After 10 years I’m back to being a student. I’m taking a 4 week photography workshop at the New York Film Academy, visual and performance arts conservatory. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? As it turns out, New York Film Academy also has a little bit of magic for me.
Location, location, location
I have my classes all the way downtown on Broadway 26, between Battery Park and Wall Street. From the inside it looks like a regular office building. Each floor has the same grayish paint, but then the elevator opens on the 12th floor and I see these big red letters: New York Film Academy. The only thing missing here is a John Williams or Ennio Morricone soundtrack indicating the current state of creativity. The walls are covered by filmposters, some are even signed, like this Saturday Night Fever poster by John Travolta.
It’s not all fun and games. Simple hobbyism, goes out the window. It takes long hours, tough classes and a lot of homework to advance in 4 weeks. Like the actress Debbie Allen said in the tv-series Fame (80s flashback!):
“You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying. With sweat.”
The level of craziness can certainly be read in my notes. They started neatly organized and are now a jumble of drawings mixed with my very own shorthand of English and Dutch (red, green, geel…?).
I’m taking 6 classes with illustrious names like Vision & Style, Photography as a Fine Art, and Imaging. I learn about the technical aspects of my camera, composition, finding my own style, conquering the art world, editing and printing. We take field trips to museums or go out in the city to practice our new found skills. My teachers set the bar high and push us to go at it with everything we have. We learn from the best, because they are all working photographers who have shown their work in galleries, worked for fashion magazines and famous brands. Or they have worked for and been taught by the great masters in photography.
They don’t tolerate bullshit and to be honest, there were moments when I was completely overwhelmed. Maybe a little scared even. And me breaking my loyal camera (Canon 1000D) of six years certainly didn’t help. It also couldn’t have come at a worse time. But then that magic kicks in. Studying here makes me creative and a problem solver. So I wiped my tears and found a better replacement, fittingly called a Canon EOS Rebel T5. And that’s how I feel at the moment: like a badass rebel.
Although a rebel, I always felt a little hesitant calling myself a photographer. Studying at the New York Film Academy changed that for me. Whether you do a short term program like me, or a bachelor degree of two years: we’re all seen as photographers. Call it the American Dream or maybe a little New York Film Academy magic, but as I see my work improving and I’m planning a documentary photo shoot and a commercial ad (more on that later) I realize: “I really am a photographer now!”