This is a bit of a scary year for me. I am venturing out into the world of public speaking and photographer education for the very first time. Itâ€™s an interesting twist for me, because throughout my career I was always “the kid” or the “young guy” with a chip on my shoulder and something to prove.
Now, having, ummm…”matured” a little, itâ€™s a bit frightening to come to the realization that I can actually have a positive impact on other photographers, or that I actually might have something worthwhile to offer them!
Iâ€™ve always been a bit of a rebel in every job I ever had. In fact, I often joke with my friends that I am the Charles Barkley of wedding photography…you know, the old “I am not a role model” thing…so the whole idea of teaching wasnâ€™t a naturally occurring event in my brain!
Iâ€™ll be the first to admit that I have been very fortunate in my career. I was lucky to get my foot in the door as a green, inexperienced 18 year-old kid at a very prestigious newspaper. Once there I was extremely fortunate to be mentored by guys like Jim Erickson, Mike Sargent, Seny Norasingh, Gene Furr and Mark Atkinson, all of which went on to do great things.
Photographers, as a group, are very giving people. Throughout my 25 year career, I have always been amazed at the kindness and generosity shown to me by other photographers, some of which were often my fiercest competitors as well as great friends. Iâ€™ve come to the conclusion that itâ€™s finally time to give back a little.
It was good timing a few months ago when my friend Bill Holland of Holland Photo Arts called and asked me if I would be willing to participate as a team leader at the Foundation Workshop 5. The Foundation Workshop was created by former Dallas Morning News Photographer Huy Nguyen . The idea behind Foundation is to teach wedding photographers how to think like photojournalists. The format is similar to the Eddie Adams Workshop that budding photojournalists attend for inspiration and education from some of the biggest names in the business.
At Foundation, participants are grouped into teams, and each team has a team leader/instructor. Participants are each given an assignment, similar to a news assignment, and they have three days to shoot, edit and produce a picture story.
Now real newspaper photojournalists will laugh a bit here because they know very few newspapers will allow a photographer THREE DAYS to produce a story…but the idea here is to shoot, come back and edit with the team leader, then take what you learn and apply it the next day to hopefully improve. So…the first day the photographers go out on their assignment, then come back late in the afternoon for an editing session with their team leaders and other teammates. The team leader critiques the shoot and offers specific suggestions on how the photographer can improve.
The next day the photographer returns to finish the assignment and hopefully uses this newfound training to improve the story and bring it home. The real heart of this workshop are the marathon editing sessions where the work is laid out and dissected. Another valuable part of Foundation are the shooting coaches/mentors who actually go out in the field and help the participants overcome problems and obstacles while the assignment is in progress.
The photographers assigned to my team were all pretty strong shooters…Ande Aguilar from Houston, Joe Gidjunis from Salisbury, Md, Janine McClintock from Council Bluffs, Ia, Becca Spears from Kansas City and Tina Carter from Chicago. At first I wondered how much I could really help these people!
One difference about wedding photography and journalism is that journalists usually work on a staff of some kind, so they are around creative people on a daily basis who can provide feedback on their work. Wedding photographers, on the other hand, generally work in relative isolation with little very little feedback other than what they hear from clients. All the photographers on our team benefited tremendously from the daily feedback and editing sessions. I want to give a special shout out to my friend Jennifer Domenick who was the co-lead on our team and was my right arm for the week! Jennifer kept me in line and moved us all along when things bogged down.
You can to the workshop website and see all of the final presentations created by the teams and participants. There is also a cool blog with some fun pictures from the week.
One fun thing our team did with the final presentations was to include an audio clip of the photographer talking about the assignment and their impressions from the week. You can view them at the end of this message below from a link off of SimplePhotoTV.
Here are a few additional images from the week:
Faculty and Attendees – Photo by Sergio
Becca Spears Gets the Angle on Her Assignment – Photo by Brooks Whittington
Becca Chasing Down the Shadows – Photo by David Murray
Group edit in my room. The first night we went until 530am. The second night until 3am.
Photo by Sergio
Here are our team presentations with voiceovers by the photographers:
Tina’s assignment was to photograph a lady who runs a dog agility training center.
Joe’s assignment was to photograph an shelter for exotic animals that have been abandoned or mistreated.
Becca was assigned to photograph a new skate park.
Ande was assigned to photograph an equestrian center.
Janine had two assignments, one was a firestation, and the other was a high school cosmetology class.
The firestation story is below:
Foundation was such a blast Iâ€™ve already committed to return as a team leader for Foundation 6. FW6 will be held February 25-28, 2008, probably in Dallas. Hope to see you there.