This Saturday it's open door day again at the HKU, like in so
many other schools this time of year. It's always quite a fuss to
organize and it seems that the whole academy is in stress-mode the
week before. When I get out of bed early this Saturday I'm sure I
can think of a lot of more fun things to do than go to the school
and tell the same story a zillion times to shy pre-students and
their somewhat assertive parents.
It's funny; at the moment I'm there and I see how good the
classrooms look and every department is looking better than ever,
it's actually very good to be there. I hear first-graders (who are
now studying for three months) talk to the fresh youngsters and
their parents like PR pros, explaining better what's going on in
the classrooms than I ever can! I finally get a chance to catch up
with colleagues and students in between the conversations we have
with our visitors and really can show and tell how we try to
educate people in a profound way.
I have a reccurring problem during my central presentation
though. There they are, all those eager boys and girls who dream of
becoming a world-famous photographer and look at Anton Corbijn and
Erwin Olaf and think, 'That's what I want!' How do you tell them
that that's the exception, and that many of them won't get that
far? How do I keep myself for a harsh reality check and crush their
dreams before they even start to realise them? Why do I feel the
urge to warn them? For what?
Of course the profession of the photographer has changed. It's
not like ten years ago (or five years ago, for that matter), where
I could tell the audience in the auditorium that most of the alumni
will end up as entrepreneurs, owning their own businesses as
photographers. Sure, a lot of the graduates will establish their
business as independent photographers, but this is changing fast
lately. Most of them have side-jobs to make sure they have a steady
income. Or they choose to continue their study in a masters course,
locally or abroad. Or they start their career as an assistant or
apprentice and take it from there. I've seen 'my' students in the
creative industry as filmmakers, graphic designers, photo agents,
art teachers (hey, that's something I can relate to), or more
obscure professions like horse breeders or nightclub owners
(actually, the last one isn't true, but you catch my drift).
I know, no, I suspect that if you follow a study at (most) Dutch
art schools nowadays, you'll be all right. You will find a way to
keep on learning and develop your professional life because you
learn how to manage yourself in that way. But at the same time it's
a very vague promise: 'trust me, you'll be OK…'
To conclude, I like to refer to a famous TED talk of Sir Ken Robinson in 2006, called
'Do Schools Kill Creativity?' In it he says: "If you think of it,
children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. Nobody
has a clue … what the world will look like in five years' time. And
yet we're meant to be educating them for it. So the
unpredictability, I think, is extraordinary."
Philip is a photographer and course leader at the Utrecht School of the Arts.