I took another street photography workshop recently. I really enjoy taking workshops. Workshops are such a great way to learn … Its very interesting to walk the streets with other street photographers and instructors and try to see what they see. I like that the instructors see things in a different way than I do, that they have different ideas and a different style … not that I really have a street style yet … I don’t spray and pray on the street but I’m not sure that I really have a style yet, either. There’s nothing better than walking the streets with an instructor who’s pointing out things out that s/he sees. This how you learn. The first 2 street workshops I took were very much like this. Walking the streets with the instructors was so informative. They would stop on the sidewalk and point out their “favorite corners” or say, if we stand here and look to the left you’ll see a person illuminated by great light as they approach the corner … They were pointing things out that I would have never seen. That’s why I love street workshops. The more photography and photographers that I can expose myself to, the better, the more I will learn.
Well, the last workshop I took was the least successful of the bunch. This is hard for me to write because I know the photographer is very talented and I know the education program that put this class on is very good as well … But something did not click with this workshop. I kept waiting for some instruction from the instructor. Any instruction, any interaction, any sign that the instructor was happy to be there and ready to impart some knowledge upon us who paid $125.00 for a few hours of “class.” What did we get? Well, first we went to a coffee shop where we stood around and waited for the instructor and a few students to drink coffee. Upon approaching the coffee shop, the instructor said “I’m turning you guys loose.” But we didn’t want to be turned loose, we wanted to walk the streets with the instructor and learn from him. To see what he sees, how he sees … If I wanted to go to Downtown L. A. and walk around, I can do that any time … and I do and it doesn’t cost me $125. So when the coffee was finished, we started walking … I was thinking to myself “Finally, this is what I was waiting for. Let’s go shoot in the streets with a pro photog and learn some shit.” But it just didn’t happen. We walked the streets and when the instructor saw a shot, or saw a “favorite corner” that he wanted someone to walk through for the right picture, he would tell us the “go on a head” and he’d catch up. How am I supposed to be exposed to a new way of seeing or thinking about street photography if I am being turned loose and told to “go on ahead?” Seriously! What the f*ck? Anyway, we walked the streets for a while and ended up at a pizza joint.
The pizza was good, the beer was good, but the instructor didn’t instruct. He said “Did everyone get at least 2 shots that they are happy with?” After asking that, I assumed he would want to see what his students were happy with. But he didn’t ask to see anyone’s shots. He didn’t ask the class to share shots with other class mates. He didn’t ask much of anything. The class mates were never even asked to introduce themselves to each other … There was a woman in the class who asked a lot of questions. Normally I would be annoyed by this, but this time, she was GREAT. She was asking things that the instructor should have already told us. Her questions were actually leading the class session and dragging the instructor through toe points that she (and the rest of the class) was interested in …
One of the ways this class was advertised and what attracted me to it was the focus on “chasing the light” “seeing light” and “the magic hour.” After pizza we hit the streets again, the sun was just beginning the sink below the buildings and I was waiting for the instructor to say SOMETHING about the “magic hour.” I knew it was approaching, but what am I supposed to do with it? What successes and failures had the instructor had with the magic hour that he could share with us? What’s so fucking great about the magic hour? Why is it called the magic hour? What does he look for, why? But we got nothing but a wrong turn toward Skid Row and a u-turn.
I did get a couple shots from the workshop that I like … nothing great. Nothing that I think will end up in my portfolio (once I put one together). But I credit the images I got to my experiences with the 2 previous street photography workshops … Not with this one.
Lastly, after taking the other 2 workshops, I could give you lists of things I learned. Ways my eyes were opened to different aspects of street photography, different methods … I wrote a blog entitled “what I learned” after one of them and the list is pretty long and it is knowledge I continue to draw upon and use … What did I learn in this workshop? Seriously? I learned that I had forgotten to put gaffers tape over the logos on my camera (this just makes the camera less conspicuous) and I learned a couple new streets in the DTLA area. But honestly, that’s it. Nothing concrete.
I have to say that I completed a survey for the sponsoring camera shop of this class and I told them what I thought. I got a reply. An explanation and a hardy THANK YOU for being honest and letting them know. I also got an offer of a free class from them in the upcoming months, when my schedule allows. So I have to say that I am pleased with the response I got. I am happy I was honest with them. I am happy that they acknowledged that this was a class in transition and they offered to make it right by giving me a new class … And, honestly, as much as I complained, I would take another class from the same instructor. Maybe he was having an off day. I know other photographers whose work and opinions I respect and they have said what a great class this instructor gave them … So I’m willing to try again … It can’t be any worse, can it?