Recently, I attended an interesting round table discussion about the School of the Photographic Arts (SPAO) hosted by the Exposure Gallery . For those who have never been, Exposure is situated right above the Thyme and Again coffee shop on Wellington street. During the day, patrons can enjoy a coffee or a meal along with taking in the photographic exhibition. The gallery also holds events in the evening where the public can hear talks related to the current showing. Given that the gallery is presently exhibiting work from SPAO students, the discussion I participated in focused on the vision of the school and their methodology.
The main difference between SPAO and other institutions is that this school is focused on one on one instruction. In fact, there are at times 3-4 teachers per student. This allows SPAO to nurture and develop their students in ways that the larger institutions are unable too. Flexibility is the school’s greatest strength. Whether the student is interested in setting up a commercial photographic practice or simply exploring fine art photography SPAO’s instructors will develop and encourage them along their chosen path with lots of individual attention.
Michael Tardioli, the director of SPAO, says that his school is for those “who are compelled to create and work with a group of like minded instructors”. He describes SPAO as being a “composition school” meaning, because of the one on one, instruction they have time to develop the student so that every minute detail of the image is a deliberate choice.
Tardioli is also concerned with keeping his students “in it”. For Tardolioli this means partnering with galleries, such as Exposure, to showcase the work of SPAO’s students and also building bridges with firms that might employ his students.
A good way to get an idea of what the school is about is to check out Exposure Gallery’s exhibition of its students. While there is no overarching theme to the exhibit, it does show many of the different streams that a student can take. Go check it out for yourself. It’s a great way to kill a lunch hour and expose yourself to the work of emerging photographers.