Photographers: Relevant Education
Within its ‘Education’ column, the Global Women Media news agency regularly interviews lecturers and heads of various fields of study. The website’s permanent experts include the Deans of the International College for Arts and Communication (MKIK). Their experience is particularly interesting because of being related to the training of professionals in various areas from Design and Architecture to Linguistics and Psychology. Svetlana Agafonova, Dean of the Photography College of MKIK, talked about the peculiarities and principles of secondary vocational education.
PhD in Pedagogy, Dean of the Photography College of the International College for Arts and Communication (MKIK)
This year, Svetlana Agafonova developed a unique roadmap for Photography students jointly with the MKIK team. Thanks to the practice-oriented approach and complete immersion into the profession, students not only get multi-faceted skills in different areas of photography but also enrich their portfolios and gain experience. Thus, by the end of their final study year, they are almost ready professionals.
In her interview with the Global Women Media, Svetlana Agafonova shared her successful experience in implementing educational programmes. She described the academic year at the Photography College of MKIK, listed the key events in its life, and talked about the achievements of the students.
– What main changes did the Photography College of MKIK have this year?
– The International College for Arts and Communication (MKIK) with all its fields of training is constantly changing and improving. When working out and adjusting the curricula every year, we always take into consideration the needs of employers and the interests of the students themselves.
For example, this year, we introduced reportage photography, analogue photography, and advertising photography as separate full-fledged disciplines. We also paid special attention to photo processing and video editing. Previously, students got to know those topics in the context of other courses. Today, they have become so relevant that they require much deeper study. Now students have the opportunity to explore different genres deeper and more seriously. They can try their hand at the most demanded trends of today. In the future, this will help them find their profession faster and start doing what they are really interested in.
This year, we have introduced a unique discipline called ‘Exhibition Activities’ for the first time. It is important to remember that today's photographers are not just ‘representatives of their craft’ but also artists in the broadest sense of the word. Therefore, they must be able to design and present their works in a cultural space in order to attract the attention of the audience. That is why our students learn to combine individual works turning them into original projects and present them. They visit museums and galleries regularly and participate in exhibitions.
During this academic year, students of the Photography College of MKIK took part in 9 exhibitions including those in the Soyuz Pechat space at Winzavod and at the ZIL Cultural Centre.
MKIK has its own gallery, which displays the works not only by students and college lecturers but also by well-known photographers and artists. Recently, the first auction of contemporary art called ‘POINT’ took place at our gallery. As a Dean, I was particularly proud of the fact that the works sold at the auction included those by students from the Photography College of MKIK. In my opinion, that is not only a serious achievement but also a good start in the profession.
– What key projects did the Photography College implement during the year?
– We have a set of ongoing practice-oriented projects.
For example, at the end of each academic term, we host the Portfolio Review. Experts review students’ photographic works, communicate with their authors in person, and share useful tips. The reviewers include curators, magazine editors, gallery employees, collectors, art critics, and other influential representatives of the photographic community whom one can hardly meet in normal life.
Those experts collaborate with experienced photographers but believe in the potential of young authors and invite the most talented students to participate in their personal projects.
In fact, almost all of our disciplines result in project viewings or exhibitions. Last academic term, our gallery presented a project titled ‘The Quiet Life of Things’. The exposition included student works belonging to different genres of photography created within classes. The students explored their own identity through a dialogue with various objects. As a result, they created sets of photographs, installations, and video animations.
Today, the gallery is hosting the student exhibition titled ‘(PRO)MOTION’. It became the result of the work of second-year students within their disciplines Reportage Photography, Video Shooting and Editing, and Exhibition Activities.
Together with the Journalism and Publishing College of MKIK, our students took part in creating photo books and then presented their projects at Bookfest. Some students had the opportunity to print their first small-circulation editions and some of those works were even purchased by the festival guests.
The Days of Contemporary Art (DOCA) international festival is among the largest and most loved projects held annually at our educational institution.
Every year, talented students of the Photography College and the Design College of MKIK take part in the festival on equal footing with experienced artists. This spring, the young participants not only presented their photographic works but also decorated a classroom with their paintings under the guidance of the renowned contemporary author Valery Chtak.
The DOCA festival has been taking place for 10 years already. The expert art community highly appreciates the initiative. The event continues to bring together an increasing number of prominent artists from different countries. For us, it is especially valuable to be able to give our college students access to such a large-scale and high-quality international venue.
– MKIK constantly hosts workshops and collaborates with external experts. What were the brightest meetings at the Photography College this year?
– We hold a lot of meetings with professional practitioners in the open talk format. Students can openly ask experts about anything and receive their feedback. This year, the students were especially impressed by their communication with the German journalist and magister artium Jiří Hönes, the multi-talented photographer Maksim Marmur, the photo artist Natasha Yankilevich, and the outstanding artists and performance masters Valera and Natasha Cherkashin.
In addition to open talk, we have a more practice-oriented meeting format. Some experts deliver workshops to our students and share their own professional tips with them.
Thus, the students showed great enthusiasm when visiting the lecture and workshop by Viktor Vodolazky, photographer and Ambassador of Panasonic (Lumix). On the example of real cases, the expert showed existing techniques for negotiating and working with clients.
Recently, MKIK hosted a meeting with the copyright lawyer Pavel Dadyan. He told the students about the peculiarities of employment and also shared useful tips on how to behave at the job interview and maintain a ‘balance of interests’ in the profession. The photographer Pavel Ivanov gave a lecture on making money at stock photo sites and explained what photos are popular among big brands.
The fashion photographer Viktoria Savelyeva held a workshop for students in the photo studio of MKIK. The expert came together with a professional team including a makeup artist and a model. The photographer showed the students how to make snapshots (mini-portfolios) and then invited the workshops participants to try out the acquired knowledge in practice.
Together with the photographer and instructor Aleksey Mikhailov, the students took part in a field photoshoot at the Lublino Manor. They worked with models and shot a series of posed portraits and a fashion reportage.
– Where did student internships take place this year?
– Many students start their internships already during the first year of their studies. However, the most serious practical training awaits them during their third year (graduation year). In the process of such a full immersion into profession, students get a lot of opportunities. On the one hand, they can go beyond their usual experience and try themselves in new genres. On the other hand, they improve their professional skills, integrate themselves into the professional community, and create their commercial portfolios.
This year, during their internships, students were engaged in reportage, advertising, documentary, and portrait photography. They also performed photoshoots of clothing, real estate, and many other interesting subjects. The students worked at such publishing houses as Abrakazjabra, Luch, and Prosveshchenie as well as at SPORT MEDIA NEWS, the theatrical studio of Yulia Uruzbaeva, the LISSE acting school, and the Children’s Musical Theatre named after N.I. Sats. They also cooperated with showrooms, confectioneries, and beauty salons.
It should be noted that employers invite many students to continue cooperation after their internships. This is the case when action is more valuable than any words. For us, it is very important that the employers highly appreciate the professionalism of our students.
– What should applicants know about the Photography College of MKIK and photography as a profession?
– The uniqueness of the education that we give at the Photography College of MKIK lies in its multi-faceted character. We strive to give students an opportunity to get acquainted with various areas of photography, contemporary art, and exhibition activities already during their studies. That helps young professionals feel confident and comfortable in the labour market in the future.
Today, photography is a profession that includes many areas. It is very important for each aspiring specialist to find his or her own niche, which is close and interesting to him or her. Then future professionals will get pleasure from work and their work will be much more demanded.
As a Dean, I find it extremely important to train photographers who are not just good at making high-quality work but also responsible and aware of their responsibilities. Recently, MKIK hosted a conference titled ‘Social and Historical Role of Photography’ where lecturers and students discussed very serious and profound issues. We talked about how photography can change a person’s life or the fate of an entire world. We discussed the areas of responsibility of photographers and their role in documenting reality.
I really want our students and graduates to be well aware of their social significance. Photography is always a document irrespective of its genre and purpose of shooting. Over time, people will use it to learn about the world we live in today.
– What would you wish your graduates?
– Believe in yourselves. The Photography College of MKIK has given you everything you need to have that confidence backed up by powerful knowledge and experience.
Viktoria Gusakova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov