Woody Packard

Words + Pictures

Teaching Philosophy

If you are thinking of taking a course from me, this will help you know what to expect.

I subscribe to the “teach a man to fish” school of thought. I try to give students the tools to solve problems rather than giving them the solution to those problems. I spend a lot of time on basic principles in the hope that an understanding of those principles will become the means for future problem solving. Because students learn in different ways, by different methods, and at different rates, I put extra effort into principles that are essential to a deeper understanding of a subject. I write these principles down, draw them, demonstrate them, and illustrate them with examples of my own work and the work of others.

I believe that people learn things that have bearing on what they are already interested in. I believe that the best photography is a result of looking hard until you can see something interesting enough to share with others. I believe that you cannot look that hard unless your subject interests you. So good photography depends on photographers who are encouraged to photograph things they are interested in.

I also believe that people learn best by doing. To the extent that it is possible, I try to encourage students in the direction of their interests, for in a time when my mother can point and shoot with decent results, valuable photography is a matter of vision and action more than it is a matter of technology and the accumulation of facts. I have carried this belief into my courses and have encouraged students to work with the subjects they would like to be working with, to be the type of artist they would like to be, and in some cases, to imagine the business they would like to run. Whenever it is possible, I put students to work on independent projects to help them incorporate at a practical level what has been dealt with on a theoretical level in class. By giving students the responsibility for choosing their subjects, they are forced to take responsibility for the images that they finally produce.

Finally, I do my best to show that learning is not a goal or the means to that goal, but a way of going about your life, that it is not something you just do in school, or just do as a student, or, especially, that you just do until you become a teacher. I try to show by example that it is more important to be able to get answers than it is to always have them. I foster the discussion of failures as well as successes, for it has been my experience that while I learn from my successes, I learn more from my failures.

I am fascinated by the process of human invention and the wide differences in the way different individuals solve similar problems. Being an observer of photography and photographers for the past thirty years has only sharpened that interest, as has the past ten years of working with students.