Reviewed by Colin Hewitt
The Internet offers a huge range of online educational opportunities; from Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) covering numerous academic subjects to more intimate, tutor-led, recreational short courses, such as those presented by MyPhotoSchool.
Prior to taking this course, my photographic experience was limited. I own a DSLR camera and knew how to use its basic functions – I was far from a competent or confident photographer. I had dabbled with photo editing software but again, I was not an expert. The recommended requirements for any of their courses can be found on MyPhotoSchool’s website; however, the prerequisites are extremely flexible and not mandatory.
The course I decided to study was ‘Black & White Fine Art Photography & Beyond’. It is presented by multi-award winning, Athens-based, fine art photographer and architect Julia Anna Gospodarou. Samples of Julia’s work can be seen throughout the Internet and on her own website; by taking some time to view her images it is obvious that she is a very talented artist indeed.
The course presents (en)Visionography. A concept which argues that the captured image is not solely about the subject or the photographic hardware used to capture that image. By utilising digital darkroom techniques, unique artistic visions can be created by the photographer. The course is based around Julia Anna Gospodarou’s book ‘From Basics to Fine Art – Black and White Photography’ (co-author Joel Tjintjelaar).The purchase of this book is a recommendation but not a mandatory prerequisite. I didn’t buy the book prior to the course but will be buying it after completion, I have found the subject matter presented fascinating.
After registering with MyPhotoSchool, I was emailed my login details. Upon login, the student enters the ‘MyClassroom’ area. This area contains pages for each of the four lessons – all initially empty as they are ‘delivered’ weekly after the course start date. In addition, there is a ‘Class Chat’ area where you can post messages or questions about the course, and discuss them with fellow students. There was a welcoming message from the course tutor. I posted a message of apprehension about my limited camera skills and Julia swiftly responded, quickly putting my mind at ease.
Moving from the ‘My Classroom’ area the student can see details of the comprehensive range of courses offered by MyPhotoSchool. There is a very useful ‘Tips & Tutorials’ section which contains a wide range of articles about all aspects of photography. For the social media savvy these items can be flagged via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, G+1 and Stumbleupon). Students can also view or enter the bi-monthly photo competition.
The general format of this course was as follows:-
As a student, you are given access to a weekly on-line pre-recorded video tutorial which can be viewed at any time (the dates these videos become available are clearly detailed in the ‘MyClassroom’ section).
You are given access to comprehensive, downloadable course notes. These were of very high quality, ranged from 18 to 25 pages and contained a lot of example images to compliment the text. Because the course notes and any additional text material, are downloadable the student doesn’t need to be online continually to study. I took the notes with me when going out to complete the photographic assignments.
The student is set weekly photographic assignments which relate to concepts and techniques introduced by the video and course notes. After the student has submitted their images (uploaded to the website), they receive one to one feedback from Julia. You can also discuss your assignments with fellow students.
Unfortunately, while studying this course, MyPhotoSchool were suffering from a few technical problems with their website which had recently been updated. Some students were experiencing difficulties uploading their work. It must be said that I did not experience any problems which I could not sort out myself – but it was a discussion point among fellow students. However, the technical team responded professionally and offered alternative methods of submitting course work to the tutor; because of this it has not affected my overall Impression or rating for the course. Any web-based service can experience occasional technical problems, and in such situations they should be judged on the way they respond to their customers, MyPhotoSchool were exemplary.
The feedback from the tutor was extremely comprehensive. She always offered guidance, encouragement and positive, constructive criticism. She posted useful hints and tips regarding composition, and techniques to improve the images you are creating. The correspondence was lengthy and extensive, repetitive all-inclusive feedback or checklists were not being used – it was obvious that Julia had spent a considerable amount of time examining the submitted images and provided the best advice possible. All of my fellow students were happy to share their feedback – it was extremely useful to see how other people approach an assignment.
The four-week course covered the following areas:
Week One: Vision and (en)Visionography
This week considers what distinguishes a fine art photograph from other forms of photography. The concept of (en)Visionography, (writing with vision), is introduced. Rather than portraying the subject matter itself within a photograph the artist embeds their personal vision or perception of the subject within the creation of the final image. The students are encouraged to think laterally about photography and establish an exclusive style or artistic ‘voice’.
Week Two: The Guide to Vision
This week’s work extends and expands the concepts of personal artistic vision introduced in week one. Thirty-five ‘rules’ to achieve this vision are introduced, and the student is encouraged to integrate these ideas and concepts into the photographic images they create during their assignments.
Week Three: Composition in Fine Art Black and White Photography
The student is introduced to various concepts of artistic form. It discusses whether some of the techniques used by the great master painters can be utilised and built upon when creating digital photographic images. Foregrounds, backgrounds, depth, balance and symmetry are also discussed.
Week Four: Photography Drawing
This lesson explains and shows the individual technique Julia Anna Gospodarou has developed to create her unique images. Within the concept of ‘Photographic Drawing’ she blends the principles of classical and architectural drawings, utilises light and shade, generates depth and volume to create stunning artistic black and white photographs.
After you have completed the course you are sent a completion certificate, and retain full access to the My PhotoSchool website.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time studying this particular four-week course. It has opened up a fascinating new interest, and fired my imagination. I now see photography and the creation of artistic images in an entirely different light.
Like any home study course, you are not going to become an expert in a particular subject by watching videos and reading the text alone, practice is the key. The more effort and you put into studying any subject the more you will gain overall. The images throughout this review are my own work and created during the course. While they are not the masterpieces produced by the tutor, and some of my fellow students, hopefully, they indicate that, with some careful guidance and encouragement, a novice photographer can produce artistic images. I know the photographs I produce in the weeks and months to come will improve after following the advice offered throughout this course and by returning to the course’s documentation and videos.
If ‘Black & White Fine Art Photography & Beyond’ is representative of the standard of courses and tutors provided by MyPhotoSchool, I will not hesitate to recommend them, and will register for further classes. I’m already drawing up a list of Birthday and Christmas present wishes.
For more information on this course and start dates visit: