Photography Lecturer: Estonia Trip

Bruce Tanner, Kensington and Chelsea College Photography Lecturer was invited to host lessons with Tallinn Polytechnic School based in Estonia.

About Tallinn Polytechnic School

  • Founded in 1915.
  • One of the oldest technical schools in Estonia.
  • More than 1,200 students and about 120 teachers.

Q&A with Bruce Tanner, Kensington and Chelsea College Photography to discuss his experience

“The really useful thing, as a teacher, in exchanges of this kind is learning about how different, and how similar teaching practice across different nations is. Tallinn Polytechnic has similar issues around attendance and punctuality as we do at KCC.” (Bruce Tanner, Lecturer in Photography)

I was invited by the Head of the Media School (Marko Levin) and worked closely with photo tutor Elina Malleus, both of whom visited KCC about a year ago.

The previous visit I made to Estonia was funded from Erasmus+ funding from the EU. This trip was paid for by Tallinn Polytechnic School because they were very impressed by the significant progress that students had made after my previous visit. Much more progress than had been made than with any other visiting lecturer.

KCC and Tallinn Polytechnic are currently involved in an EU bid for a project around photography teaching across a range of Baltic countries plus Spain and the Netherlands.

Day to day structure

The teaching week started with a presentation of my work, plus presentations from the students of their own work combined with feedback from me. They were set a project that they needed to complete overnight (at this time of the year in the Baltic sunset is around 10:30pm, so easy to complete in daylight).

Day 2 was feedback on the first project followed by a second project on street photography in Tallinn itself. Street photography is not big in Estonia, so this was new to all the students. They then did a second overnight project. I researched some locations for day 3.

Day 3 was a location fashion shoot in an area of disused housing which had been the subject of arson attacks. Students had never been there even though it was a district of Tallinn because the neighbourhood was challenging. I worked with them on using narrative within fashion.

Day 4 the group were combined with a large group of students from Portugal for a landscape shoot in a marshland area some distance from Tallinn.

Day 5, I gave a public masterclass on abstraction in street photography and students from this group (practicing photographers) then took pictures in the city which were reviewed later in the day. At the same time I did tutorials with the group I had been working with all week.

“Students were so excited about your visit and they said that the best thing was that your assignments were really interesting and you also gave them honest criticism about their work. So thank you for being here :)” (Elina Malleus, Tallinn Polytechnic School)