Fawn Potash & Danielle Correia : Encaustics & Photography 2

The second of our two encaustics workshops was just as jam packed and productive as the first! We again had a full class and lots of students who were eager to get their hands into wax. Since my first encaustics blog post was so lengthy, I thought I would keep this one less full of words and more full of pictures...as well as focus on the cyanotype processes that we practiced. We began with a group demonstration on a large sensitized sheet. Fawn brought a ton of her little boy's toys along for us to scatter all over the surface. The sheet starts out light green and turns dark with sun exposure.

Once the sheet is exposed, you simply develop it in water. It turns from the dark green to a beautiful cyan.

Here is our final sheet...

Then we moved on to digital negatives and printing on sensitized paper.

The best part of cyanotypes is that you can do them wherever you want - it's so nice to be able to develop prints outside! The process is chemical-free, too, so it's easy to do with kids.

(We also found these great nametags!)

Fawn demonstrating hand coloring.

Our results! This class got really creative with toning and came up with some really well exposed final products!


Alex Webb & Rebecca Norris Webb : In the Street / Personal Photojournalism

The weekend with the Webb’s was an extremely full one! We had a full 15-student class, all 4 interns, 2 instructors, and Liz together for the entire weekend. For such an inspiring class, it was really nice to have everyone together instead of split up in a bunch of different directions.

Alex and Rebecca were a wonderfully balanced team to bring to CPW. Alex has been a member of Magnum Photos since 1976 and has published 8 photographic books. He has also worked for a number of major publications ranging from National Geographic to The New York Times Magazine. Alex has worked as a photojournalist in a wide variety of countries. One of my favorite things that he said in regard to street photography was that “it is a way of collaborating with the world,” as opposed to straightforward documentation. As a color photographer, he has a really remarkable sense of light, tonal range, and contrast.

Rebecca Norris Webb is originally a poet and journalist, with her interests recently turning to include photography. Her first book, The Glass Between Us, was published in 2006 with support from a Blue Earth Alliance Grant. Coming from a graphic design background, I really appreciate when photographers can use text in a meaningful, non-distracting way. Rebecca’s series uses text and image to look at the complicated relationship between animals and people, specifically in the contained environment of city. Many of the photographs in her book look at aquariums and zoos, where animals are kept in a contained, fabricated environment. Her newest series, My Dakota, looks at her idea of the American West. She was gracious enough to give the class a preview of these photographs, taken in the area she lived in her late teens.

From the moment the Webb’s walked in the door they were quite relaxed and ready to take on the weekend. They both seemed happy to be with us and excited about the potential the weekend held. They maintained this comfortable feeling throughout the entire workshop, being very open and honest with their stories and advice.

Alex and Rebecca were a really great compliment to each other in their teaching and opinions. They held a nice balance of conversational dialogue between two highly qualified artists and varied background in their approach and experience. During critiques, they gave great suggestions that ranged from artistic ideas to technical advice. I was also impressed at how they evenly balanced time and interest with individual student critiques with such a wide range of work.

At one point during the weekend the Webb's went through a list of their influences. It was really exciting to see who influences a pair of highly established artists. Their presentation ranged drastically from Henri Cartier-Bresson to Andrea Modica, Eugene Richards to Sylvia Plachy. Rebecca also mentioned how their influences also go beyond photography, including filmmakers, novelists and painters. They discussed how everything in your life, all of your experiences, is absorbed and can subconsciously come out in your artwork. While I think this is especially true for a conceptual artist, I found it interesting to think about how that comes out in photojournalism.

One of the group exercises we did was looked at editing. The students were put into small groups and given a bunch of slides. In these groups they were told to edit the images, rejecting images if necessary, into a cohesive sequence. (I may have gotten a bit excited about the light emitted from the light boxes…but I narrowed it down to just 4 images for you to see!).

After the groups finished, Alex and Rebecca went through the selections and gave their input. It was really nice to see how the two of them work together, their thought process, and the balance of styles. They emphasized how editing and sequencing can be just as important as initially capturing the images.

Overall, Rebecca and Alex were wonderful. I enjoyed their presence and thought they had great suggestions that went far beyond critiques. The variety of stories, bits of advice, book information, and influences made the entire workshop feel really well rounded. Rather than focusing in on one detail of photography, we covered a range of information that gave the students a glimpse into what the Webb’s lives as successful photojournalists are like.


Doug Menuez : Art Vs. Commerce

One of the responsibilities we have during our time at CPW is to introduce an artist before their Saturday night lecture. I was very happy to have chosen Doug Menuez; below is my introduction…

“After leaving art school for photojournalism, Doug Menuez spent 25 intense years traversing the globe and in turn, becoming one of the most successful advertising photographers in the US. The time he spend between the Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, Life, Fortune, and People magazines exposed him to a variety of assignments ranging from the famine in Ethiopia to sports & celebrities to the AIDS crisis. He has photographed a range of personalities including Mother Theresa, Robert Redford, and Bill Clinton.

As many of you know, Doug spent much of his time in the 80’s and 90’s covering the explosion of new technology in the Silicon Valley – from the digital revolution through the rise of the internet while exploring the human side of technology development; the manic passion, struggles, and joys of the brave new world. In exchange for prints, Steve Jobs granted Doug the sincere and unlimited access necessary for the project. For years he documented Steve and his team everywhere from their labs, boardrooms, and off-site retreats.

The 250,000 photographs from this project are now archived in the Douglas Menuez Photography Collection at Stanford University Library. Tonight we will be seeing a preview of his next project, “Fearless Genius,” which revisits and expands upon the history and people of the Silicon Valley.”

On another double workshop weekend, I was able to assist and participate in Doug Menuez’s “Art vs. Commerce” class. As you can see from my introduction, Doug is an incredibly experienced photojournalist. He is also one of board members for the Center for Photography at Woodstock. For me, Doug is one of those teachers that uses his experience and learned information to benefit his students. Looking back at the notes I took in my sketchbook, they range from emotional advice to financial advice. It was quite refreshing to have a perspective that stretches the gamut of life as an artist.

As usual, we began the workshop with introductions. Unlike other times when one just talks about where they have been and what they do now, Doug asked the students to also describe their goals and what they needed to get there.

During portfolio reviews, Doug brought up the point of never showing anything that you’re not 100% proud of to anyone. This has definitely been something that I’ve learned over the course of this summer with nearly weekly portfolio reviews. Any mistake that you have in a print or image will stand out far more in a group of other artists, potentially even more than a great project. For example, one small spot of dust can really ruin an amazing print. Lesson learned : if you have to make excuses for any print in your portfolio, that image probably shouldn’t be in there in the first place...

For me, Doug really reinforced that being a photographer is a full time job…whether you’re actually on a payroll for it or not. He encouraged setting up schedules for yourself in order to keep on track of your photographic goals. These ranged from:
- projects : creating self-assignments to consistently push yourself technically and creatively
- financial : delegating certain percentages of your funds to savings, long-term liabilities, and short-term payables
- long term : writing down 6-month plans including what it takes to reach those objectives

These are the three areas I summarized from the weekend – all of which I realize are important, but can sometimes be difficult to sit down and actually manage. For my projects schedule, I would like to set up a photo project each month to accomplish from start to finish. That would include the research, production, processing, and sharing of the piece. Financially, we threw around lots of words like “profit & loss,” "revenue," and “profit margin,”…things I’m not quite ready to tackle. I intend to set up a plan, as rudimentary as it may be at my level, that can at least act as a starting point. Finally, my long-term goals are defined and written down in my sketch book…maybe, just maybe I will share them someday…

Doug had everyone bring in a portfolio along with a number of images they thought were close to - but not quite - good enough to make it in the top 20 selection. He then went through all of the images and chose his selects. He gave detailed explanations of why the images worked or didn’t and included an incredibly thorough analysis of where he could see us going with our work. As an intern, we are critiqued if there is time, and Doug was very generous in insisting to see my and Nikki’s work. Since I’m not from a photo-journalistic mindset, I was a little hesitant to bring in my work. Doug was really great at critiquing it and giving beneficial suggestions without imposing his personal style onto it. Summarizing his critique, Doug reminded me that with my conceptual approach, the photographs still need to be able to stand alone (without explanation).

The weekend invoked a lot of self-reflection and new realizations for everyone. It was interesting how the students ranged in age, experiences, and professions. Doug’s workshop was a great experience for those looking to find a balance between doing what they love and making ends meet. He was also encouraging in maintaining a personal style artistically even when you must work commercially. I think everyone left with a clearer vision of who they are as a photographer and the motivation to take their career to the next level financially and creatively.

(As a side note, I'm sorry the photos might not be as interesting in other posts…I think I got a bit wrapped up in listening to Doug and forgot a little about documentation!)

(Also check out Doug’s blog HERE!)


Susan Wides : Picturing Landscape

Things have gotten quite busy at CPW! With lots of workshops, a change over of Arts Administration interns, and a new AIR, there is lots going on…and lots distracting me from keeping up with the blog. For any regular readers, I apologize for being distant…its not you, it’s me.

Megan and I got the chance to be part of Susan Wides’ workshop, Picturing Landscape, on a weekend when we had double workshops – the other being Joan Barker teaching Intro to Digital Photography. During my time in undergraduate, I never had an assignment that addressed the historical or contemporary approaches and ideas behind landscape photography, so this workshop was a welcome learning experience for me. Going into it, I knew that I would have a lot to learn and take in…kind of a blank slate as far as the subject matter went.

Susan has been in 18 one-person shows, over 60 group exhibitions, and is in a number of collections. She has had her work written about in a variety of publications such as the New York Times, Artforum, and the Village Voice. She shoots with a 4x5 view camera with intentional areas of sharp and soft focus. The images she creates can often be mistaken as miniatures. I found it interesting that in her work, the majority of the piece that is out-of-focus is just as significant, if not more, than the selected part that is in-focus.

We spent the first part of Saturday looking at student’s work, discussing landscape photography historically, and going over places we could go shoot in the Catskills. Being in upstate New York, the workshop was specifically focused on the paintings done by those in the Hudson River School. For those of you uncertain about that history, you can read a quick and easy overview HERE and look at examples of the paintings HERE.

Many of the Hudson River School painters came up to the Hudson Valley as a retreat away from New York City. At that time, NYC was the center of commerce in the US, and the Catskills were close enough for them to travel and far enough that they were able to escape from the filth of the city. The Catskill Mountain House drew in lots of wealthy people searching for the culture of the United States outside of the city.

A lot of these artists took a significant amount of artistic liberties in order to communicate their feeling about the place rather than a documentary view. During the time they were working, there was also an incredible boom of industrialization. The painters just chose to leave out these signs because they were more interested in talking about the raw nature that they had discovered in America. Often, the paintings referenced the ‘fear of God’ in their dark skies and embellished clouds.

Thomas Cole, the founder, was known for separating the optimal reality from visual reality. Sometimes he felt a subject was more interesting – even more real – if a veil of interpretation was put over it. The memory one has of a place tends to hold dominant features that are then illustrated as embellishments in the artwork.

Both Saturday and Sunday we chanced beating the rain in order to go out on location to shoot…

Susan encouraged us to think about landscape photography as moving beyond documentary and into addressing the relationship we have to a specific place. We talked about topophilia (a word I’d never even heard before), meaning ‘a love of landscape’ according to Merriam-Webster. She gave us a number of categories to consider when photographing:
- toponymic = the names we have given to places
- narrative = the stories or legends behind a place
- experimental = the dependence we have on the place for survival
- numinous = the spiritual or mysterious feeling we have in a place

There are also formal considerations to landscape photography. These may come off as obvious to some of you, but as someone new to landscape work, they were interesting to consider, even if it was just as acknowledgement. In most photographic work, you’re taking a 3-dimensional object and turning it 2-dimensional. In addition, you have constraints to work in as far as your film choice (the dimensions will change depending if it is 35mm, 120, 4x4, etc.). And, perhaps the most obvious, compositionally the things you are trying to capture are stagnant, not movable. We physically need to change our viewpoint in order to animate them in a way appealing to viewers. This challenge is what can separate art from documentation.

All this being said, I learned a lot from this workshop as far as conceptual approaches to a subject I previously didn’t really understand. Below are some of the shots I took of the day…I know, I know, I didn’t really shoot an overall landscape – I have a hard time straying away from details!


Mary Ellen Mark : The World Observed

Kelsea and I recently had the opportunity to work with Mary Ellen Mark when she came to CPW. Mary Ellen is one of the most internationally well-known women in documentary photography. She has covered a variety of areas everywhere from the circus to behind the cinematic scenes, the relationships between twins to prostitutes in India. All of these projects bring to light the humanistic aspect of subcultures. She has an exceptional range of publications, honors and experience in the field.

The first day of the workshop consisted of portfolio reviews for everyone in the class. Having 15 students, the class was full, and we had lots to look at. With this time, Mary Ellen was able to get a feel of what each person does and give advice on what they should try to push their work farther.

(my fellow intern, Kelsea, getting her work critiqued)

After reviews were over, we took some time to ask Mary Ellen questions about her work and her life. She then showed us a film about the circus she photographed in India.

The next day we were scheduled to go to the Ulster County Fair. Without fail, that was the day predicted for bad weather. With a few sprinkles in the morning, we decided to chance it and go anyways. Of course, it rained the entire time we were there and didn’t stop until we were walking back to the parking lot. This definitely made for challenges, but the students took it all in stride. There were plenty of places to shoot under a covered tent or indoors.

Kelsea and I had some time to wander around and take some photos of our own…

hey, thats me!
(photo by Kelsea Ellingson)

One of the interesting things of how Mary Ellen structures her workshops is that she asks the students to mail her in a contact sheet of what they shot at the fair. She then writes on the sheets and sends back her comments. I really admire this method of following through with the students.