Two amazing weeks in Texas teaching photojournalism

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About six years ago I was given the chance to be a team leader at the Foundation Workshop in Texas teaching the ways of photojournalism to wedding photographers.  Little did I know how much it would not only teach me but more importantly change me and my life.

Huy Nguyen, the founder, started this workshop that is now known as the mother of all workshops for wedding photographers 11 years ago.  I was a student at Foundation 2 and have been on staff ever since.  Year after year this workshop is something I look forward to.  Not only because I get to see all of my photo family but it gives me great pleasure helping  photographers fine tune their craft.  However, this workshop is so much more than just a photography workshop.  It seriously changes lives and creates bonds few have ever experienced.  I would not be the photographer or the person I am today without the Foundation Workshop.  To many that have not experienced it they simply find it hard to understand how a photography workshop can change lives.  Let me tell it this one does.  This workshop gets to the foundation of what makes photojournalism work.  The human condition.  Photojournalism is all about life, people, reality and how all of those wonderful things work together to tell stories.  We teach the art of telling stories with pictures but more often than not students are found learning more about themselves than the photos they are making.  Being able to overcome a personal fear or roadblock allows these photographers to tap into their true potential as an artist.  I had the pleasure of leading two teams of six students this year in Glen Rose, Texas.  It was a challenging two weeks but worth every hour of sleep lost, every tear, and every minute missing my family.  Every February I can’t wait to get recharged about photojournalism and more importantly re-inspired for the coming year.  What these students accomplish every year never ceases to blow my mind.

None of this would be remotely possible without the loving family of Foundation Workshop.  The staff is amazing every year and I could not survive without such people giving it their all.  So a huge thank you to my staff that are not only great talented people but also close friends of mine.  Thank you Janine McClintok, Kirsten Lewis, Erwin Darmali, Elizabeth Lloyd, Ben and Erin Chrisman.

So to celebrate the success of those 12 inspiring new friends of mine I give you my favorite photo from each student.

First off is Chris Werner.  I was amused and amazed by Chris’ witty humor all week and equally impressed how he was able to incorporate that part of him in his photos of a local barber/beauty shop.  I love this photo he made of an elderly woman waiting for her hair to dry.

Barber Shop


Student McKenzie Ring‘s amazing shot at a chocolate shop in Hico, Texas.  I was so proud of her determination to fight through the long days of seemingly mundane processes making chocolate.  This image among others was her reward.

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Mary McHenry was given a very challenging assignment to cover the local animal control unit.  I was very impressed with her ability to mentally handle documenting such a sensitive topic as euthanasia.  She not only did it but she did it with grace and truth.  I love this image and how it really tells a story of now these officers handle these animals with care as seen through Mary’s eyes.

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Timothy Mak, wins the award for most determined for the week.  His task was to document a local restaurant.  He literally worked on this image trying to make it come together for two straight days.  I was so impressed with not only his vision but his tenacity to stick with it till it worked and it did.

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 Cory Ryan spent her two days at the Revolver Brewery.  Finding moments in this place was difficult.  The guys here are great but while doing their work they are like robots.  Cory found that the in between moments are when they show their humanity.  I love this photo showing how hard these work.  I chose it because of how hard Cory worked getting it.

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 Wendy Gibson has such a huge heart.  She spent her two days with a young man that runs a dairy farm by himself.  I love this image as it shows her compassion for her subject and how hard it is to not only be a farmer but a teenage farmer at that.  She is an inspiration in following your dreams.

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Week two saw all of my new friends from FW11a leave only to be replaced by 6 new students and friends for FW11b.

Jaqueline Dersjant joined us all the way from Amsterdam and was fighting total exhaustion from some serious jet lag.  Her determination to be the best she can be was undeniable.  Her assignment was to follow Blackie who works on a ranch.  I love this image of Blackie feeding the cows early in the morning.

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Jesse Bachmann was not having a good start to the week when his flight from Canada was cancelled due the bad storm that hit the east coast.  He finally made it to Texas and never let anything slow him down.  Not even losing his license.  His assignment was to cover the local newspaper and I was so impressed with his determination even in the face of such adversity.

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Sarah Kang was a returning student to Foundation and was challenged with finding her own assignment.  She chose what appeared to be an exciting assignment following the local sheriff.  Instead she found herself spending two days in a field watching men shoot guns.  She really pulled through and was rewarded with some well crafted images showing all sides of her subject.  I was impressed with her ability to push herself out of her comfort zone and gain access into this man’s life.

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Also a returning student was Anna- Karin Lukash.  She chose to document a local horse cutting competition.  Her challenge was to wander the grounds for two days making the best compositional images she could.  What I love about Anna is her raw artistic talent.  Unlike the rest of us Anna is not a full time photographer so therefore not able to really practice her craft as much.  I loved the way she quietly wandered and made a very sophisticated set of images.  Like Timothy she worked for two days to get this shot just like she wanted.

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 Leo Timoshuk gets the award for week two for most ambitious and most fearless.  He worked his tail off documenting a local horse ferrer.  This guy works hard for 10 plus hours a day fabricating and installing horse shoes.  Leo routinely got right in the action not caring what could happen to him or  his camera gear.  Sparks, an angry horse, and fire never stopped him from getting what he wanted.  It was impressive.

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Finally we have Michelle Ross.  It was nice having a fellow Missourian on the team for week 2.  Michelle gave it her all at her assignment covering the brewery.  To say she literally saw the light is understatement.  She pushed herself out of her comfort zone of being scared of using harsh light and came out the other side with new eyes.  It was awesome.

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Such an amazing two weeks.  I leave you with a few images I made as I was either out in the field mentoring or hanging out at the hotel.

Here is Cory doing what it takes to get the angle.

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Love this shot of Mary as she concentrates on finding the best composition while perched atop a ladder.

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The result is hard work but worth it.

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Leo risking it all for the best angle.

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Michelle patiently waits for the moment.

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My good friend and fellow team leader David Murray in the evening light of Texas.

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Our fearless coordinator extraordinaire Kelly Rashka.  She is the glue.

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My good friend and fellow leader Sergio and mentor David Pullum spending time with a student in the field.

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Super mentor Erwin Darmali spreading some wisdom.

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Finally, my friend Ben Chrisman at the wheel going over a students work during the nighttime critique.

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Next year I have to go for a lifetime experience. Thank you for sharing such an inspiration post.

I hope the future allows me to do this. Great post Tyler.

love it all. Great words, great photos!

You were an amazing teacher! I’ll always be indebted.

This is such an inspiring post. Thank you guys for doing what you do:-)

A privilege and a joy to have been taught by you. Thank you for everything Tyler!

[…] Huy and the other amazing talent that helps make it one of the best workshops out there. Check out Tyler Wirken ‘s blog post, it really sums up the entire workshop very […]

man what an amazing set of photographs and photographers!

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