The state of liberal arts education, and in particular photographic education

The state of liberal arts education, and in particular photographic education

“You know, we don’t need a lot more anthropologists in the state. It’s a great degree if people want to get it, but we don’t need them here. I want to spend our dollars giving people science, technology, engineering, math degrees. That’s what our kids need to focus all their time and attention on. Those type of degrees. So when they get out of school, they can get a job.” Governor Rick Scott.


If this statement resonates as short sighted and full of drab political rhetoric, you would be right. Governor Scott is not alone in this thinking, Patrick McCrory of North Carolina was quick to state: “McCrory told radio host Bill Bennett, who was education secretary under President Reagan. “It’s not based on butts in seats but on how many of those butts can get jobs.”


These broad statements are echoed by many other Governors, education leaders and administrators.


“The Republican governor also called into question the value of publicly supporting liberal arts majors after the host made a joke about gender studies courses at UNC-Chapel Hill. “If you want to take gender studies that’s fine, go to a private school and take it,” McCrory told the radio host. “But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.” Governor McCrory.


From these politically induced statements derived from a modern socio-economic stance or perhaps an elitist attitude, the general public would be inclined to think of liberal arts education as a waste of public resources, personal time or worse, the rejection of American principles (get a job, pay your taxes and do not rock the establishment). In effect, the general attitude of America when it comes to education is one of cause and effect: a rapid training in a specific technology or service-orientated fields (such as the healthcare commerce, IT or other technical support matters) will simply result in more jobs, and therefore revenue all around. Everyone goes home happy, productive and relatively ignorant of the greater knowledge needed to personally advance in any particular career field.


But, what does liberal arts education bring to an individual or society as a whole?

The ability to do in-depth quality research, the skills to present such research and conclusions in a lucid and supported manner, presentation skills whether in speech or written, a desire to explore topics in anew and innovative fashion to support the advancement of a particular field. And yes, these are the traits needed to progress into any career, regardless of the field, and even more crucial; these are the prerequisites for innovation and entrepreneurship. A monkey-see, monkey-do educational approach may be useful to many who seek a new path in a difficult and rapidly evolving world economy, but may only result in the demise of an innovative society. There are indeed many other countries that can perform these basic technological tasks at a much-reduced cost, hence the global dissemination of jobs outside of the USA, leaving us a poorer world power, intellectually, innately and financially.


When it comes to education in the medium of photography, we are faced with three choices: private (for-profit) education, publically funded colleges and universities and the wide world of self-education through workshops and the Internet.


Certainly, private education has the advantage of being in a faster reactive mode when it comes to industry trends (DLSR video is a prime example), yet we must all be aware that the costs of private education can be exorbitant. With declining enrollments and the difficulties of placing students in full time employment in a field that often leads to a freelance status, private education is unlikely to continue with most forms of art curriculum.

Publicly funded institutions on the other hand are slow to react to changing market conditions and rapid advancements in technology, often taking years to implement new syllabi and relevant course content. With a top-heavy administration and ever diminishing funding, colleges and universities struggle to maintain their liberal arts programs whilst many faculty members are on the threshold of retirement. Art education does not always lead to full time employment as it is a career and life choice, one difficult to quantify in terms of the hard numbers so desired by the educational and political powers. And so the decline continues, replaced by a reactive position instead of a vision for the future.

Workshops and internet based specific training in the medium are abundant these days, yet most of these offerings are often very basic and rarely quantifiable in terms of the knowledge being fully acquired. The demographics are also very different than those of students enrolled in formal education, with the majority of attendees residing in a more mature status, often professionals or retirees who just want to improve their skills for a hobby scenario.


So, if you are fortunate to have received a liberal arts education, particularly in photography, you should appreciate that opportunity, one that may not be around much more in the future. The debate about education has been ongoing for many years, but so far words are the only actable points that have been produced. I expect that in Florida, within a few short years, there will remain only a few institutions with a photography program, a sad state of affairs in my humble opinion.

Pierre Dutertre is an educator on many levels, including teaching at a variety of institutions, a consultant to fine art as well as commercial photographers and a high-end workshop instructor at locations in central Florida

5 Reasons To Give Long Exposure Photography a Try:

5 Reasons To Give Long Exposure Photography a Try:

From a guest blog by our friend Andrew Vernon

Hello! This is Andrew Vernon with a guest post for the United Photographic Artists blog. I am a Tampa-based portrait and landscape photographer who specializes in florida seascape and long exposure photography. I wanted to put together a post on some of the reasons a photographer might consider long exposure when creating a new image. That being said, if you’re interested in seeing more Florida landscape or long exposure photography feel free to visit my website.


 Using long exposure photography to capture an image is nothing new. In fact, for many photographers, its one of the first things theyre excited to try out because of how it allows for results that are so different than anything most other cameras on the market can offer. All sorts of photographers jump at the first opportunity to paint with light, photograph the stars or get a ghosted photo of water plummeting over a waterfall. And, theres less of an instant-gratification to it. The photographer knows the probable outcome, but the results are still less uniform which can sometimes mean more exciting! But, there are more reasons than these popular cliches for slowing down your shutter speed. In fact, Id like to offer 5 reasons you might not have considered for long exposure as a technique in your photography

Andrew Vernon: Evening Mist Andrew Vernon: Evening Mist

1 – Long Exposure introduces Time into your photography:

            A photograph is typically a look into a particular moment in time. It’s an opportunity for a photographer to convey to their viewer a scene or an instance as it was when the shutter was released. But, this can be limiting! Ever tried to photograph a river or creek only to realize that is just doesn’t feel the same as actually standing there? Or perhaps photographed mist moving through a beautiful mountain range only to realize that an instant image somehow stole some of the life from the living and moving mist in front of you? Sometimes, there is a faint something lost when time isn’t able to affect the scene you’re photographing. But, long exposure allows for time to affect the scene and breath some life into moments that otherwise wouldn’t have carried the same power frozen into a single moment. Suddenly, a single photograph can better demonstrate the wave-like way that the mist was crawling through the valley…

Andrew Vernon: The Pier at Sandy Point Andrew Vernon: The Pier at Sandy Point

2 – Long Exposure Simplifies:

            Sometimes the simplest images are also the strongest. Long exposure allows for anything moving inside the frame to blur and anything holding still to remain sharp. This means a simple dock on a windy evening photographed without long exposure could reveal a busy scene with capped waves, boats, animals etc. The same image photographed using a longer exposure could reveal a dock that stands out in the photo because the water appears silky smooth as a result of the motion. Longer exposures can mean animals, people and other moving objects don’t pose any issues either as they simply may not hold still long enough to be seen in the final image. Need to simplify your image or point more clearly to a particular subject? Long Exposure could make that happen. 

Andrew Vernon: Withstand Andrew Vernon: Withstand

3 – Long Exposure Introduces Drama:


            Much like how Long Exposure can simplify an image, it can also introduce drama in a dynamic way. Imagine a beach with waves crashing into shore. A freeze frame steals the drama of the scene… There could be something lost when the wave is frozen instead of it’s power being demonstrated in the blur and movement from the moment it crashes. It’s all in your choice of shutter speed. Typically, all it takes is 1/4 of a second to convey movement. And sometimes, the movement is everything. 

Andrew Vernon: Guardian Andrew Vernon: Guardian

4 – Long Exposure stands out:


            Using long exposure provides an opportunity to be different. It allows for photography that is different in feeling, story or motion than most of what the mobile or point and shoot photography market can or could produce. It’s important to note however that long exposure doesn’t necessarily make an image better. It’s a tool. And like other tools, it has certain uses that it lends itself to. Used well as a technique to achieve the artistic goal of the photographer, long exposure works to strengthen the final product. But, the contrary is true as well. Used poorly, long exposure can be a distracting or cliche technique that undermines the power of an image. 

Andrew Vernon: Show of Power Andrew Vernon: Show of Power

5 – Long Exposure gives control:


            This reason stems from the previous ones; But, it’s valuable to mention that learning a technique such as long exposure puts more power in the hands of the artist. The more methods you have at your disposal when creating an image, the better the chance of being able to accurately portray your final piece exactly as you’d visualized it. It’s a tool that allows opportunity to build drama, demonstrate motion or simplify a scene. And it’s definitely a tool that, when used in the right context, can allow an image to stand out.


Hopefully this was a helpful look at some of the ways you might consider using long exposure to strengthen your photography! While this wasn’t, a tutorial by any means on how to actually create a long exposure image, it’s always beneficial to understand the why before blindly using a technique for no reason. To see more Florida landscape and long exposure photography, please visit my website at



By the way, here’s some of the ways you can keep up with me online:

Website –

Facebook –

Twitter – @Andrew_Vernon