Last Thursday, I started graduate school, taking full advantage of the Internet for that purpose. I will be pursuing my Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Photography via the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, entirely on-line.

The MFA program, if classes are taken full time, two semesters a year, will be completed in three and a half or four years. That’s a long time, but I think based on my current passions, it is a worthwhile challenge. At the end, in addition to having my degree, I will have further expanded my expertise in photography, and hopefully developed one or more signature styles to my imagery.

It is strange to be a true student again after all these years. The last time I had a class that took more than a few days to complete was over twenty five years ago. And now I have three classes going on simultaneously: History of Photography, Language of Photography, and Nature of Photography. All very different, and already quite interesting. There are approximately 15 students in each class, including myself.

Every week we start a new module – there are 15 modules per semester, which involves reading and/or listening to a lecture on that module’s subject, and then executing one or more assignments, and some mandatory on-line discussion. Both may require some research, and possibly some photography to explore the topics discussed in the module. And because it’s all on-line, you can work on this any time of the day or night as long as you meet your deadlines and discussion participation requirements.

One thing I am already finding is that my diverse experience and expertise is already bearing fruit in my class work.

For example, in my History of Photography class the issue of early patents for photographic processes came up, and with my background in patents, I was able to do quite a bit of research for my first assignment based on the original patent for the daguerreotype process. My experience in HTML coding for web site design has also helped me generate the sort of posts I want in the discussion group software that I have to use to communicate with my instructors and fellow classmates. And following school dictates for the proper sizing and name of submitted photographic images was a piece of cake too because of my long time expertise in image processing and file management (and Adobe Lightroom 3 makes it incredibly easy too).

And since I shed my fear of writing over two decades ago, written assignments are no barrier either. For whatever reason, I have been the first person to post my work in several of the assignments we have had so far. I suspect that’s because of both my anal retentiveness as well as comfort with writing.

So, keep this in mind if you are a Renaissance guy or gal: If you find people giving you grief for following too many different paths as you meander through life, keep in mind that as a jack of all trades you gather incredible amounts of experience that can be useful in most any pursuit, such as going back to school or performing a particular job.

And if going to school seems like a huge time commitment – four years, after all! – look at it from a different perspective, namely that each class is only one semester long, and each class is different. Break the bigs things into smaller ones, and things get easier, I think.


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