Throughout the week of teaching during each of our workshops, all of the instructors show their work to the students. It is extremely inspirational as well as instructive. Not surprisingly, the students’ work often reflects the techniques seen in these slideshows.
I often feel at a disadvantage in this process, as the essence of my work is more about intimacy and sensitivity than technique. Admittedly, I use selective focus and movement-and-still in the same frame as signature motifs. Nevertheless, my images are really more about conveying feelings. It is therefore extremely gratifying to me to see that the students somehow get this message, as subtle as it is, and are able to capture the same feeling in their work.
I began my journey into photography in the summer of 2000 by taking workshops in Santa Fe. During one of those workshops, an instructor said that, while it’s not necessary to have a point of view in your photography, the work will be far better if there is one. When I looked at my work as it evolved over the years, I realized that I definitely had a point of view. I felt that the rural people living in the Third World who I photographed had a rich life, despite having no material wealth. I realized that money does not make you rich. This, of course, was in stark contrast to the life I had led in the finance business for thirty years.
In the Nicaragua workshop, I was lucky to get the assignment of bringing my group to an early childhood health center and pre-natal care facility. Similarly, in Bhutan, I brought my group to photograph disabled children, both at a center and in their homes. Both of these assignments are extremely delicate, and require great sensitivity by the young students.
Unlike other shooting days, where we photographed a carpentry school or an art center, I spent a good deal of time talking to my group about opening up their hearts, putting themselves in the positions of the families, staying vulnerable, feeling intimate to the people and situations and being empathetic. I did my best to communicate how I feel when I photograph.
Could I get through? Was I sufficiently competent and articulate (especially through a translator) to communicate these abstract feelings to young, beginning photography students?
At graduation, as I looked at the “Stories” slideshow, I had tears in my eyes. They had gotten the message, without a doubt. The images of the mothers, the mothers-to-be and the young children were wonderfully sensitive. They clearly showed the concern, the fear, the relationships and the loving care. I could not have been more proud of my students.
I never anticipated being a teacher. When I retired from the finance business almost 14 years ago, I had no idea that I would even become a photographer. I presumed I would simply continue with the charities with which I had become so involved. Who would have guessed that I would have museum tours, books, galleries, and be in important collections? But creating this workshop series to teach photography as a voice to students living in the Third World is by far the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
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