I had my idea worked out for the photo essay, Anti-Social Networking. But how do I make photographs that don't look like all of my other photos taken in this essay/workshop? Is that even possible? It was at that time that I realized that there is a whole lot of research I need to explore on my essay topic. What other photographs would express this topic? I began to think that I'd have to explore other ways to photograph. Would I need to learn indoor lighting, get people to pose for me? I've never really liked that kind of photography, but maybe this would lead to someting else for me? More questions than answers. I began to think, "What right do I have even approaching this topic?" The more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn't know much about my essay idea. These are not very productive thoughts halfway through a workshop on the Photographic Essay, especially when I'm shooting film and have all this work in front of me. Press on! Something will come out of this!
When we were doing our morning photo reviews in the morning with David, he talked about "finishing" the shot. Never heard that term before so I was immediately lit up. He showed us by example, which he is so good at. He showed us his contact sheets from a recent book he did. How we got the shot that he wanted by getting into the position he needed. And that he might take a few shots to get there. "Sometimes you have to take the shot that you don't want in order to get to the place you need to be for the 'shot'." David gave us examples of shots that he took in dangerous situations where a requested shot led to permission to take others. Plant yourself there. Don't move. Let the action come to you. "Ownership" came to my mind; own the shot, own the spot. Pursue it, don't just take one shot. Yeah, take the shot, but then look at what didn't work with the initial shot and try to get in a better position for it. I'm not talking about "chimping" the back of your camera either. In street photography you usually don't get a second chance for the shot, and there's no room for a chimp here.
There was a shot that I brought to class that met this criteria, not finished. There was an element to the shot that David critiqued, "Man, this is a great shot. Too bad you've got this huge section of wall in your shot." If I had finished the shot, I would have noticed the wall and moved in closer, but then I wouldn't of had the glance back by the guy passing by. It would've been a much different shot. I still like the photo, but it doesn't work totally. But that is chalked up to the hazards of street photography... you deal with failure more often than not, and that's the challenge of it all.
That afternoon I shot until about 7pm, got home, and immediately hit it. Develop film, eat some dinner, dry negatives, print contacts, edit from wet contact sheets, and make prints. Had a crop of about 15 photos. Dry them with a squeegie and hair dryer, scan them and put on a USB memory stick. Got to sleep about 3am.
Here's a word about comparing digital to film. I queried the people in the workshop shooting digital and they too were going to sleep around 3am too, and they brought the same amount of photos to class. Hmmm...
Hey, you've gotten this far on my blogposting and I appreciate you sticking with it. Thanks for all the kind words and feedback.
Special thanks to those that have sent me spelling fixes; Susan Catherine Weber, and Frank Brinsley! Thanks for helping me out!
My first blog post started into Day 1, so I thought I'd go back to the beginning. In fact, this isn't really the beginning of the workshop for me, since it started when I hit the "register" button on the www.visitacp.org website. So let's go back to the first evening/get together...
The workshop kicked off on Tuesday night with a get together with the other workshop participants; David, some Austin Center for Photography board members, people from the Austin area that knew David from other workshops, and Eli Reed. Eli is a UT professor and Magnum Agency photographer with David.
There were a total of 13 participants in the workshop and several people to help the out-of-towners find their way around Austin. People came from San Diego, Israel, London, and other places too. Two of us were film shooters and were going to shoot film throughout the workshop. Turns out the two of us, Michael and I, had a lot in common. We both shot with Leica's, black and white film, and have a penchant for street photography. Michael was going to develop and scan his negatives in his hotel room and I developed my films, printed and scanned my prints for the workshop in my darkroom. The rest of the participants were shooting digital cameras to which I thought was would have been an advantage for them... more on this later! Here's a link to Michael's photography: http://photomh.weebly.com/.
After mingling for an hour or so, talking with a few of the workshop members, David pulled us all together. We each had a chance to say something about what we were looking to get out of the workshop, where we were with our photography, what we like to shoot, etc. David let us know what to expect from the workshop.
Some of the participants wanted to pursue photography and make money at it. Some said they were doing weddings on the weekends and that sustained them to pursue their own work the rest of the time. I was slightly skeptical of this since I've always thought there wasn't really any money in photography, and the situation had gotten worse with all the on-line photo websites.
It was my turn to give my schpiel. I told the others that I wanted to find my eye in Austin. That I have a difficult time finding anything to shoot. The architecture is boring, there are no people on the streets, and it's Texas! Home of the right-wing nut-jobs!!! I explained that I travel in order to shoot what I want. I was hopeful that I might find my eye in this city. I could have done this workshop in NYC and been better off from a photographic sense. David asked what I did for a living, and after explaining this, David said that he would be most interested in seeing my portfolio. He thought they would be "formal" and "scientific." I told him that he would be surprised since I don't think my shots are that way at all. I was excited to prove him wrong in this way. And I think I did surprise him the next day at the first portfolio review.
What I found most amazing about David, and still do, is his commitment to each and every person in that room. You don't just take a DAH workshop and walk away. I suppose you could, but David insisted that once you take his workshop you are his student for life. We could count on him to review our portfolios and give us edit advice. If you are willing to keep at it, he's willing to find you a publisher if that is the way you wish to go. David was serious about this.
I gotta get some sleep... more later!
A lot of you know by now that I was filled with anxiety about taking the DAH workshop in Austin. I had never taken a photography workshop or class for that matter, and was filled with apprehension.
Would this change my vision?
What's a photo essay?
Would my photography measure up?
Why do a photo workshop in Austin? Why not someplace else where there are actually people?
Would I get along with the other people in the workshop?
How could I keep up with digital shooters while I was shooting film?
The title of the workshop was the "Photographic Essay." Sounds like an easy concept to understand; Simple! you tell a story with your photos, right? Well, not exactly.
David encouraged us to pick a topic that we could get started on during the workshop. Something we could attain; something we were passionate about. Truth is, the idea of a Photographic Essay had been something that I deal with all the time. Not in the traditional "Beginning, Middle, and End" sense, but in the telling a story through the photos with each photo having all the elements of the entire story. Best way I can describe it might be like holography. If you were to split a hologram in half, you'd have two equal representations of the original hologram. Split it again and you'd have another replica of the original. Point is, each photo should tell a part of the whole essay but should be the whole at the same time.
Photo Essay's are something that I've been excited about since I started shooting when I was 8. In fact, it was the reason I started to take pictures in the first place. However, the idea of beginning and ending a photo essay in five days sounded counter-intuitive to me. My approach to photo essays has been to evolve them organically through what I see in my photos only after the act of taking pictures; not to go after them with a preconceived notion. This workshop would be a 180 degree shift to my approach. Needless to say, my thought process started immediately upon hitting "register" for the workshop. What would my essay be about? I just knew something would hit me.
I shot the first day going after my essay, then went home to develop film, print and scanned my shots at the end of the day, to come in the second day of the workshop ready for review. I was convinced that I had finished my essay. I was done! I had shot everything there was to shoot around this topic. I wanted to move on. This is when I had my first "Aha" moment of the class! As David pointed out as he reviewed my shots in front of the rest of the workshop participants. "You've got some nice shots here." David selected four of the 20 shots I brought in for review. David again, "You're done with this essay? Man... you've got a serious case of ADD (Attention Deficit Dysfunction) my friend. You haven't even started yet!" (Chuckle from the other participants) It was at this moment that I realized I have so much more to go with my essay; so much more to explore, so much more to research and learn.
more on this later... I gotta get back to my day job now! Lunch break is now over!
Born and raised in New York City. Lived in Warsaw, Poland, and Portland, Oregon. Now living in Austin, TX, for the past year.