As the only photography department at a Dutch art academy, we focus on the four major areas in professional photography: conceptual documentary photography, photojournalism (together classified as Documentary), staging people or mise-en-scene (Fiction).
In the first year of study these areas are thoroughly introduced to the students. After the propaedeutic year, students choose for a three-year programme in either documentary photography and photojournalism, or in staging people and mise-en-scene photography, where they position their work in one of these areas on the basis of further choices. They study in only one of these areas.
The department’s objective is to educate students to become self-aware and independent photographers with a recognisable visual language and a personal vision, and who are able to work on commission and independently, by developing concepts and initiating projects. Their motivations, themes and ethical standards are evident to others.
Characteristic of our programme is that we take the professional field of photography as our point of departure. Students are given assignments resembling, or based on, professional assignments, and usually work on several projects simultaneously. We pay close attention to how the student develops his initial ideas into to a final series, with all the accompanying production activities. Another characteristic is the strong emphasis we place on the development of intellectual and visual qualities. We ask the students to approach their subjects with curiosity and an open mind, and then vigorously research them. This requires an interest in the content, background, and diverse ways to represent a subject.
While investigating, the students develop their own visual language and discover how their vision on topics and on the profession of photographer relates to the visions of others. Our aim is to teach students how to be independent thinkers, who, from a personal vision on the medium as well as on the world, are constantly searching for authentic images.
The curriculum consists of alternating work discussions, workshops and lectures and is dynamic in character. In a short period, students gain knowledge of various fields and develop skills to operate independently. Because their subjects are often situated outside the academy, students regularly work on location. In the academy they edit their images, work on prints and participate in collective work evaluations and the preparation of publications and presentations. The students thus do not only learn from their teachers, but also from their peers. The educational process is dominated by a commitment to continuously strive for research, authenticity, depth and professionalism, and is supported by a programme of electives and guest lecturers from the international field. Expertise from other disciplines is employed when necessary, which allows students to develop strategies to present their work optimally and in a suitable context.
The main aim of our programme is to educate our students to become the professionals of tomorrow, who connect their own visual language with a professional way of working on a national and international level.
Facts as departure point for Photography: specialization ‘Documentary’
'Documentary' is the umbrella term used by the KABK for the professional practice of conceptual documentary photographers and photojournalists. Although the practice of photojournalists differs from that of conceptual documentary photographers, they are similar in their depiction of subjects with news value or with significance for the target group of the photograph’s medium. This practice is most commonly used to reflect on contemporary history or its documentation. These photographers identify with social processes and concrete subjects, wonder about them and are curious.
Photographers, who work from facts, offer us a window to reality. However, subjectivity is essential for their individual style. A position statement is important for the impact of their photography. These photographers must pay attention to the preliminary phase of research. This means they have to read about, and empathize with, the subject, consult specialists and tap new markets.
The artistic autonomy enjoyed by these photographers is closely linked with the policies of the platform for which they work. Photographers who employ photography as an informative medium focus their loyalty on the user of the photos: the public.
Yet there is a clear distinction between the photojournalist, who describes reality and is constantly aware of news value, and the conceptual documentary photographer. Both disciplines revolve around current events, but the centre of gravity of photojournalism is direct reporting while conceptual documentary photography will more likely be used to depict a subject.
Fiction as departure point for Photography: specialization "Fiction"
Fiction at the KABK consists of the closely related sub-fields advertising photography and fashion/lifestyle photography. Fiction photographers are photographers who produce high-quality work from a staged situation or with the suggestion of staging. Most fiction photographers have impressive technical skills and possess an artistic streak that allows them to adequately represent their subject. They are strongly committed to their assignment.
Their work is the result of intensive research into the nature of the image and photographic visual language in particular, and is intended to distinguish itself in the torrent of images. Therefore, advertisement and fashion photographers are increasingly developing their own concepts to work from. On the basis of their authorship they are active in different contexts, which they creatively adapt to suit their needs. They have a rich imagination, representational skills and a clear mind. The emphasis in their work is on the creation of concepts and the pursuit of the right visual presentation in combination with a sophisticated technical execution. They often collaborate in multidisciplinary teams.
Final qualifications Photography
The graduate meets the following final qualifications:
You are able to develop an innovative concept arising from your artistic ambition and research, elaborate it into a distinctive image, product, means of communication or spatial design, and to contextualize it in a meaningful way (creative ability)
You are able to consider, analyse, interpret and assess your own and others' work, and are capable of constructively considering your findings in relation to your own work (capacity for critical reflection)
You are able to further develop your vision, work and working methods in breadth and depth through an ongoing process of research, and in this way contribute to your discipline and to society (capacity for growth and innovation)
You are able to establish and maintain an inspirational and functional working environment and to organize your research, work and practice (organizational ability)
You are able to effectively present your vision, research and work and engage in a dialogue with clients and other interested parties (communicative ability)
You are able to relate your artistic practice to the artistic and social context (external awareness)
You are able to make an independent contribution to a collaborative product or process (capacity for collaboration)
Graduates are awarded a Bachelor of Design (BDes).
After receiving their Bachelor’s degree, graduates can enrol in a master's programme in design (M Design) or art (M Fine Arts) or another master's programme at an art academy, or the MA Photographic Studies at Leiden University.