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Miki Johnson: How many editors would a participant in the NYCFotoWorks Portfolio Review potentially get to see?
Marc Asnin: You’ll see 14 if you sign up for two sessions. Our thing right now is that it’s an incredible list of editorial people. Last time we had one of these sessions, most of the people came from out of town, which I thought was very interesting. I think they realized that if you’re paying $399 and you’re getting to meet with seven editors — you can’t FedEx your portfolio for that. And how many people are going to look at your portfolio online? Does it get through the spam filter? All the editors are really into it. It’s refreshing to see that you can get 50 editors to participate. Even in this difficult time, they still want to see new work.
This year, meetings are during the day and into the evening. So let’s say you come in the morning and you have three sessions out of your seven, you’ll be able to hang out. So maybe you only got seven minutes with someone from Vanity Fair, but then you could also talk to them during the intermission. We will also have a wrap party so that the participants can all get to know each other. It’s good to hang out with your peers, too. When I taught at SVA, I always told the students, you can learn much more from each other than you can ever learn from me; you’re the same age, you’re in the same world.
One thing we did last time and we’re doing again is making sure that there’s a certain quality of photography we’re showing. It’s not like I’m expecting everyone to be Annie Leibowitz. But we wouldn’t ask photo editors to give their time to look at work that’s not on a professional level.
We’re also not pigeon-holing people. So if you’re a reportage photographer, that doesn’t mean you can’t see Vanity Fair. That’s an important thing for photographers to understand. For instance, I’ve worked with Bruce Perez at Redbook. If you don’t understand the magazine world, you might wonder, what would Marc ever do for a woman’s magazine? Well, I did a story on breast cancer and another on a boy with brain caner. So you can get interesting reportage work at a woman’s magazine. I used to work a lot for Good Housekeeping and did some other incredible stories there.
MJ: What tips do you give photographers about their meetings with editors? More »
Miki Johnson: Why did you decide to participate in this year’s Foundry Workshop?
Dhiraj Singh: I had heard about the Foundry Workshop on Lightstalkers and was even more keen after I read the list of tutors for this year. However, a huge concern was finances. Since I’m a freelancer and work is sporadic, gathering finances for the workshop was nearly impossible. I had almost decided to give the workshop a pass. As a last resort, four days before the workshop, I emailed Eric Beecroft. I told him frankly that, even though I would love to attend, it would not be possible because of financial constraints. He replied immediately, suggesting I come as an assistant and be a part of the workshop. I was in Manali 48 hours later!
MJ: What was the most beneficial part of the workshop for you? What did you learn?
DS: For me, the basic multimedia approach and nuances that I picked up from Tewfic El-Sawy was the most enriching part of the workshop. The other tutors, such as Hendrick Kastenskov from the Bombay Flying Club, Ami Vitale, and Ron Haviv, also shared a great deal of experiences, which helped me reach a deeper level of understanding of photojournalism and its current stage of evolution. How to take print-based photojournalism to the next step and preparing for the online aspect of the field has been an important lesson from the workshop.
MJ: Tell me about the multimedia piece you created at the workshop.
DS: In My Name Is Dechen, I photographed the inner mind of a woman who wasn’t quite in her senses. When I saw her on my very first walk in Manali, her moods, emotions, and communication with her environment captured my interest. I bonded with her instantly. I wasn’t sure what kind of project it would turn out to be, but I just couldn’t walk away from her. She had such a lively spirit and a sort of melancholy that touched me deeply. I spent time with her for a couple days and kept shooting and recording whatever I could. At the end, editing it down was simple — with huge help from Tewfic of course!
MJ: How was the community at the workshop? Did you meet people who you’ll continue to be in touch with and who taught you important things?
DS: I certainly hope to keep in touch with the people I met at the workshop. Photojournalists are a dying breed, and keeping in touch with the few that you meet is important, especially as for me as a freelancer. These people become your motivation and your best critics. The lessons stay with you even when the camera doesn’t.
I’m from Tampa, Florida, and worked at the St. Petersburg Times there. I quit my job to come to India and pursue freelance work. I’m currently based in Delhi and mainly work in multimedia. I make short documentary style projects combining video, sound, and stills using the new fancy Canon 5D Mark II.
A few months back I was reading PDN‘s 30 about photographers to watch in 2009. One of the photographers, Jared Moossy, mentioned the Foundry Workshop and how he made some good contacts there. I had never heard of it so I Googled it and it turned out that it was going to be happening in India about the same I was going to be there. It also turned out that the Bombay Flying Club guys, whose work I am in love with, were going to be teaching. It was pretty much a done deal from there.
At the workshop I met a lot of amazing photographers and saw some work that really inspired me. I learned a lot about incorporating sound into multimedia from my teacher Henrik Kastenskov of BFC. It was really great to hear what he had to say about the changing media marketplace. It was a tough week and I really felt like I pushed myself the entire time. I was working frantically right up to the deadline to get my project done. It was a challenge for sure, but in the end I was really proud of what I managed to complete.
Miki Johnson: Tell me how you’ve diversified from what you were doing before to a lot of workshops and teaching.
Jack Picone: I was based in London in the ’80s and ’90s, and worked mostly for European magazines and the supplements for the UK papers, The Independent, the Observer, The Guardian; or the usual suspects in Germany, Spiegel and Stern; and in France, Le Republic and Liberation. In the ’90s, I covered about eight wars over a decade, including Yugoslavia and the breakup of Russia and conflict on the African continent. Then I lived in Tanzania for a year, and came here to Bangkok after that.
Those magazine assignments were my backbone when I was in London, and it was a much simpler existence. All I did was go off on assignment for them, or I would have a guarantee. Now I just let those assignments come to me by osmosis. I still get work trickling in from Germany, France, UK, and a bit from Australia, where I’m from. People ask me why I still do occasional assignments. I tell them: “When you go on assignments, it takes you to places and puts you in situations that you would never be in. You meet people you would never meet otherwise, and that’s good for your creative spirit and soul.”
I realized in the early 2000s that I would have to start diversifying because it wasn’t financially viable to continue as just a photographer. That’s when I started teaching photography: at other people’s workshops, for the World Press, or I’d get invited to universities to do workshops and critiques. Then I realized I really enjoyed teaching; it was interesting and it still involved photography. I kind of got the teaching bug. It’s quite electric when you can impart some experience and knowledge to people who want it, and then actually see them improving. So I started diversifying into teaching, at first other people’s workshops and then my own. I still do both, along with other things like fine-art exhibitions. Teaching, like photography in general, is not a very stable marketplace. It’s so mercurial, you can’t bank on it 100% either.
MJ: Walk me through a workshop week. Do you have help putting it together?
JP: It’s pretty much just me most of the time, but then about a month before the workshop starts, I bring people in on a freelance basis. For instance, the last big workshop, in Katmandu, I had someone doing the administration stuff and then I flew in a photographer from Australia who’s a friend of mine, Stephen Dupont, to work with me full time. Then I flew in about five other photographers as guest lecturers. Normally I just pay their air fare or their accommodation or do some sort of contract deal.
For the workshop, the students turn up and there’s an introduction. The first night the instructors will show some work to inspire the students. Then normally I give them a word, like “hope,” with a brief, something vague — they’re not meant to be spoon fed. Then they have to interpret the word, find their subject, and start shooting it.
We usually get into a pattern where they’ll go out and shoot early in the mornings or late in the afternoon when the light is best and work the other part of the day in our computer lab. We critique and edit in the afternoons, and then go into the night sessions, where we start showing their work and critiquing it in front of the other participants. And then, of course, each night is peppered with the photographers I fly in, who do a formal presentation each night. There’s a lot of stimulation.
Finally we critique and edit all their work from the week and then put together an A/V presentation that we project during the final night show. On that final night, because the workshops migrate, we will invite locals to come and see the show, so it’s a real community thing. Whatever country we hold the workshops in, we also give a couple places to local photographers who can’t afford the fee.
The best thing about the workshops is the cross-fertilization. And not just between the tutors and the participants, but among the participants themselves. They learn a lot from each other and from their own work — what they’re striving for and what they’re failing at and what they’re achieving. Lots of people from the workshops become life friends and stay in touch, with me and with each other. Some of them have gone on to be very successful, like Jean Chung and Richard Humphries. Jean was on one of my first students, in Laos, and she’s doing amazing things now, has won all sorts of awards.
There was another young guy, in Katmandu last time, named Solendra. He was basically a news photographer covering all the political problems in Nepal and Katmandu. And my course is very documentary, not news or hardcore photojournalism — although we will have photojournalist tutors because it’s a fluid edge between the two. The workshop was an epiphany for him because he discovered this documentary way of taking pictures, and he hasn’t stopped practicing it since he left. He’s so appreciative that he got the chance to be exposed to that, as well as a whole lot of other photographers.
That cross-cultural fertilization is very important, too. The local photographers are great to have on the workshops because a lot of the other students are mostly Western or European. The locals can help them out with local knowledge and help them really experience the local culture.
Over the years there’s been more than a few bird photographers who have said, “Look at Artie, he’s getting 15 people on a tour at $999 a person — do the math. And he does three tours a row in New Mexico. I can do that too.” But with the exception of people who really enjoy being around people, they pretty much all failed. It comes back to the principle of hard work. I think the most important thing to make a successful workshop is to put your heart and soul into it and to give a damn.
Ask yourself, “Am I a people person?” “Do I want to work 17 hours a day?” “Do I want to put every ounce of effort I have into finding a good situation for these people?” I’ve seen other instructors who will go to a spot that’s traditionally good, and if it’s terrible, they stay in the same spot and waste the folks’ time. On a typical morning at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, I often move the group up to five times in the first one-and-a-half hours. If you’re lazy, workshops are not for you. Likewise, if you don’t like people, you’re not all of a sudden going to become a people-person because you’re running a workshop.
I don’t know how the template for BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tours (IPTs) came to be, but they’re not much different now than when I ran the first workshop with one person. The formula came to me naturally: tell people what they will be doing, get up early and go photograph, help them in the field, and then review the images.
We still do an introduction on the first night. We show the students what we’re going to be photographing and talk about the various techniques that we will be using. The second evening we do critiques, and the third night we take a close look at composition. Each year we put more emphasis on the photography itself. We always find time for some Photoshop lessons. Many good photographers make their images look worse in Photoshop rather than better. That’s why we came up with the Digital Basics File, a PDF that we send by e-mail.
Originally we took as many as 15 people out, but now we’ve reduced the group size to 6-10 and raised the prices. It took me a long time to realize that if I take two groups for three days I have to do all the ground work twice. Now that I’ve started doing these longer trips there’s much less pressure with regards to the weather and the really great photo ops; I feel much more relaxed throughout the trip.
People always comment that I’m one of the few leaders who eats almost every meal with the students. Most of the big-name tour companies have professional leaders whose primary job is to open the door of the van. I have my laptop on and I’m teaching pretty much all the time except when we’re chewing. An IPT is pretty much total immersion.
My mother will ask me, “Are you going to retire?” And I say, “Ma, I love what I do, I love every second of it.” Even when I’m working 16-hours-a-day, I love it. People often ask if I take a vacation without a camera and a big lens, and I just laugh. Why would anyone do that if they’re doing what they love?
I think that most folks who are starting out in photography, whether they come from another career or not, their goal is to not have to go back to their first career. There was one guy who worked for me early on, he was working for IBM and they were offering him a buyout. And I said, “I’d take it in a heartbeat. If you can make it on your own, even for a year, that’s one year you didn’t have to wear a tie and sit in a cubicle. And now, 15 years later, he’s taking people all over the world teaching photography.
You gotta be yourself. You can fool people for a little bit, but not for long. I’m opinionated, and I’m not humble. Some folks are going to be rubbed the wrong way by that. (My people skills have improved dramatically over the past decade and I try never to be arrogant.) I like to say that 80% of the people love me and 20% hate me — nobody is neutral about me. And many of the 20% have never even met me. You gotta love that. It’s commonplace for people to say, “Oh my god, you went on a tour with Artie Morris? He is arrogant and he will push you out of the way to get a picture, he doesn’t care if you learn anything.” When someone asks, “Have you ever been on one of his trips?” the person always responds, “No, but that’s what I heard.” I never take it personally.
Call me nuts: I am one of those rare folks who would rather be out photographing with a group than be out by myself. I just love leading IPTs. (P.S. Most of my seven BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year-honored images were created while teaching.)
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.