I became interested in photography about a year and a half ago. After researching the options that I had, my family and I decided that I would attend Brooks Institute of Photography. At the time, we felt that Brooks offered the best opportunities for future success despite its high cost. We had also read praise of its photography department and felt that it would translate over to the visual journalism program despite its relatively recent development (now going on approx. 4 years). Like any school, Brooks had both its advantages and disadvantages.
The advantages of going to Brooks were what initially attracted me to the school. Most of the instructors at Brooks are professionals who have detailed knowledge of the profession that they are instructing on. As a private school, Brooks is able to provide the latest technology including G5 Macintosh’s with the latest software installed (Adobe CS Suite, Final Cut Pro HD, etc). The school also provides students with a large collection of photography and video equipment to checkout and use for assignments. Also, because the curriculum at Brooks is extremely focused, students would graduate within three years. Perhaps most appealing was the speakers that Brooks gathered. Every two months Brooks announces four or five speakers for their Special Speaker series. The speakers range from POY’s, National Geographic photographers, college POY’s, and so on.
However, Brooks was not without its pitfalls. While an advantage in some ways, the fact that instructors were also working professionals would also result in a lower quality of education. At times instructors were unavailable (even to teach the class) because a photo shoot or assignment was more important than assisting the students. Also, many of the general education classes left students not only wondering why they bothered to show up, but also calculating just how much per minute they were spending to attend class. I heard stories of students in Math class learning how to calculate tax and tip. I sat through a psychology class where Freud and Jung were briefly summarized and no mention was made of modern psychology, the DSM IV, etc. Of course, I should have expected this with each class lasting only two months and Brooks being privately but not nationally accredited.
There was one problem that I found most troubling while attending Brooks Institute of Photography. Rarely, if ever, was I asked to keep up to date on current events. There are no classes that will teach students about political science, history, mass communications, and other subjects that I feel are extremely integral to the field of photojournalism. These subjects are necessary not only because photojournalists deal with news and events everyday, but also because knowing such information can lead to better image making. A photographer could simply show up, know the proper technique, and capture an image. However, it would seem to make more sense that photojournalists know some background information. This would allow for better insight into what type of image would best tell the story, not only from its current standpoint, but historically as well.
This is not to say that Brooks is a bad school. It can be perfect for some. Those students who want to focus solely on technique and not have to worry about “other” classes will find Brooks very attractive. That type of education was simply not what I feel best suits my desire to learn, nor do I think it prepares me enough for the real world outside of taking pictures.