Photography at the Academy of Fine Arts Poznań, Poland
Photography as a domain of art has been present in the Poznań Academy of Fine Arts ever since its beginnings. One of the School's founders was Bronisław Prejbisz, a well-known photographer. In the '30s, popular all over the country were photomontages by Janusz Maria Brzeski, a graduate of the School of Decorative Arts, as the Academy was called at the time. In 1969, the strong presence of photography led to the rise of the Department of Photography and the subcject was also introduced into the syllabus. In 1978, Prof. Stefan Wojnecki took over as the head of the Department, the first Polish photographer to receive the title of Professor. In 1989, the Department of Multimedia was established at the Faculty of Painting Graphics and Sculpture. The 1990 systemic change led to the rise of the first and as yet Poland's only Master of Arts photographic studies. At present, the Department of Photography is part of the Faculty of Multimedia Communi-cations, which also includes independent Extra-mural Photography Studies.
In the full-time programme, photography features in the curriculum of the five-year regular M A studies. The programme re-quires that students not only master broad photographic workshop, together with its electronic processing, but also develop creative skills preparing them for a future job as an art-director. Besides photography, students attend obligatory classes in studios of drawing, painting, graphic design, video and visual actions and structures. Theoretical knowledge is complemented with a number of lectures by eminent professors. Compulsory instruction in the Department of Photography covers classes in seven studios.
The Studio of the Rudiments of Photography lays emphasis on an analysis of the classic components of a photographic image such as: a frame, light/shade, plane/space, time/movement, made to be the main creative elements. In the Studio of Documentary Photography, the starting point for theme realization is an attempt to see reality in the context of one's own impressions and emotions. The effect is a registration of the surroundings, a still image that captures a changing visible layer of reality in concrete time/space relations, using classic photographic means. The Studio of Classic Photographic Themes proposes a creative dialogue between one's way of representation and that found in photographic tradition. The objective is to make students aware of the continuous evolution of forms in so-called classic photographic themes (portrait, nude, landscape, etc.). Students thus realised a need for a critical and adaptative relation to art tradition, bypassing the past classic ways of representation. In the Studio of Advertising Photography students learn the basics of studio work and develop a creative vision of an advertised object. The studio also teaches students to create a photographic image of a company and to illustrate concepts or ideas. Classes in the Studio of Multimedia Photography teach students to go beyond the traditional standard concept of a photographic image through works realized in dialogue with other media as well as in a search for new areas of artistic expression. The Studio of Computer Photography aims to prepare students to work with digital image. A theme of standing interest in the Studio is to construct a computer-generated anamorphic image and determine its less-known immanent features. The Studio of Propaedeutics of Artistic Photographic Techniques allows students to master forgotten noble techniques for innovative future and for adding new artistic values to a photographic image.
Besides the five-year photography programme, there is an compulsory one-year course in the basics of photography for second-year students of all the faculties and departments of the Academy. In an open-studio system students of all departments can realize their individual projects in any of the above studios.
Five-year regular studies finish with a diploma exam consisting of a one-man show and a written theoretical thesis, upon defending which a student is awarded a Master of Arts degree.
To satisfy the great interest in the science of photography, Extra-mural Photography Studies were opened ten years ago for candidates who could only study at weekends. These two-degree professional studies are conducted as Bachelor of Arts and complementary Master of Arts Studies. The objective of the Studies is to prepare students at an academic level for future work as photographers. Students acquire the knowledge of photography and other visual arts and learn the necessary skills of artistic workshop enabling them to undertake conscious creative initiatives and realize them in work with an image. Diplomas can be done in classic, intermedial and advertising photography. Classes in the extra-mural programme are enriched by standing cooperation with Poland's greatest photographer artists. Using the same methods and criteria with both the extra-mural and the full-time students, we obtain extremely high results. We can say that we are dealing with a phenomenon of the Extra-mural Photography Studies which manifests itself in photographic works and exhibitions of the highest artistic rank. To cite some examples, there are the exhibitions: The Present, Bodies and Things, Spectacle of Everyday or F 12. Typical is also a high exhibition activity by students themselves who profit by every opportunity to present their works in collective or one-man shows. The best are invited to parti-cipate in prestigious exhibitions abroad.
Characteristic of the Poznań Academy is a wide and lively co-operation with other schools, especially those from Central and Western Europe. This year will see the sixth edition of Profiles - International Photography Workshop, with the participation of major academic schools with photography instruction from Poland and over a dozen from Western Europe. The Extra-mural Photography Studies publish a national magazine Photo_Notebooks, in full English translation. Students whose work merits distinction can enter a Focus contest, in which the prize is an author catalogue promoting the winner's achievements.
By gathering together a wide circle of artists conscious of photography as a medium of modern art, the Academy of Fine Arts has turned Poznań into the capital of Polish photography. The best illustration is the establishment on the initiative of the Academy professors of the Photography Biennial and the founding of the Photography Scientific Association, an important centre for outstanding artists and researchers in this domain of art.
Andrzej P. Florkowski
Photography at the Academy of Fine Arts Poznań, Poland