Why ICP?

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Statue of Liberty, on Liberty Island in New York, as seen from Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Statue of Liberty, on Liberty Island in New York, as seen from Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Last night, I took a call from a woman in California who had been accepted to the International Center of Photography. She was trying to decide whether she should go for it. She asked me, “is it worth it?”

I was in her position exactly one year ago to the day. It was April 12th, 2010, my birthday. At 8am I went to my government job and gave my two-weeks notice. That afternoon, I returned home to the letter from the ICP accepting my application for the 2010-2011 school year. In the evening we had a birthday BBQ in the backyard.

Until that day, the prospect of moving had been mostly theoretical. It was suddenly real. The tuition alone was a lot of money. Moving cities is hard. And I’d have to stop working for a year, too. It was a big choice. Some people said I should take my money and travel the world. Others questioned why I would want to move from Ottawa at all (although they were very few, and only halfheartedly asked). Most people, though, told me to go, if this was what I really wanted. The decision was complicated by having already been to photography school, not that long ago. I graduated from Algonquin College in 2007 with a diploma in commercial photography. It was a good school, highly technical, and demanding. But I always wanted more. I wanted more from life, more from my city. Most of all, I wanted more from myself.

Midtown Manhattan as seen from the Pulaski Bridge

Midtown Manhattan as seen from the Pulaski Bridge between Brooklyn and Queens, New York

I said yes. I accepted because I wanted to grow, to move up a level, to be truly tested. I wanted to train with the best, to learn how to tell stories from the leaders in photojournalism and documentary photography. In some ways, it was an easy choice. ICP was the only place I had applied and the only place really wanted to go. I said yes to myself.

Life isn’t easy here. School is definitely not easy. There is a lot I miss about my life back home. I miss my family. But, for all the homesickness and frustration of living in New York, it has been worth it so far.

This year is a gift. It is a dream. It is an incredible privilege to spend a year completely focused on my craft. It is amazing to be surrounded by smart and engaged students. The teachers at ICP who I’ve connected with have made an impact on me that will resonate for the rest of my life. ICP was the push I needed, and the push I didn’t know I needed. I’ve grown as an artist and a human. I’ve really jumped off the deep end.

There are ten weeks left in the school year. I want this freedom to go on forever.

This post was originally published at Being There by Jackson Couse.

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Jackson Couse is a Canadian documentary photographer in New York City.

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