant do it big, do it red
If all else fails turn it upside down, if it looks good it might work
Do Bend your knees
If you don’t know what to do, look up or down—but continue looking
Do celebrities—if you do a lot of them, you’ll get a book
Connect with others—network
Edit it yourself
Design it yourself
Publish it yourself
Edit, When in doubt shoot more
Edit again
Read Darwin, Marx, Joyce, Freud, Einstein, Benjamin, McLuhan, and Barth
See Citizen Kane ten times
Look at everything—stare
Construct your images from the edge inward
If it’s the “real world,” do it in color
If it can be done digitally—do it
Be self centered, self involved, and generally entitled and always pushing—and damned to hell for doing it
Break all rules, except the chairman’s

The Don’ts

Don’t do it about yourself—or your friend—or your family
Don’t dare photograph yourself nude
Don’t look at old family albums
Don’t hand color it
Don’t write on it
Don’t use alternative process—if it ain’t straight do it in the computer
Don’t gild the lily—AKA less is more
Don’t go to video when you don’t know what else to do
Don’t photograph indigent people, particularly in foreign lands
Don’t whine, just produce

The Truisms
Good work sooner or later gets recognized
There are a lot of good photographers who need it before they are dead
If you walk the walk, sooner or later you’ll learn to talk the talk
If you talk the talk too much, sooner or later you are probably not walking the walk (don’t bullshit)
Photographers are the only creative people that don’t pay attention to their predecessors work—if you imitate something good, you are more likely to succeed
Whoever originated the idea will surely be forgotten until he or she’s dead—corollary: steal someone else’s idea before they die
If you have to imitate, at least imitate something good
Know the difference
Critics never know what they really like
Critics are the first to recognize the importance of that which is already known in the community at large
The best critics are the ones who like your work
Theoreticians don’t like to look—they’re generally too busy writing about themselves
Given enough time, theoreticians will contradict and reverse themselves
Practice does not follow theory
Theory follows practice
All artists think they’re self taught
All artists lie, particularly about their dates and who taught them
No artist has ever seen the work of another artist (the exception being the post-modernists who’ve adapted appropriation as another means of reinventing the history)
The curator or the director is the one in black
The artist is the messy one in black
The owner is the one with the Prada bag
The gallery director is the one who recently uncovered the work of a forgotten person from his or her widower
Every galleriest has to discover someone
Every curator has to re-discover someone
The best of them is the one who shows your work
Every generation re-discovers the art of photography
Photography history gets reinvented every ten years
New galleries discover old photographers
Galleries need to fill their walls—corollary: thus new talents will always be found
Galleriests say hanging pictures is an art
There are no collectors, only people with money
Anyone who buys your work is a collector—your parents don’t count
All photographers are voyeurs
Admit it and get on with looking
Everyone, is narcissistic, anyone can be photographed
Photography is about looking
Learning how to look takes practice
All photography, in the right context at the right time is valuable
It is always a historical document
Sooner or later someone will say it is art
Any photographer can call himself an artist,
But not every artist can call himself a photographer
Compulsivness Helps
Neatness helps too
Hard work helps the most
The style is felt—fashion is fad Remember, its usually about who, what, where, when, why, and how
It is who you know
Many a good idea is found in a garbage can
But darkrooms are dark. . . and dank, forgidaboudit The best exposure is the one that works Expose for the shadows, and develop for the highlights
Or better yet, shoot digitally.
Cameras don’t think, they don’t have memories But digital cameras have something called memory
Learn to see as the camera sees, don’t try to make it see as the human eye sees
Remember digital point and shoots are faster than Leicas
Though the computer can correct anything, a bad image is a bad image
If all else fails, you can remember, again, to either do it large or red
Or, tear it up and tape it together
It always looks better on the wall framed
If they don’t sell, raise your price
Self-importance rises with the prices of your images on the wall
The work of a dead artist is always more valuable than the work of a live one
You can always pretend to kill yourself and start all over.

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