Since its inception in the summer of 2010, I have been very actively involved in the Hartford Art School International Limited-Residency Photography MFA Program (previously an adjunct, I’ve just become a full-time faculty member). The program is centered on the idea of having short and extremely intense sessions at various places (Hartford, New York City, San Francisco, Berlin - in spring, summer, and fall), during which students and faculty (plus additional guests) meet up in person for classes and critiques. When not in session, students live and work at home (wherever that might be), interacting with their advisors and peers over the web. (more)
During the past two weeks, the first and second-year students had two critiques each, one led by Lois Conner and Doug Dubois, the other one featuring Alec Soth and me, with Mary Frey and Robert Lyons (the creator and director of the program) also participating in some of them. Mary Frey, Robert Lyons, and I are the three people who have been serving as advisors for students throughout the years, looking at work regularly and providing feedback. Sessions outside of Hartford typically involve more critiques, guest lectures, museum or gallery visits, and/or studio visits.
This past summer session saw the first fifteen graduates emerge from this still new program. Each student had to graduate with both photography on the wall - there was a graduation exhibition (see the installation photographs1) - and with a photobook. One of the key aspects of the program is a focus on the photobook. So students have to not just think about how to produce photographs (and print them well so they can be exhibited), but also how to take a body of work and create a photobook from it. In the installation photos, the various tables display the books made by the graduates. As it turns out, one of the students - J Carrier, produced two photobooks during these past two years, the first one of which is due to be published by MACK over the next couple of months.
The graduating students have a website featuring their work, so before I talk about any of the work here (at a later stage) I suggest you first look at it yourself. For all of those who missed the graduation show, a variant will come to New York City this coming fall.
I personally could not be happier with the quality of the work produced in this program, the graduation exhibition, and the photobooks. Any concept ultimately needs to be judged by its execution, by what it produces. I think the graduation exhibition and the photobooks (some of which hopefully will either find publishers or will be self-published, to reach larger audiences) have shown that this new photography MFA program not only works, but that it works very, very successfully.
1 Please note that while I do some things well, installation photographs might not be my forte. Also note that these photographs do not show the entire exhibition. See the graduates’ website for more installation views.