A couple of weeks ago I had the extreme pleasure of being asked by my good friend Emilie Sommer to be a mentor at the Roots workshop in Cape Cod. I have been involved in another similar workshop, the Foundation workshop, for years. If you check out the blog archives you can read about my Foundation experience.
Well in a nut shell this was a photojournalism workshop for wedding photojournalists that have no journalism experience. I was honored to work with some of the best in the business as staff including my good friends Greg Gibson, a two-time Pulitzer prize winner, Em, Jennifer Domenick, and my newfound friend-Arnold Miller of Newsday and Vince DeWitt of the Cape Cod Times.
What a great week it was and what an amazing job Em did at putting this together. First of all she chose the BEST location. Cape Cod in July is just beautiful. She wanted this to have a campy feel so she put us all up in this amazing house built in the 1800’s with a tree swing, outdoor shower and the water just 10 feet away. Amazingly fun.
In the past I have tried to fully explain through use of my weak writing skills the purpose and results of these incredible workshops on both the students and the instructors like myself. Well this time I have decided to let others who are way more articulate than I explain it to you.
I give you Shyla. Shyla is such a wonderfully happy and free spirit. We had so much fun working together on her story and I just love her view of the world and life so I decided to take what she wrote from her blog and share it with you all. I just love teaching so much and find it so fulfilling I wanted you to hear it from a students perspective what this was all about.
“Last week I attended the Roots Workshop on beautiful Cape Cod. I have been to my share of workshops in my two years of biz but this was unique in both it’s mission and purpose. While I appreciate past workshops that were offered up by successful photographers sharing their craft in a group setting, this workshop was unique in that it focused on the Photographer developing their own craft. No packaging, marketing, sales etc. While that most certainly all has it’s place, it was not the focus of the last week.
Strictly photojournalism and developing that specific art.
Attendance for me was based on my quest to become a better photographer and ultimately a better storyteller. Who would have known it would change in me in ways that extended beyond the specified mission?
14 students and 5 mentors (hailing from prestigious platforms) made for an intimate setting of information osmosis. I would liken the experience to taking a class in improvisation. There are comedians with scripted performances and then there is Improv….entirely different. Perhaps they are simply the same foundational skill set except one is on steroids? Anyway, I liken my tendency towards fashiony photos to a scripted and controlled performance while Photojournalism is akin to improvisational styling. Since we are only as strong as our weakest link, I needed to be challenged in this area.
Day 1 was a welcome BBQ and group discussion of our strengths and weaknesses as a photographer. The mentors then chose our assignment based on our weaknesses. Since I explained that I love to interact with people and have a hard time sitting and observing, they gave me the toughest feat of all (for me anyway)…. shooting a golf course. Seriously? a Golf Course? How the heck am I supposed to interact with my subjects on a GOLF COURSE?
exactly the point.
Once the assignments were divvied up, our job was to go find a story.
[inner monologue: “a golf course? seriously? what kind of story will I find at a GOLF COURSE”]
Needless to say I was not too inspired. That seemed to be the theme running through the camp though. Assignments ranged from a Lobster Boat, to ice cream shop, a transgendered night club and even a nudist colony. (that story you definitely want to check out here) each designed to challenge our weaknesses and balance out our strengths.
So I go to the course… and had no direction in mind… found no real story… and I was finding myself to feel a little defeated..
Then through my interactions with course staff, I heard about little Jalen Griffen. Jalen is a 12 year old linksman who golfs every single day for the past 4 years, and is said to be the next Tiger Woods. This kid often beats the adults he is paired with.
That was it… I found my story!
Following him around for 3 days [in near silence, mind you] taught me so much. I found the praise to be in the process, not the finished product. Just like in life, they say it’s about the journey, not the destination… the same rings true for anything we study/practice diligently. The prize is in the daily discipline as Jalen was showing me (in non verbal ways).
To delve too deeply into all I learned would take too long, but like myself, I believe each and every one of the attendees learned more than photographical prowesses… proving that we are more than occupational artists. Who we are is our métier and everything we create shapes that.
This workshop my friends is well worth the investment…and I do not just speak of monetary investment but rather the investment in yourself and your craft. ”
Check out Shyla’s awesome picture story here. You also should go Eric laurits’ blog and read his account of his experience at the nudist colony. Masterfully written and more importantly masterfully photographed. Don’t miss it.
Be sure to go to http://www.rootsworkshop.com to see all the images from all the students picture stories from the week. Such inspiring work.
Here are some images I shot during the week as I was spending 13 hour days in and around the Cape visiting my many students in the field at their assignments.
All eyes on Greg during the opening night presentations.
Evan Bishop– shooting his assignment of a family of artists that live off the land.
This place is so beautiful. This is the view from the 150 year-old lighthouse on the golf course Shyla was assigned to.
The door of the original lighthouse.
Be the ball Shyla. Be the ball.
Long post I know. Thanks for letting me share.