Written by Arthur Fields
I always had to do things the hard way. My journey into photographic education didn’t begin until I was in my late 30’s, earning my MFA at the age of 45. I had a couple instructors who were, and still are, my biggest cheerleaders. Find those mentors that believe in you and support you in your endeavors. Surround yourself with like-minded artists and educators that have similar goals and dreams.
Like our students, we look up to professors and mentors who are settled in their academic, social, and art-making careers. We listen and grow envious of this stability, and hope that one day we can live the same dream.
Arthur with students from his first class as an Assistant Professor
Once out of grad school, I quickly found work as an adjunct. For five years, I taught at five different schools, teaching three to seven classes per term, and drove over 200 miles a week just to make ends meet. (Forget about student loans!) I learned to do what you have to do to set yourself apart from other photo grads. Make your class indispensible and unique. Make your class the one that everyone wants to take. It will not only help your class meet the enrollment requirements, but it will show that you are willing to do what it takes to be a vital part of your school’s program.
I made a conscious effort to focus on the classroom and how to effectively communicate and share knowledge with today’s students. I worked on ways to incorporate traditional analog processes with digital and other non-traditional methods. I used social media and smart phone technology in the classroom to foster interest and conversation. By using the mobile device, students were shown to value an image regardless of the device used to capture the photograph.
Arthur on Vincennes University campus
Most importantly, I continued making work—no matter what. I needed to create something new. Not just for my portfolio, but for me. I began sharing my work through social media and applied for juried shows and exhibitions, realizing that this act of sharing is the best form of self-promotion. Marketing yourself and your work is an effective way to develop relationships with those who connect with your art.
What worked for me may not work for everyone. However, if you set realistic goals, practice patience, create new work, remain dedicated, and cultivate strong relationships—like those found in SPE—things will fall into place and it will all have been worth the wait.
Arthur Fields, Main Street Americana, Vincennes, IN, 2015
Arthur Fields is Assistant Professor of Art and Gallery Director at Vincennes University in Indiana. He has been an an active SPE member since 2008 and is co-chair of SPE's Multicultural Caucus and a Student Volunteer Coordinator for the National Conference.
Arthur completed his MFA in Photography in May of 2011 at Texas Woman's University in Denton, Texas. He earned a BFA in Digital Imaging and Photography at Washington University in St. Louis in 2008. Arthur's current photographic work, documenting the transition from life in the big city to small Midwestern town, can be found on Instagram at @artfields.