Photography School in New York or London?
November 11, 2011 8:55 AM   Subscribe

My Korean friend wants to major in photography, either in New York or London. She thinks London is better for photojournalism, and is enticed by easy access to the rest of Europe. She believes New York is better for fashion photography, but that's about it. Does anyone have firsthand knowledge about this?

I'm sure both New York and London both have excellent photography schools, but is one better than the other for photojournalism or fashion photography?

And, London boasts fairly easy access to other parts of Europe. I know this is not really related to photography, but that she just likes to idea of being able to travel (I think that's the biggest reason why she wants to study in London).

Does New York have any big draws such as this?

In the end, I don't think the differences are that great. It's just a matter of what she wants more. I'm just trying to give her as much information as possible.

If you have any words of wisdom I'd really appreciate it.

posted by jykmf to Education (11 answers total)
Your friend should get in touch with the international student's offices for the NYC schools she's interested in. I assume that is Parsons and NYU.
posted by dfriedman at 9:01 AM on November 11, 2011

Sorry--I meant to add: contacting the schools directly will give her a lot of information about program offerings, expenses, visa issues, etc.
posted by dfriedman at 9:03 AM on November 11, 2011

If she's not astoundingly rich (which she might be, I'm not judging), I think a big consideration is that college is significantly cheaper in London than it is in New York.

New York art schools are also better for "art" photography that is neither fashion nor photojournalism.

Other schools in NY to look at include the School of Visual Arts, Cooper Union, Columbia, and Pratt.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:10 AM on November 11, 2011

This might not be what she wants to hear, but majoring in Photography in college doesn't actually mean employment in either area. Working as an assistant, however lowly, to a well-known photographer, is a more direct path to employment.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:11 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ideefixe, I think that's true for the most part, unless you impress one of your teachers at art school who has the power to not only become your mentor, but introduce you to his gallery (or photojournalistic equivalent). An old friend has become a semi-well known photographer. He had/has tremendous drive, ambition and talent, but he also had a professor who was a significant photographer that introduced him to his gallerist, etc. etc. If I were your friend, I personally would look at the teaching staff, including guest adjuncts, at the schools that I was considering for those whose work most resonated with me, whose career path. Then I'd work my ass off and hope that my talent would spark an interest, opportunities and important contacts. Whether that's in NYC or London or some rural outpost shouldn't matter if she truly wants to be a successful photojournalist, because if she is successful, she'll most likely have (paid) experiences to travel. If she's wealthy and this is just a hobby/vanity pursuit, then she should go to school in London since that seems to be her preference.
posted by kaybdc at 9:23 AM on November 11, 2011

New York's international center of photography has a graduate program and I know that undergrads at several colleges can take classes for credit as well
posted by shothotbot at 9:57 AM on November 11, 2011

She should also look into FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York, which has a great photography program, very commercially-focused and with a great reputation.

Frankly, the better NYC programs are very selective. I don't know about London. She should probably apply to programs that are a good fit in both cities. Her acceptances might make the decision for her.

Good luck to her.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:03 AM on November 11, 2011

I forgot to mention that the ICP considers itself pretty solidly in the photojournalism tradition.
posted by shothotbot at 11:31 AM on November 11, 2011

I would strongly encourage her to find a school or teacher she wants to study at/with. Going to college in the city doesn't matter a whole helluva lot (I went to college in NYC, fwiw).

That said, if she's hell bent on one of the two, go to London unless money is absolutely a non-issue, or she will come out of NYU or the New School with 100K in debt and she won't be able to stay in NYC then anyway.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:37 AM on November 11, 2011

As a former RIT alum, I knew a lot of photojournalism grads that regretted their choice of major - it's virtually impossible to find a true photojournalism job now unless you're willing to be a freelancer, and even then it's extremely hard. Is she independently wealthy or is she counting on being able to eat with the money she makes from her area of study?
posted by speedgraphic at 2:31 PM on November 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

I know this isn't an answer to the question - but before going deeply into debt for a hyperspecialized degree that drops you completely unprepared into a hypercompetitive industry, your friend needs to think hard about what kind of photography she is interested in. Does she want to be n and around the world of photography? or does she want to shoot?

If she wants to shoot: I can say from direct experience as an agent for many commercial photographers in the lifestyle sphere (food, shelter, product) - a degree won't get you anywhere. One photographer I know had a degree from Brooks but the only thing the client cared about was who he had assisted. I made this comment about how to break into the industry last year and it still holds true.

Here is a great post on upstart photojournalists from the NYT Lens blog. Reading through it, you can see that the only real way to progress is to roll up your sleeves and dive into the fray (with a mentor). Find someone good, glue yourself to them, keep your mouth shut, and take lots of notes. If your friends wants to do photojournalism, she should look up the photographers from that NYT post, contact them all and beg to assist them. They need good, motivated assistants just as much as your friend needs experience.

As for London or NYC - the schools in NYC are great. I know tons of people that came out of Parsons who went on to do great things - most of them are in design - but their experience there is telling: they go to school, work their ass off, find a great professor to attach themselves to (almost of the people who teach there have industry contacts), and then get a great hookup from that professor directly into an industry job. This is why NYC is a good option - the people who teach there at places like ICP or Parsons, if you're really good, they will be able to place you almost directly into a job out of school. That's the thing about NYC - everyone thinks that it is almost impossible to make it there, but the reality is, people in the creative industry are desperate for talented, hardworking, creative young people. And when it comes to photography, there are more jobs there than anywhere else in the world.

The last thing I'll say - London may be a better choice simply because it is outside the NYC bubble. But that points to a larger issue - to really stand out, your friend could also consider staying in Korea, and hooking up with photographers there. She has access to Asia, and if she is truly dedicated to becoming a photographer, someone who knows light and knows how to get the shot no matter what, living in Korea will set her apart from 95% of the rest of the photojournalists in the world. It is exceedingly important to stand out and develop your own style.

tl;dr - For photography, school is only worth it if the professors have industry experience and contacts. But even after school you still HAVE to assist for real experience. Better to save years and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of school, and just find a photographer to assist right now. Then if it doesn't work out, you can go back to school for something actually useful.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 9:02 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

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