I’ve taught at the Maine Media Workshops for almost 30 years, and I always love sharing my thoughts and experiences after every summer workshop. Last week, I finished teaching this year’s workshop, “Illusions: Extending Vision” which was offered entirely online through Zoom and a forum based web platform through my own site. Although I’ve tutored many students individually in a similar fashion, this was the first time for me as an instructor hosting such a class, and I have to say, the experience was WONDERFUL!
The class sold out and was a major success, on every level. My students were excellent and so engaged with their work and the process. We were able to have more time to tackle our work together, and the forum platform allowed us to share work, thoughts, ideas and discussions throughout the course. Because of the online format, it was easy to conduct both group and individual critiques.
I couldn’t be happier with the growth and tremendous effort my students displayed, and I’m thrilled to share this video compilation of everyone’s final images. Congratulations to you all, and I’m looking forward to teaching another class in this format again soon!
I do believe that Norway is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The light is special. I am writing this from Provincetown – known for its gorgeous and spectacular light that Joel Meyerowitz so beautifully articulated in his book Cape Light. Norway’s light has a similar luminosity, and a clarity that makes me blink a lot. Being there a week before the summer solstice and therefor the “midnight sun” gave me almost 24 hours a day to enjoy it.
It was a long flight with many magical moments, and a stopover in Oslo gave us time to go to the Munch museum – one of my long time heroes. Here is an inspiring thought from him:
On to Inderoy and the lovely Nord Photography Workshops. The most spectacular part of the trip was not the light, fjords, and breathtaking landscapes – it was the people. For the second year I taught a workshop at Nord Photography in Inderoy and had, for the second year in a row, a group of wonderful students with a lovely combination of fun and seriousness.I thought shooting in water on our first day would be too much so Elisabeth, who can do anything, get anything etc, found us an empty pool!
We did advance to a pool with water for the last two days. Not just a pool, an infinity pool overlooking a fjord. Breathtaking view and breathtaking freezing cold water and air. But Norwegians are hardy stock as they express their pride in their Viking heritage.
Wearing a bag of rocks to keep her from floating, the intrepid Sheila Alnes pushes her vision!
Our goal was to learn to use the camera as a tool to discover new ways of looking at and interpreting the human form. The subject the human form, the nude, is the most popular subject throughout the history of art. I encourage an intuitive visual approach in photographing the body. This may sound simple but is extremely hard to do but each of my students embraced this notion. While everyone worked extremely hard, they managed to take a playful attitude towards their visual growth and development, photographing as a means to explore and enlighten.
I could not be more proud of the work my students did in this workshop!
Last month, I had the opportunity to teach a workshop in Norway with NORDphotography entitled “The Nude As Form”, and I loved every minute of it. Upon arriving, my dear friend Jill Enfield was on her way out after teaching a workshop the week before mine. We arranged to meet up for coffee at the airport for a quick visit between intersecting flights, and it set the tone for a wonderful trip.
I found the Norwegian people to be warm and welcoming, and was immediately comfortable from the start. I also found it to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. The light was simply spectacular, especially in Inderøy, which is where the workshop took place. Norway is one of several regions that plays witness to a natural phenomenon called the midnight sun, in which the sun is still visible at midnight. Besides making it daylight at an absurd hour, it contributes to magnificent natural light throughout the day. Although we missed the midnight sun on our first night due to rain, my students and I eventually managed to stay awake, – albeit hopped up on wine – to catch it another night and it was truly a bizarre but stunning sight.
Here’s some of us after our successful attempt at catching the midnight sun- taken at midnight in broad daylight:
The workshop took place at SAGA in Inderøy, which is built over a fjord – a deep valley or inlet created by glacial erosion. The founder of NORDphotography, Elisabeth Aanes, converted an old sawmill into a workshop center, complete with a photography studio, fine art gallery, and accommodations. When it is not acting as a workshop center, SAGA is a hotel. This enabled all of us to stay in the same place, eating family-style breakfast and lunch at a large table. Elisabeth proved to be the perfect host- despite being upset with my aversion to eating fish, she managed to cook exquisite meals and meet everyone’s dietary needs. Every evening, the students and I would walk into town to eat at the local pub, sitting on a deck that overlooked the fjord.
My students were wonderful and a delight to work with. As with my other workshops in photographing the nude, our goal was to learn to use the camera as a tool to discover new ways of looking at and interpreting the human form. I encourage an intuitive visual approach in photographing the body, and each of my students embraced this notion. While everyone worked extremely hard, they managed to take a playful attitude towards their visual growth and development, photographing as a means to explore and enlighten.
The images they produced were breathtaking and pushed their work to entirely new levels, and I could not be happier with how far each of them progressed in our short time together. NORDphotography put together an excellent slideshow of all the students work, and I’m happy to share it here:
Thanks again to NORDphotography and to Elisabeth Aanes’ hospitality! I look forward to returning to beautiful Norway next year!
On Sunday, May 22, Juniper Workshops featured a webinar with Ben Long and myself using WebEx conferencing technology to create a virtual classroom for hosting an in depth photo critique session. Although I’ve previously tutored students one-on-one using FaceTime, Skype, and Dropbox, this was the first time I’ve met with a group over the internet to offer feedback, and I found it to be extremely effective.
There were 8 participants total, consisting of 5 students, Ben and myself, and Joanna, a moderator from Juniper Workshops. We began the webinar using a Keynote to introduce and discuss the nature and purpose of critiques. Starting off by declaring that they are first and foremost nothing to be afraid of, I found a wonderfully effective font to use to be sure to get this point across…
All joking aside, we explained how the critique is NOT a place for value judgements, but rather a method for acquiring feedback to build visual awareness, discover potential directions, and enhance understanding of your images. This kind of feedback is crucial to your development as an artist, but can often be difficult to find- while words of encouragement from friends and family may be intended to support you, they rarely provide concrete information about your images and your work. The value of an in depth critique can show you not only how to resolve an image, but area’s to improve and where to go next in your creative process.
Seeing another artist being critiqued can also be a valuable and insightful experience in and of itself. On Sunday, students could observe everyone else’s critique, although Ben and I engaged everyone individually. One of the things I appreciate most about working with Ben is that while we agree on a lot of things, we often have different attitudes and approaches in resolving an image, which provides students with different levels of understanding and options for moving forward. Each student presented 2 images, and we spent about 5-10 mins thoroughly discussing each image. Through the WebEx platform, we were able to be very precise in pointing things out to show what we were talking about, and I found it to be a wonderful way to communicate.
I was so pleased with how the online critique turned out. Everyone seemed to find it very productive and to come out of the experience with greater enthusiasm and comprehension of their work. We have already begun planning for the next webinar session, and will keep everyone posted on details as they develop!
The Juniper Workshops promote an interdisciplinary approach, encouraging students “to go beyond simply capturing pretty images. Our students learn to go deeper into their subjects to produce a body of work that expresses more than just surface imagery. As we push students to go beyond the expected image they learn not only the craft of photography, but how to see deeper into their subjects.”
Situated in the heart of Tuscany, the Florence workshops are comprised of four complementary workshops. The structure is a little bit different than what I’m used to, specifically that I’ll be teaching alongside three other instructors, including Paul Taggart, Regina Saisi, and my dear friend Ben Long. Although we will each have our own specific workshop, class time will be spent with all four of us. There will also be presentations, exercises and critiques that will involve the entire student body, providing the opportunity to mingle with students from the other classes. Ben and I have taught together in the past, including at the Oklahoma Arts Institute Workshops, as well as through the award winning online instructional video library, lynda.com. I think working alongside one another and teaching in this format will be an exciting and effective way to push students to the next level in their work, and I’m really looking forward to it!
That may sound crazy, but consider this: Our vision is often limited by our expectation of what we think we should see instead of what is actually in front of us. Our brains guide our vision and while that guidance allows us to move quickly through a complex visual world, the brain’s interference can be a real hindrance to the process of photography. The fact that we see what we expect to see can inevitably leave us feeling like we’re making the same image over and over. The fix for that is to learn to see the world differently.
In this workshop we will learn that what you photograph is not as important as how you photograph it. Through exercises, assignments, and discussions, you will learn to use your camera as a tool to discover new ways of looking at and experiencing the world around you. Instead of thinking about what makes the best shot and being in control, we will learn to develop an intuitive visual approach in our work, trusting in our eyes to guide us through shooting. Working in a supportive environment, we will emphasize process is over product, while encouraging playfulness, and exploring the idea of mistakes as pathways to discovery. This class is suitable for all levels, though a working knowledge of your digital camera is important.
From the Juniper website: “Juniper Workshops offers unique photography workshops with an emphasis on adventure around the world. Like any workshop, we will help students find the best photos, but we believe that good photo instruction requires something more. Because the best photographs tell stories, we push our students to go beyond simply capturing pretty images. Our students learn to go deeper into their subjects to produce a body of work that expresses more than just surface imagery. As we push students to go beyond the expected image they learn not only the craft of photography, but how to see deeper into their subjects.”
Last week’s Interdisciplinary Retreat with the MFA program at the Maine Media Workshops & College was so intense, so completely chock full of enlightening discourse and insightful discussions, that my brain hurts from thinking so hard. I’m not sure I’ve been able to actually think ever since… I fear I may have sprained my brain.
It was, in short, a fantastic time.
For three and a half days, experts from a variety of fields gathered to critique the work of MMW+C students, offering feedback from a diverse range of disciplines including photography, filmmaking, writing, and painting. Each student received a nearly hour long crit, with incredibly engaging and profound conversations arising from the many different points of view on hand. Beginning at 8:30 or 9am, every day was so full that our lunch and dinner hours grew progressively shorter and shorter, although the food was- as always- utterly fabulous.
The students work this year was particularly compelling, and they all received critiques with openness and eagerness. Having worked with many of the students in the past, I loved reconnecting with everyone and was impressed by how much their work had improved. Carol Eisenberg, who I’ve been mentoring for some time, exhibited tremendous evolution in her images. Since we primarily meet over Facetime/Skype/etc, it was wonderful to see her images printed and hung on the wall.
Another student, Joe Mullan, had been a student of mine through the mentorship program offered by the MMW+C, and is graduating with his MFA degree this fall. During his thesis defense, I made a comment which inspired him to stand up for himself and question me in return. When I responded by saying that in all the time we’ve worked together he’d never spoken to me that way, the whole place erupted in laughter, and we all agreed that it was a sure sign that he is ready to graduate.
Anna LaBenz, a student whose work I critiqued two years prior, presented work that had considerably improved. My goal in offering feedback is to look at the images and express what is and isn’t working, and how I “read” the photograph from an objective standpoint, never to intentionally offend or hurt anyone. Anna found the critique I gave her years ago to be somewhat severe, however, and it motivated her to progress. This year, she stated that she was “really glad Connie is here, because two years ago she gave me a harsh critique, and I said to myself ‘I’m gonna show that woman'”! I replied by saying “You just did”, and everyone cheered and roared as an almost celebration of how far she had truly come.
It was wonderful to be working with the Maine Media Workshops again, as it always is. Over so many years, I have developed a sincere fondness for the school, it’s supportive environment, and the goodwill displayed by the faculty and staff towards the students. Everyone is enabled to go beyond what they think they are capable of and it is extremely rewarding for me to be a part of. The opportunity to work alongside the other visiting faculty was truly an illuminating experience, and all of the students presented innovative, highly sophisticated work. Bestor Cram, executive producer and creative director of Northern Light Productions who was the other visiting artist, summed up the experience beautifully:
“This years MFA retreat experience for me as a visiting faculty member was a powerful reminder of the capacity for art to be transformative. I am impressed by the culture you — the faculty and students — have created that supports the growth of individual creativity as a discipline that emerges from a determined pursuit of self realization, and a recognition that boundaries are to be crossed.”
Many thanks to MMW+C for all of their support and hospitality, and CONGRATULATIONS to Joe Mullan and Rob Skeoch on graduating with their MFA degrees- you both worked extremely hard and have earned it!
I’ll be heading up to Maine next week for another visit to the Maine Media Workshops & College for a 5 day Interdisciplinary Retreat with the MFA program. This intensive program offers students the opportunity to be critiqued by experts in a variety of fields and disciplines, including photography, filmmaking, writing, and even history.
Getting feedback from others is a valuable asset to the creative process. It can help us to see our work with fresh eyes, reveal potential directions, and understand our work more objectively. When the feedback is from artists working outside our field, it can offer unique insights from an entirely different perspective. The point of view from someone working in a different medium can inform and elevate our work, opening doors we would otherwise not recognize or know existed.
Working alongside everyone at the MMW+C MFA retreats is an exhilarating experience and opens my mind to new approaches. It is a wonderful opportunity not only for the MFA students, but for the artists and professionals working with them, and I’m looking forward to being a part of it again. The folks at MMW+C recently covered the upcoming retreat in their E-Newsletter, which I thought I’d share here on the blog.
See you in Maine!
Next week, our MFA students will return to Rockport for the second of two annual retreats. It’s always thrilling for us to see how their projects evolve after months of synthesizing feedback from mentors, instructors, and peers. Equally exciting is the addition of this term’s guest faculty members, fine art photographer Connie Imboden and documentary cinematographer Bestor Cram. Both bring rich and divergent skill sets to share with this cohort of artists, who represent a similarly diverse range of talents and interests. Bringing these photographers, filmmakers, and multimedia artists together for a week of intense learning is a catalyst for fresh creative insight, and it’s something our students often credit for pushing their work to the next level.
Led by our core MFA faculty members who work with candidates throughout the year, our retreats always feature a new pair of guest faculty members to provide fresh professional perspective on both photography and filmmaking. These interdisciplinary conversations are often some of the most powerful elements of the retreat. Connie, for example, explained how much she appreciates a filmmaker’s perspective of photography. “I love hearing from a filmmaker’s point of view about composition in a still image because they think about it differently than still photographers,” Connie explained. “Their concerns with time, movement, and what happens next are reflected in their attention to composition.”
Bestor added that when it comes to filmmaking, bringing in different perspectives is also just a sign of the times, since technology has opened filmmaking to a wide variety of new participants. “Filmmakers today are musicians, rock climbers, graphic artists, skate boarders, painters, linguists, photographers, soldiers, writers, divers, cooks, teachers – the list is endless,” he said. “What has happened is a uniting of many interests into the common goal of visual storytelling.”
Connie and Bestor are representative of the caliber of talent that lead our MFA retreats, a key component to this three-year, low-residency program. Like them, our core faculty members and mentors are accomplished professionals and internationally recognized luminaries active in their artistic practices. With students working independently and guided from afar for much of the year, face time with these master artists takes on a heightened significance and results in creatively powerful days for the students.
MFA candidate Anna LaBenz is a photographer who had specialized in self-portraits and landscapes before seeking out our program. Since then, she has branched out to sound scape, prints-on-fabric installations, and unconventional book forms. “For years I fought my instinctual impulses because they did not fit with the work I saw being made by my peers,” Anna said. “After starting the program my mentor advised me to go out and respond to the world around me, to let my camera show the way. My work has evolved from prints on a wall to beautiful installations that feel like compartments of memory.” Anna said working with high-caliber artists from different disciplines has not only pushed her to try new things, but has also given her work more spark and breadth. “Having artists from different genres working together creates an inspirational, exciting, and creative environment,” Anna said. “It breaks down the barriers that different genres can put up around themselves, allowing for greater exploration.”
Connie also noted that just as photographers can benefit from a filmmaker’s critique, the reverse is also true. “For me, the challenge of critiquing a film can be exciting in seeing how my own visual sensitivities translate to a different medium, and how we each have the opportunity to transcend the limitations of our different disciplines to broaden our outlooks,” she explained.
That is the spirit behind the retreat, Bestor says, to broaden horizons and push artists into new frontiers that are now more open for exploration than ever before. “Our world is no longer linear but involves often interactive non-linear storytelling, bringing our audience into our storytelling space to participate, not just consume,” he said. “We never stop cooking with new recipes. We are hungry for more than food. And we are starved for new ways to prepare it.”
My annual trip up to Rockport to teach at the Maine Media Workshops always feels like coming home.I have many special memories, such as being served lobster by Arnold Newman – who was in line before me and, picking up his lobster, turned to me and gallantly offered it.A thrill I still hold dear.The first workshop I ever taught at the MMW I had a great teaching assistant named Elizabeth Greenberg, who is now the vice president for academic affairs and a dear friend. Yes, I have been teaching there a long time.
This year, my week teaching in Maine FLEW by! We work extremely hard for a solid week, but we also know how to have a good time….
Our frequent visits to Graffam’s shack proved that their famous lobster roll was just as I remembered it – PHENOMENAL.
The karaoke tradition at Cuzzy’s on Thursday night was as raucous as ever.Our song this year was Blowin’ in the Wind – and if I do say so myself, we nailed it. And the Friday night slide show, a celebration featuring the work from all the workshops running that week, was very impressive.I felt quite proud of our class and walked around campus the next day all puffed up!
…were remarkable as ever! I am always amazed to find that teaching a workshop at MMW every year centering around photographing the nude can consistently yield images that are surprising and new. It just goes to show that it’s truly not what you photograph, but how you photograph that is of value! The students were dedicated, devoted to making their imagery the best it could be, and open to trying a different approach.Willing to leave their “safe place” behind with the daily assignments I gave them, they pushed themselves and me.In other words, they were the best students a teacher can ask for!
One thing that was new this year was being interviewed by the folks at the Maine Media Workshops, who did a fantastic job putting together a brief bio video on yours truly. It highlights my work and features me rambling on about creative process, exploration, intuition, and all that good stuff. Despite shooting it at the end of an exhausting week of teaching, I could not be happier with the result!
I always feel like I can never thank the folks at MMW enough for all the hard work, generous support, and wonderful hosting they provide every year. I am forever grateful and look forward to the Workshops every year, and so from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!
And of course – a very special thank you to my dedicated students in 2015 – Carol Chu, Sanja Matonickin, Peter S., and Heather Velez! I have been just as eager to share the excellent work you did as I am to share my own, and I hope to see more of your images in the future!
By the end of this workshop, you will see the world differently.OK, so that sounds crazy, but consider this: Our vision is so often limited by what we know that we see what we expect to see instead of what is actually in front of us. This can be particularly challenging to us as photographers; we might try approaching new subject matter, or using different photographic techniques, but inevitably feel like we’re making the same image over and over. That’s where this workshop comes in.We will learn that it is not what you photograph, but how you photograph that is important. Through exercises, assignments, and discussions, the goal of this workshop is to learn to use the camera as a tool to discover new ways of looking at and experiencing the world around us. Instead of thinking things through and being in control, we will learn to develop an intuitive visual approach in our work, trusting in our eyes to guide us.
Last year’s students were as exceptional as ever, and produced some incredible images that really illustrate what it means to see graphically:
The Authentic Encounter is less than two months away on July 5 – July 10 at The Fine Arts Work Center at 24 Pearl Street, Provincetown MA 02657
This workshop has always been very special for me, and every year I look forward to the opportunity to work with students on tackling the challenging and complicated task of photographing the human form. The body has been the most popular and most used subject throughout the history of art since ancient and prehistoric times. It has been used as a vehicle for expressing the most profound emotions – love, sorrow, anger, ecstasy, sex. It is a powerful subject that can force us to confront ourselves and how we see the body; our reactions, our discomfort, or our attraction. But in order to do so, we must free ourselves of the predetermined notions we have established when interpreting the human form.
In 2014, I was impressed with how quickly my students discovered new ways of looking at the human body, pushing themselves to new levels of seeing and exploring an intuitive approach in photographing the nude:
You could not ask for a better time of the year to be in scenic Rockport Maine! The Inspirational Nude takes place July 26 – August 1, at The Maine Media Workshops, 70 Camden St, Rockport ME 04856
Similar to The Inspirational Nude workshop in Maine, this two day course emphasizes an intuitive approach in photographing the nude in order to encourage new ways of seeing this classic subject. Artists have always used the nude figure to explore the surreal and the natural, as well as our spiritual and psychological lives. In this workshop, you will be encouraged to explore the figure for its beauty, complexity, and simplicity. Whether you regularly photograph the nude, are new to the figure, or feel stuck and just need a push to get back into photography, this class will deliver a burst of energy, new methods, direction, and clarity.
Using the Nude to See In A New Way will be August 22 – 23, and will include a public lecture at 7:30pm on the 22nd, at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, 59 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY 12498
Last week ended another great week at the Maine Media Workshops. As always, this was my favorite week of teaching throughout the year. Maine is beautiful, the weather is gorgeous this time of year, the lobster is delicious, and the students the workshop attracts are always wonderful.
This year, my class comprised of six motivated and responsive students who pushed me to push them to a new level, which I find brings out the best in me as a teacher. We had very engaging and challenging discussions about originality, authentic seeing, and how to photograph such a popular and controversial subject as the human body. We talked about the multitude of vulnerabilities for both the model and the photographer, and how to look beyond the “concept” of the figure to see it in a new way. My students responded very quickly to the assignments, producing work that was outstanding and it was nothing short of impressive to see how far everyone had progressed in just one week.
Every year at Maine Media, the week ends with a closing celebration featuring the best videos and slides of the work all of the classes produced. I was so proud and delighted with my students work, and I’m happy to share some of the work featured in the Friday slide show here:
This year was the 40th anniversary of the Maine Media Workshops, reminding me that I’d been there for the 20th and 30th as well. Through all these years I look forward to this workshop with excitement and anticipation, and I can’t wait to see what the 50th anniversary will bring!
Thanks to the folks at MMW for all the beautiful memories and for keeping me around year after year, and a very special thank you to my class! You were all truly wonderful to work with and I can’t wait to see more of your work in the future!