On Workshops

Starting Photography 2

C. Morris et al, 2017. Starting Photography

Exhibitions and publications share something in common – they both introduce work authored by the artist to an audience in a potentially remote manner.

Workshops, on the other hand, bring the artist and his or her work into direct contact with an audience.

Furthermore, exhibitions and publications both introduce an audience to an outcome – a resolved body of work. Workshops, however, involve the audience in the creative process – the audience is essentially participatory – to the mutual benefit of both the artist and the participants.

I am in the process of producing a workshop which covers the basics of food photography.

In the interim, I was presented with the opportunity to deliver a workshop covering the basic concepts of the photographic process.

My daughter has shown a passing interest in photography over the years. She asked if I would show her, together with a small number of her friends, how to use a camera.

The requirements of this group would clearly be very different to the needs of a group of adults taking part in a workshop introducing the basics of food photography on a fee-paying basis.

In terms of duration, the workshop was scheduled to cover a four-hour timeslot: sufficient to cover all the necessary concepts, but not so long that it would become boring or fatiguing.

The age range of the group was 11 to 12 and consequently content was delivered through a combination of verbal presentation supported by handouts which were designed to be heavily illustrated with minimum written content allowing the intended message to be accessed quickly and easily and without the need to read large chunks of text impeding the flow of the workshop.

A group size of four allowed me to spend time with each participant on an individual basis and to answer any individual questions, whilst being a good size to generate lively discussion with each participant able to contribute equally. The small group size was easily accommodated in a home studio. Equipment was a problem for this group initially, in a way that it might not be for fee-paying adults bringing their own cameras, but it was relatively easy to borrow three cameras from other family members.

Group focus was established by defining and communicating the objectives for the workshop at an early stage.

Lunch was taken together as a group, this time provided an additional period for reflection, and discussion of workshop content and ideas for the hands-on activity.

Each participant was presented with a small pack which contained the handouts previously described. The images which were generated by the hands on practical towards the end of the workshop are being printed out and framed as a keepsake.

Black Stone

C. Morris, 2017. Black Stone

Black Stone was an image taken by my daughter during the practical part of the workshop. In addition to setting up the camera and the still life, she experimented with basic composition and in the creative use of the camera settings to produce a particular aesthetic. She also understood the relevance of using visual imaging to tell a story – the stones she used in this image are quite special to her, having been collected whilst on a nature trail with one of her friends during the summer holiday. Finally, the option of producing images in black and white was made available to the group. My daughter chose to do this because she felt that this made the black stone appear a deeper and richer black.

She is quite rightly pleased with this image.

Aside from the images, what did everyone take away?

Each participant made excellent use of the opportunity to practice the theory presented during the earlier art of the workshop by setting up a small table top still life using objects of their own choosing. Additionally, they felt that the workshop was a fun activity, something different.

The image Starting Photography was developed as a group project, with all group members making a valued contribution – my involvement being limited to operating the shutter.

From a personal point of view, the workshop was an ideal dummy run to test how well my preparations for a workshop involving fee-paying participants have been made to date.

Clearly some aspects of the two workshops differ considerably, for example, the group weren’t interested in an overview of photographic equipment in the way that an adult audience of aspiring food photographers might be. But, in reality, I think there will always be an element of a workshop which will need some degree of tailoring to suit the needs of the participants if the workshop is to be effective.

I think workshops are an extremely valuable addition to my repertoire as a professional photographer, enabling me to engage with an audience, to test out ideas and receive immediate feedback with real-time team-orientated problem-solving.

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