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»Our applicants need to be passionate about photojournalism!«
In every year we have many requests how the selection procedure for the degree programme Photojournalism and Documentary Photography looks like. Due to this fact Fotostudenten.de interviewed photography professor Rolf Nobel to clear up all obscurities.

Photo: Helge Krückeberg






Fotostudenten.de: What qualifications do I need to have in order to apply?
Prof. Nobel: The applicant needs to have a diploma from a secondary school qualifying for university admission. Besides that the applicant has to hand in a portfolio with samples of their work.

Fotostudenten.de: How many photography students take up their studies each year?
Prof. Nobel: At the moment, about 27 to 30 students (in 2010).

Fotostudenten.de: And how many candidates are applying for the university places?
Prof. Nobel: The number of candidates varies. Currently there are about 130 and 160 candidates (in 2010).

Fotostudenten.de: Can prospective students visit the degree programme in advance? Is there a course guidance with the possibility to show portfolios?
Prof. Nobel: Of course, candidates can take a look at the classes. If there is enough time, we also show them our facilities. Our lecture events with external guests are usually open to the public and will be announced on www.fotostudenten.de. The dates for the portfolio guidances are also posted on our web page.

Fotostudenten.de: How does the application procedure pass off?
Prof. Nobel: Candidates apply with a portfolio until March 15 every year. If the portfolio is accepted, you are invited to a test and get a homework assignment. You have to bring it to the exam, which consists of a colloquium and two design tasks. With at least one point, you can apply for a university place. The applicants get the final notification approximately in July.

Fotostudenten.de: What are the formal criteria for the portfolio? How many photos should be included at least and at most?
Prof. Nobel: The portfolio should show that the applicant is interested in the narrow profile of our teaching: photojournalism and/or documentary photography. We want to see at least three self-contained works, which should be picture groups. As picture groups, we regard reportages, essays and series. At least one of the works should be a reportage and the works should somehow be about people. The other picture groups can be on architecture, portrait, landscape etc. It is important to us that each work has a thematic framework. Depending on the subject, the three works should consist of 10 – 20 photos. Each work should be preceded by a page of text, with three or four sentences that explain what the picture sequence is about. The size 30 x 30 cm proved as a good size for the application portfolio. It is good to handle in the review and horizontal as well as vertical pictures can be presented in the same size. The portfolio should have a strong board at the front and at the back, all held by a spiral binding. Anyone who wants it more classy is free to invest more in the portfolio.

Fotostudenten.de: What about different media in the portfolio? Do the prospective students have to present drawings?
Prof. Nobel: It can´t do any harm to have good drawings in the portfolio. On the other hand, we have never rejected a candidate just because he has solely photos in his application portfolio. That would be absurd – there are many excellent photographers who can not draw.

Fotostudenten.de: Can digital data be submitted on a CD?
Prof. Nobel: No, digital image carriers are only accepted for the presentation of films. [Editor's note: video, moving images]

Fotostudenten.de: What makes a promising portfolio?
Prof. Nobel: Journalistic, respectively documentary photographs that tell a story and are well composed.

Fotostudenten.de: If the portfolio is accepted, what happens next?
Prof. Nobel: After reviewing the portfolios, we invite about 60 candidates for the qualification test. Together with the application, the applicants get a homework assignment which can be solved by use of photographic means. This work has to be brought to the test and presented in a colloquium. In addition, there are three more tasks, two of which have to be solved. By late afternoon, the total points are read out. The test is passed with one point, but this does not guarantee a university place – the points table of all tested candidates is the decisive factor.

Fotostudenten.de: How does the qualification test pass off? Can the candidates take pictures?
Prof. Nobel: One task will be a photographic assignment. The pictures are printed on a laser printer.

Fotostudenten.de: Do bad drawers have a disadvantage?    
Prof. Nobel: There is no solely graphically task at the qualification test. So do not worry!

Fotostudenten.de: Do the candidates come to know if they are accepted on the qualifying day?
Prof. Nobel: No, they only get the information how many points they achieved. But you can already estimate a lot from the number of points that you gained. Generally, you have passed the test if you achieved one point, but that does not guarantee a university place. The required score can be calculated from the number of the points that all applicants gained. If the average is very high, you will need more points to gain a university place than if the average is low.

Fotostudenten.de: What criteria are important in an application? What do you expect from the prospective students?    
Prof. Nobel: Above all, we expect passion for storytelling with photos. We are not the right place for those applicants that still have to find themselves photographically. If you do not know whether your genre should be commercial photography, art, fashion or architectural photography, you are better off with one of the universities with a high bandwith, such as Bielefeld, Dortmund or Mainz. Additionally, we expect engagement, social skills and social interest.

Fotostudenten.de: And what does the University of Applied Sciences and Arts offer the students?
Prof. Nobel: A dedicated team of technical staff and faculty, a beautiful university building on a high technical standard of its facilities and studio, many exhibition- and third-party funds projects commissioned by editorial departments and companies located all over the world, education that is highly vocational-orientated and every two years a week-long overseas-field trip as well as the Lumix Festival for Young Photojournalism with participants from all over the world.

Fotostudenten.de: How much time do the students spend at the university? How much time do they have to take pictures?
Prof. Nobel: That is a little bit hard to say and depends on the semester, but at least one whole day per week is free of appointments at the university.

Fotostudenten.de: Is it possible to reconcile the studies with a side job?
Prof. Nobel: That depends on the working hours. But many students have part-time jobs, so it should work. With the new curriculum we made the studies less compact and decreased the number of graded courses.

Fotostudenten.de: Why does the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Hannover accept more and more students?
Prof. Nobel: We needed a certain size, about 30 – 35 students per year, to become an independent degree program. We have 3 professors, a teacher, a scientific assistant and technical assistant position – that requires a certain number of students per semester.

Fotostudenten.de: How much money do the students have to spend?
Prof. Nobel: Tuition fees are 500 Euro per semester. In addition, about 260 Euros for the administration fees, including a ticket for public transport. For materials etc you have to expect about 100 – 150 Euros per semester.

Fotostudenten.de: Is it possible to cope with the Bachelor-workload within 8 semesters?
Prof. Nobel: Theoretically yes, practically probably not. If the goal of your studies is to be in the market as a halfway complete photographer, you should – if you can afford it – give your studies time. Finally, a successful photographer has something like personal maturity. I would not leave the university until I feel ready for what awaits me outside.

Fotostudenten.de:What are the future job prospects for young photojournalists? What should the graduates expect?
Prof. Nobel: It depends very much on themselves. Most of the graduants work as freelance photographers and those who were already committed during their studies, also get along as freelance photographers. Some of them work as photo editors, for example at the F.A.Z. Finally, there are too many photographers on the market and only quality and self-promotion offer security to get along.

Fotostudenten.de: Is there an internship semester? What options are there for the students of photojournalism and documentary photography?
Prof. Nobel: An internship is a compulsory part of the studies. Up to now, we have cooperations with »F.A.Z.« in Frankfurt, »Weser Kurier« in Bremen and »HAZ« and »Neue Presse« in Hannover. During those internships, the students have the possibility to work as staff photographers for 6 months. Of course, these internship positions are not enough for all of our students, but some prefer to do their internship semester at editorial offices or at photo agencies. The others have to self-organize their internship.

Fotostudenten.de: Are there partnerships with universities abroad?
Prof. Nobel: There are a number of partnerships offered by the Erasmus program. They are not specific to the needs and interests of the students of the degree programme Photojournalism and Documentary Photography, but for the whole faculty. That means, that at some of those partner schools, photography is not teached at all or is only a marginal part of the program. But you can use the time to get to know a different country, a different culture and other students and to photograph. We are just starting to seek collaborations with other universities with an outstanding photography education. Our cooperation with Aarhus is a beginning and we intend to expand such partnerships. The problem is, that many good universities demand extremely high tuition fees from their students and we only want to cooperate with universities that do not ask tuition fees from our students.







Dates of the course guidance and portfolio review

Further information about the application process can be found on the University's website. (in German)

In case of questions please consult mappeninfoDM(at)fh-hannover.de