KLAUS FRUCHTNIS. EDUCATION, PHOTOGRAPHY AND IMAGE-MAKING
by Steve Bisson



Ryan Boatright is PCA Faculty for Master of Fine Arts in Photography & Image-making. © Marginal Compositions v. 1, The perforated edges of dye sublimation prints that contained failed images, Collages in vitrine enclosures, 24cm x 30cm, 2014

Paris College of Art launched a new program 'Master of Fine Arts in Photography & Image-making'. What are its distinctive characteristics?

Klaus Fructhnis (KF): There are several graduate programs in Photography in Paris which include Photography and Contemporary Art, but there is no specific practice-based and process-oriented programs in French – nor in English – for Photography and Image-making.

For many decades, Paris has been considered as the center of avant-garde art and, without a doubt, as the hub for the new photography in Europe since the 1920’s. If the French capital became a forum for photographers from so many different countries and backgrounds, this was because it stood as a model of modernity and a beacon of economic hope in the aftermath of the First World War, but also because it was a haven of political and religious freedom for those forced into exile. Furthermore, the international dimension of both the city and Paris College of Art provide a unique platform for students who would aspire to experience an internship or work abroad.

Photography has considerably evolved in the past years, not only in the means of technical processes but also in the way we communicate and read images. The MA/MFA in Photography and Image-Making focuses on new types of visual storytelling: still image, moving image, and multimedia, with a curriculum that emphasizes new media and transdisciplinary skill sets, and understands photography as a hybrid and emerging art form. The program explores digital image-making as a force and it is designed as a practice-based and process-oriented program. 

Today there is much talk about storytelling, a term that can come across as slightly inflated. Based on your own experience, how can education help people improve their skills in a world where communication itself has become stylized and designed?

KF: Photographers are storytellers, and the way they narrate a story is one of the most important tools they can use to create a strong image and to convey a message. At PCA, students learn to quickly develop and research concepts to tell a story in images and words. I agree that the term storytelling is now used in a broad sense, and has become a polymorphous phenomenon beyond the creative fields. As an art and design institution our role is to give students the tools, skills and processes to tell stories in different and innovative ways. It’s good to remember that narrative has been used to educate and preserve knowledge for many centuries. In today’s driven society, the power of storytelling remains in understanding the social and cultural impact of the narrative. On the other hand, I believe that listening and understanding stories is as important as telling them. I attach importance to both elements, and encourage our students to be good at both.


Susan Bright is PCA Faculty for Master of Fine Arts in Photography & Image-making. © 'Home Truths: Photography and Motherhood' is published by Art/ Books, The Photographers' Gallery, The Foundling Museum and The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago

In recent years we have seen the definition of photography expanding its borders. PCA faculty is made up of an interdisciplinary group of stellar professionals. Why this choice, which makes your degree stand out among other programs in which the academic component is put forward? What’s your vision of higher education?

KF: I wanted to bring to the program a world-renowned team of experts in their fields (photographers, artists, journalists, art historians, printmakers, publishers, writers and curators) who enrich students through their teaching and their support outside the classroom. I strongly believe that active professionals are best suited to impart the skills and knowledge required to prepare students to enter a rapidly changing professional world.


Rodrigo Orrantia is PCA Faculty for Master of Fine Arts in Photography & Image-making.
Here at Grafiche dell'Artiere printing the book by Danilo Murru edited by Champion Photobooks.


Still images of the book 'What Remains' by Danilo Murru. The bookseries is curated by Rodrigo Orrantia and published by L'Artiere, 2016

My vision of higher education goes beyond fostering talent in the classroom; it involves shared projects and initiatives with external partners, allowing students to experience the professional world through their own research. As for me, I believe a school to be a place of mutual exchange, a place to rethink and renegotiate, where students can find new sources for their own practice, particularly out in the field. I envision, therefore, an education that emphasizes the learning process rather than the finished ways of work in the context.

Professional job opportunities: when thinking about career perspectives, studying in Paris is no doubt a great opportunity which allows one to be part of a lively and creative environment. Which initiatives does PCA promote for alumni to make the most of this potential?

KF: The MA/MFA in Photography and Image-making offers students a practice-based opportunity with a professional creative production. The program focuses on tailored education and an individual approach giving students the possibility to expand their network with professionals (e.g. museums, galleries, industry, academia, etc.) through guest speakers, meetings with alumni, monthly portfolio reviews, access to the career services office, industry credentials and contacts, etc.

After completing the one-year or two-year program, students have the possibility to stay in Paris for a year to do internships. We higHly encourage and accompany alumni in this direction.


Laurent Pernot is PCA Faculty for Master of Fine Arts in Photography & Image-making. © 'Hold the sea', Glass ball, acrylic hand with a glove, video, 20.35mn, in loop, 2015

How do you combine your need to express yourself as an artist with your role as an Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, Chair of Photography at PCA? Many photographers today divide their practice between personal and commissioned works. Managing time between different assignments is never an easy task?

KF: Passion. I have spent over 15 years doing research through my own art practice and working in the academia. I don’t see my role as Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, Chair of Photography or Artist as a separate work. I consider myself a complete artist, researcher and educator. Those roles form an integral part of my creative process, on the contrary, they provide me with a solid knowledge of the different theoretical subjects, professional skills and hands-on experience in the field that are extremely beneficial for our students. Of course, in order to make it work you need to be extremely organized, prioritize and make concessions. It requires a lot of time and energy, but when there’s a will, there’s always a way to accomplish what we want to do.


© Klaus Fructhnis is Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, Chair of Photography at Paris College of Art. © Viral Images, Photographs found on the Internet and printed on wood with a laser cutting machine, 2015-2016


© Klaus Fruchtnis, Layers, Photography and drawing, 2012

Let's talk about the artist’s portfolio, how critical is it, today, in your opinion, to be able to build and present your portfolio?

KF: A portfolio should speak for itself. When I do portfolio reviews, I pay attention to three key elements: the focusing content, the quality of work, and the way it is presented. Based on my experience, I can tell that photographers often have a hard time focusing on quality rather than quantity during their selection process. Photography lives in the print, but the world we live in is digital – so I encourage young photographers to have both strong print and digital portfolios.

A good portfolio should be tight, well curated and always up-to-date –first impressions do count! The question is, what makes an image worthy of being in a portfolio?

Does PCA provide support to candidates who are willing to understand if the program is right for them?

KF: We organize monthly webinars, schedule online interviews and meet candidates to support them in the preparation of their portfolio, as well as provide additional information and answer questions about the program.


Tara Bogart is PCA Faculty for Master of Fine Arts in Photography & Image-making. © from the series 'A Modern Hair Study', Photography, 2011

Are there any prerequisites? 

KF: The program is open to any applicant who has successfully completed an undergraduate degree (BFA, BA, BSc, BID, BArch, etc.) with a studio component, or acquired basic technical skills (photography, art, video, editing software, printing, lighting, image-making, etc.) through other educational or professional experiences. Previously acquired technical skills and creative potential will be evaluated through the applicant’s portfolio.

Candidates from backgrounds in fine art, printmaking, editorial, film, photography and demonstrated technical skills (black & white and color photography, digital photography, lighting techniques, common software programs for editing) are all encouraged to apply.

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READ INTERVIEWS WITH PCA FACULTY
MA/MFA Photography and Image-Making
Ryan Boatright 
Susan Bright
Rodrigo Orrantia

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LINKS
Paris College of Art (PCA)
MA/MFA in Photography and Image-making
Klaus Fructhnis