Beginning Photography was the first art class I ever took in college.
I was terrified, and rightly so. My teacher was a graduate student, a photographer who presumed we all knew our way around a darkroom. He presumed wrong.
Everyone else did, but I couldn’t get the hang of it. I felt lost and frustrated.
Even worse were the critiques, which were, like most critiques, excruciating. My teacher would spend hours on each person’s work, and it seemed like he was saying absolutely nothing at all, as he spoke in an incomprehensible post-post-modern discourse. I was confused. When it came to my work, he always attacked it in the most vicious of terms, driving me to tears.
As students, we’re at our most vulnerable because we’ve learned to trust teachers and respect their authority. I assumed that my teacher was right, that his anger toward my image-making was justified. I believed I should quit.
But then, I had an opportunity to question my assumptions when all the graduate student-teachers presented their work.
For the first time I saw my teacher’s pictures. The man who had judged me so harshly had spent his time photographing the toilet after each bowel movement and carefully recorded what he had eaten.
Wow, I thought, as I vowed to never let someone make me feel bad about my own art again.
The biggest lesson I learned in my Beginning Photography class was to choose whose opinions I let in.
Crista Cloutier works internationally as an artist and writer. She is the founder of The Working Artist. Over the course of her career, Crista has collaborated with some of the most significant contemporary artists showing today. She is certified as a fine arts appraiser, has worked as a licensor, arts writer, gallerist, award-winning documentary filmmaker, fine-art publisher, and she has curated dozens of exhibitions. Crista has worked with artists whose careers range from blue-chip to just beginning. She knows firsthand how successful artists manage their careers and has witnessed where aspiring artists often stumble. Visit TheWorkingArtist.com to find out more.