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You don’t always have to leave town to attend a top-notch workshop — Dane Sanders’ Fast Track Road Show Workshop might be coming to a town near you. This traveling workshop is visiting two more cities in the coming months, with more engagements added regularly. Expanding on the principles outlined in his popular book, Fast Track Photographer, Dane’s workshop helps photographers implement his Fast Track Philosophy and discover the strategies and tactics that work best for their business. Also emphasizing community, the workshop wraps up with an informal coffee talk with Dane and the other photographers in the class.
Where & when: Chicago: June 15-16; New York City: October 20-21
How much: $750
The speaker list — and the guest list — for this “luxury wedding business summit” is always a who’s who of the wedding photography world. By careful cultivating an atmosphere of effortless networking that encourages an open exchange of ideas, information, and inspiration, organizers Rebecca Grinnals & Kathryn Arce cultivate candid discussions of the issues and opportunities facing members of the luxury wedding industry.
Where: Grand Cayman Island, British West Indies
When: June 21st – June 23rd
How much: $2,000
If I Had Just One Wedding with Garrett Nudd
Garrett Nudd’s short-but-sweet workshop may only be one day long, but he promises to cover the full specture of topics that wedding photographers are most interested in, including, marketing, branding, goals and business planning, how to get published, the value of positive vendor relationships, destination weddings, identifying unseen opportunities in a challenging economy, and creating photographic art that commands attention and sets you apart.
Where: Indianapolis, Indiana
When: June 15
How much: $99
Italy Workshop with Gene Higa and Jose Villa
In the highly competitive wedding market, there is never just one right answer to any question. Students at the Italy Workshop will benefit from the synergy of two dynamic instructors, Gene Higa and Jose Villa, who will share experience from their different points of view, different shooting styles, and different marketing approaches. And as far as destination workshops go, it doesn’t get much better than Tuscany.
Where: Cavriglia, Chanti – Tuscany, Italy
When: October 27-29th
How much: $1,950
In this economy, distinguishing yourself from the competition is more important than ever. This week-long photojournalism-focused retreat in Cape Cod helps photographers become stronger visual storytellers with group exercises, editorial assignments, and a staff that nearly outnumbers the students. ShootQ has also teemed up with ROOTS (a.k.a. Emilie Sommer) to offer a $500 scholarship to one lucky photographer.
Where: Cape Cod, Massachusetts
How much: $3,200
The Wedding Summit, run by Frances Marron and Kristy Chenell, helps photographers adapt to the ever-changing market by focusing on individual business branding, vision, and goals. The Summit strives to provide students with the tools they need to generate maximum revenue in creative, simple, and effective ways.
Where: Orlando, Florida
When: Aug. 24-27
How much: $2,000
Miki Johnson: Tell me about how the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop started.
Eric Beecroft: I was thinking a few years ago, I’d been doing photography for about seven years and I wanted to take a workshop. I looked around and there were some great ones, but they were all impossibly expensive, particularly for students. I’m also a teacher, and they were too expensive for teachers too. Then I wondered, how could a local photographer from Latin America or Asia take one of these workshops? They could never afford it. So I thought, let’s just put one on ourselves. I teach photography and history at a small high school where I lead a lot of international trips, so the organization wasn’t that hard.
What has been really amazing is that it wasn’t hard to find people to teach for free. I think instructors are drawn to the notion of doing a workshop for people who are passionate and who they normally wouldn’t reach. The students aren’t all young — last year they ranged from 16 to 65 — and they’re not all trying to be professional photographers, but they’re passionate.
Another of our original ideas was to bring a lot of instructors together for one workshop. Most workshops are several thousand dollars for just one instructor. By having a dozen or so, we can offer a range of classes, lower the cost, and, best of all, create a mini-community that is almost like a festival on top of the workshop.
It was really important to me to create a community where everybody is really accessible. I remember reading a blog by a student last year. She wrote, “I walked into the opening party, and I went, oh my word, there’s Andrea Bruce, there’s Stanley Green, there’s Ron Haviv, and they’re all sitting there just drinking a beer and talking like human beings.” There’s a lot of God factor in photojournalism, and we want to take that away. We want to remind students that photographers are just people.
One thing I’d tell students is, don’t come to the workshop with preconceived notions. And don’t be scared to talk to the instructors. They don’t want to give autographs; they don’t want to be on a pedestal. We start the workshop off with an opening party where everyone’s just hanging out. That always blow student’s mind. If they can get past being star struck, they have the opportunity to build relationships that will last long after the workshop.
This year is going to be even more intimate because we capped the number of students at 100. But slots are still assigned on a first come, first served basis. I want it to be open rather than something you have to apply to. I thought, if a photographer is at a level where they’re going to Eddie Adams or they’re getting chosen for World Press Master Class, then they’re already pretty advanced. There’s this intermediate ground where you’re a beginner or you’re intermediate, you’re coming along, maybe you’re a hobbyist. And there’s nothing out there for that level of photographer that’s affordable.
MJ: So what kind of schedule can a new student expect at the Foundry?
EB: You’re taking one intensive class that is six days long. There are several specific classes students can choose from, and the end goal is to show your work to everybody at the final Saturday night show. That might be an individual story or it might be a collaborative effort, like Stanley Green’s class last year that created an amazing group project called Blood on the Floor.
We tell all the students to research stories before they arrive. Bring pictures if they’ll help; get access if you need it. It’s really hard to show up cold-turkey without any story ideas. Some people do anyway, and we try to help them. But the most successful ones either arrive a couple days early, or they get online and do a lot of research to develop a well-honed idea.
I don’t know how they did this, but two women got access to the women’s prison in Mexico City last year. I could not fly from Mexico to the United States and say, I want to go to the prison, give me access. And we had other people riding around with the ambulance drivers.
We like students to think of the workshop as an international photo assignment. A lot of people have this dream of being an international photojournalist. So we say, okay, here’s your shot. Come in, internationally, and do a story. Some students say, well, if I was professional, I’d have a $5,000 budget, and I’d stay in a five-star hotel. We have photojournalists like Andrea Bruce, a staffer for the Washington Post, and Mike Chavez for the L.A. Times, and they just stand up there on the panel and laugh. They tell the students, “I’m lost half the time. I don’t know what the heck’s going on. People won’t talk.”
Or the students will say, “You’re Ron Haviv, people never say no to you. Ron says, “Are you kidding me? People say no to me all the time.” It’s so important for aspiring photojournalists to see the reality versus their ideas of glamor. You know, we’ve ruined a few photographers. People have said afterward, I don’t want to do this.
But if you’re serious about becoming an international photographer, the Foundry can be like a halfway house. We’re here to help you with the first steps. Student who haven’t traveled, or they’re scared of travel, or they’re scared of shooting internationally — this can bring them to the next level.
As an example, last year some of the students struggled with story ideas. They came in wanting to shoot things like the president of Mexico. You can’t just show up one day and get that kind of access. So we said, let’s ask around. We met a man from Syria who was an orthodox monk stationed at a Catholic monastery in Mexico, because I think they’re running out of monks. He wasn’t even Catholic; he was Eastern Orthodox. It’s a great story. And he let four students stay at the monastery and document their lives. They ended up producing a great piece from that.
MJ: Why was it important for you to bring in a significant number of local photography students?
EB: This year we’ve got a lot of South Asian photographers coming, and last year we had quite a few Latin American photographers come — that’s what we want. We want them to get access to inspiration, to communities, to slideshows, to classes they normally wouldn’t get. And we also want non-local photographers to learn from the local ones. We tell all students, bring business cards, share them around. I know the connections students made at last year’s workshop haven’t stayed online. People have made friends. People have started dating. There’s kind of a huge web of people now.
We also wanted to help photographers understand what it’s like to work in an area, South Asia this year. We have panels with different photographers and points of view. So if someone is thinking about becoming a stringer there, they can find out what it’s like to work there, what challenges they might face.
We’ll also have one night where we show only work by South Asian photographers, where we try to get them some exposure that they wouldn’t normally get. We had a lot of good things come out of that last year. One amazing photographer ended up getting work with some major agencies, because of meeting people, networking, and showing his work at the workshop.
Then we had a couple young Turkish photographers in their early to mid 20s. They’re amazingly talented, so I won’t say the Foundry made all the difference, but since then, one is shooting for the Wall Street Journal, others are freelancing for the New York Times. One is in Afghanistan right now. They’ve met a lot of people and they’re jump starting their careers.
David White: Innocence, duckrabbit’s feature about child soldiers in Sri Lanka, just sort of emerged organically. I shot the photographs a few years ago now, whilst there was still a ceasefire. It was a very difficult and at times dangerous job, but one that I desperately hoped might make a tiny difference.
Recently I was sitting up very early in the morning when I saw a report on the news about the escalation of the war in Sri Lanka. I just started to write about how that made me feel. For once I was not worried about how other people would interpret and dissect my thoughts — I just needed to get my feelings out.
I posted my thoughts on the duckrabbit blog, and from there Benjamin picked up the baton, unbeknown to me.
Benjamin Chesterton: David is someone whose photographs have always moved me. His great big generous heart comes across in all his work and never more so than in the beautiful pictures he took in Sri Lanka. I’ve long wanted to turn them into a piece of multimedia, but what can you do with just 10 photos?
I got up one morning to find that David had posted about that experience on the duckrabbit blog. He captured the artist’s predicament in a really simple and powerful way. The desire to make a difference because some cause has embedded itself so deep into you. The feeling that if you don’t do something, it will suffocate you from the inside out.
Pretty much all I did was take his words, grab some screenshots off news sites on the web, use a song that never fails to move me, and mix it all up with his original photo’s. I didn’t tell David I was doing this. Just banged out a rough copy in a day, sent him the link and held my breath.
David: I have scanned, printed, and reproduced those Sri Lanka photos many times. I like them, I think they’re strong, but they’re not new. The words were a few lines I hammered out when I should have been sleeping. Yet, when I saw the finished piece, I cried, as did my wife, Jane.
Since then, that has been the many people’s reaction.
It still amazes me that such simple content can be reworked into something so strong. I could never imagine those stills in a magazine story having the same effect. Imagine going back to a set of pictures you have taken a while ago, that you know intimately, and having them move you to tears. That intrigues and excites me. That’s why I think multimedia offers amazing opportunities for photographers, to get their work out to new audiences, and to use it to reveal the world in new light.
After wrapping up a National Geographic Photo Camp in January, teaching young Indian students to use cameras for the first time, I returned to India in March to teach a workshop for American and European adults who want to become better photographers — some to make it a profession, and others, who are already professionals, to gain a new perspective that refreshes their work and attitude. The workshop students ranged in age and background: an American in her 60s who is a retired doctor and environmentalist but has been using photography for 40 years; an Italian professional photographer in her 40s who mostly does commercial work and wants to break into photojournalism; a young American just starting out as a photographer; an Italian photography lover in his 40s who is an Alitalia pilot; a German psychotherapist in his 50s who also loves photography; a British journalist in her late 20s who wants to improve her photography to be a double threat.
Occasionally during these workshops, it can feel uninspiring and frustrating when leading a clutch of prosumers, many of whom you know will not become photographers. But I cherish the NG Photo Camps and most of them won’t become photographers either. In the end, anything that allows me to teach, to impart my experience and passions, is satisfying and ultimately useful to my students. If one truly loves photography both as a craft and a profession, whether you want to change the world or just want to learn how to better enjoy your creative process, then it’s all good in my eyes.
As with any workshop, this recent one had a distinct arc: the beginning, always rocky, with people jet lagged, not sure of who is who, what they should be doing and maybe nervous about exposing their work to strangers. Then, just like with the kids in Udaipur, the experiences, breakthroughs, and imagemaking gives them strength, confidence, and joy that reaffirms their desire to be photographers. Both groups of students also come to the initial classes with varying degrees of confidence and creativity — most with timidity and all with the need for guidance, the fear of getting close to subjects and the desire to learn and improve that marks all beginners or intermediate photographers.
Often the teens have never picked up a camera before, so the camp is new, exciting, and overwhelming. For them, becoming a photographer is not a goal, or even a possibility, while the adult students are already photographers who may want to make it their profession. The outcome of their extra experience may come as a surprise, though: The adults bring more neuroses, habits, and fears, along with their more developed talent and purpose. They are hampered, in a way, by their photographic baggage, their professional dreams, or their desire to emulate or outdo other people’s photographs.
For these reasons my adult students are as much in need of guidance as the kids, but in certain ways they also present a greater opportunity for growth. One major challenge for the adults specifically is not being Indian. Photographing in a foreign culture reveals to them the difficulty of getting beyond the surface, and it requires the foreign adults to achieve a different level of inspiration and discovery than the teens from India. I also can be more candid in my critiques with the adult students than the teens and center my comments on their photography. If I know an adult photo student wants to make photography their profession, then I’ll take a more critical approach to their images as well as their approach, behavior, even dress sometimes (especially with females), and I try to get them to express their intentions so they become clearer and stronger about why they want to do this.
The amateur who just wants to improve their photography requires a different approach. To me it’s important to help them grow while also preserving their love and joy for the craft. We all know people who are wonderful in some art form yet drop it because they lose the joy when they realize they’re “not good enough” to “make it” professionally. In fact, many very talented people just don’t have the stomach to handle the pressures, rejection, and bullshit involved with being a professional in something that is so personal and subjective.
The teen, who is being asked to use photography by outsiders to tell their stories, requires a yet another approach. In these cases, I am not trying to cradle or soften my approach for the teens, but what I don’t want to do is snuff out their enthusiasm or courage. And given these NG Photo Camps are not designed to make the students into photographers, my role is one of support and encouragement, to help them tell their stories and open their minds to the possibilities of photography, writing, self expression, and life!
So what do I get out of these workshops? Exposure to other photographer’s concerns, ambitions, ideas, and inspirations. An income stream to make up for a loss of work for serious documentary photography. I can’t deny it also soothes my ego to be, for a short time, among photographers who respectfully listen and appreciate what I have to say. In this subjective profession, we often flourish or fail according to others’ whims and the uncontrollable fortunes of fate (others might call that luck!); the break from that provided by teaching is refreshing and rejuvenating. I also love sharing my work with others and, especially, the chance to help shape photography’s future, teaching human values and creativity by sharing my passion for the craft and my commitment visual storytelling.
World-renowned conservation and fine art photographer Art Wolfe is in the process of reinventing his business model — upgrading to a liveBooks website and selling his stock images directly through a Photoshelter account that is linked to it. Art will be contributing to RESOLVE regularly, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to record a few words of wisdom while he was visiting last week. We shot the short interview below with Art and Jim Martin, executive director of Art Wolfe Inc. and an accomplished photographer himself, near our San Francisco office.
When Art started to see diminishing returns from stock sales years ago, he reworked his business around selling images himself through his website. Understanding that “fur and feathers” stock photography was not sufficient to keep his business afloat, he also did what many photographers are now learning the value of — he diversified. On top of stock and print sales, Art is also reaching millions of viewers through his TV show Travels to the Edge and is reworking his workshops for more intimate, challenging classes.
What are you looking for from speaker proposals, especially from people who haven’t spoken at WPPI before?
We have 10 new speakers this year who have never spoken for us before. They’re a little different from what we normally see. They may be talking about a different aspect of lighting, or a different approach to Photoshop, or right now photographers are very interested in posing and lighting techniques. And, of course, they should address how to make their work stand out from everybody else so that they can continue to do business in this down economy.
What goes into that program description?
There is an outline, essentially, of what they want to teach. Sometimes it’s only five or six lines, and then we ask them for more information. Remember it’s got to fill up a 2-hour class. It has to be a topic about which the person is extremely knowledgeable and a topic that will pique interest, to make the audience want to ask questions. We also check out a potential speaker’s website to see what kind of photographer they are.
Do you think there are topics that are particularly hot-button issues right now, and how do you keep a finger on the pulse of what people who come to WPPI would like to hear more about?
We always send out a survey after the convention. We ask people to critique the classes that they have been to and also to submit topics that they think were missing.
In the big classes, people want to go back to the basics. We have a lot of attendees who have never been professionally schooled in photography. They picked up a digital camera and thought they had a feel for it. They didn’t go to Brooks or RIT. They feel they have a lot to learn in some of the basic areas they may have just skimmed over because they have a good eye.
As I said, posing and lighting are two of the main areas of interest. They also want to learn how to get the picture right in the camera, without having to “fix” the image in postproduction. This year, of course, we’re emphasizing how to keep your studio afloat in this bad economy. We have a whole program track, The Business Institute, which covers that topic, with seven classes specifically addressing marketing. More »
Rachel LaCour Niesen is an old-hat at WPPI and has taught there with Andrew Niesen and Mark Adams for many years. That might make it sound like she doesn’t understand what a first-time WPPI attendee is going through — on the contrary, Rachel has such a reputation for helping new and experienced photographers alike, we knew she’d be the perfect person to share a few tips about surviving the huge WPPI show in Las Vegas, which starts February 14.
1. Start with a Strategy
First-time WPPI attendees are often spotted meandering through the tradeshow with a glazed, “deer in the headlights” look on their faces. Don’t risk being overwhelmed and paralyzed in the tradeshow. Before you leave for Vegas, write up an action plan. Compile a “Must See” list of products and vendors that most interest you. Prioritize visiting those booths first. Then, you can be confident that you’ve visited your top vendors before wandering around the rest of the tradeshow. When you arrive, start by reviewing the WPPI Program Guide and the Tradeshow Map.
2. Take Risks
Human nature is to seek out seminars that affirm our strengths. Rather than hang out in your comfort zone, push yourself by attending classes that challenge your weaknesses. Prioritize attending seminars that push you beyond your comfort zone. Are you intimidated by lighting techniques? Then attend Matthew Jordan Smith’s “Lighting Secrets” seminar on Monday, February 16. Need to boost your confidence in your sales skills? Then attend Corey McNabb’s “Sellification” seminar on Tuesday, February 17.
3. What Happens in Vegas Should NOT Stay in Vegas
Don’t leave your new knowledge behind. One of the biggest mistakes I made after attending my first WPPI was stuffing my notebook into my desk drawer. I never pulled it out again! WPPI is an amazing learning opportunity. Don’t waste it by taking tons of notes that will never be read again. Schedule a “WPPI Recap Retreat” for yourself. Put it on the calendar, block it off so you don’t get interrupted. You will need at least a full day to review your notes and decide how to apply your new knowledge to your business in 2009. You will learn so much at WPPI — soak it up and then implement it! More »