The Joys Of The Well-Stocked Photolibrary

I am just coming to the end of an MA in Photographic History which I have been taking part-time at De Montfort University in Leicester.  A couple of years ago I was looking around for a way of extending my photographic activities.  I thought about a degree in photography but found the prospectuses offputting.  I made a deal with myself: if I could find one that I understood from beginning to end then I would apply for the course.  I never found one.  But in searching I did come across the MA.  It seemed to address the question that I asked myself every time I took a photograph: what am I doing when I press the shutter button?  What is a photograph?  The MA course looks at that question from many angles: technical, historical, ethnographic, theoretical, anthropological and so on.  Then it teaches you the research methods to come up with your own answer.  It has hugely deepened my understanding of the subject and of  photographic practices even though I am in many ways still only scratching the surface.  Best of all about the course though was that it gave me the chance to browse at will in a well-stocked photographic library.  I have spent hours in that library not only pursuing my researches but also pulling books down almost at random, just because the title appealed to me or the author’s name was vaguely familiar.  Often I branched out into other sections of the library too: design, visual culture, website design, art history, optics, you name it. As I come to the end of the course I can’t help thinking of that quote from Tolstoy: “If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day but if you teach him to fish you feed him for life.”