This past weekend I was indeed lucky to attend a photography workshop in Calgary. The artist was David duChemin, and if you haven't heard of him, go look him up immediately! I'll wait ...
I don't remember when I became aware of David and his work, but I'm pretty happy I did. I attended a workshop back in March 2013 at Bragg Creek. It was around -20 degrees C for the weekend and we were working outside. Yup, it was pretty damn cold. I had also just got released from the hospital 2 weeks prior as I'd had breast reconstruction surgery 4 weeks prior and then numerous blood clots on my lungs, so back in the hospital. But I was determined to be there!
David has recently release a new book "The Soul of the Camera" which was part of the focus this weekend. He has written several books and I've really enjoyed all of them. Do yourself a favour and add one to your photography collection!
Okay, so here's my disclaimer, this is strictly my take on the weekend which will be different from every person that attended. We all perceive things differently and find words that resonant with us that someone else may not.
The weekend started with a seminar on Friday night from 7 to 9 pm and was entitled The Soul of the Camera: Better Photographers Not Better Cameras. The seminar was hosted by The Camera Store and there was an audience of approximately 45 enthusiastic photographers (keeping in mind that enthusiastic to the introverted photographer means quietly cheering inside!).
David showed many of his photographs and described his story/vision that went with each one. He also highlighted some guidelines for your own photography:
- There are no rules
- Exploration before expression
- Play over practice
- Sketch your heart out (what happens if ...)
- Fear is the mind killer
- Study photographs not cameras
- Seek critique
- Get a life (find an interest and photograph that)
- Learn the language (composition, etc)
- Be apologetically you
- Personal projects - DO (focus on something)
- Learn to tell a story
A few takeaways of David's discussion were these:
- What is your photo about? (not "of")
- Tell a story
David is a fantastic storyteller and every photo has an accompanying story that explains/describes what he say and what drew his interest. I love his enthusiasm and passion, even though this usually leads to various tangents in his discussions, lol. If you are looking for an instructor that is quiet, boring and follows a set plan, don't go see David. If you want someone who is dynamic, engaging, and inspiring, then you must see David. I find his style similar to Joe McNally with his passion and excitement to talk about photography and things they love.
Saturday and Sunday was a workshop with David and 15 eager students titled "Photographically Speaking". We didn't have a lot of time together (1-5 pm on Saturday and 11-2 pm on Sunday) but David made the most of every minute.
The workshop was focused on finding your vision of what you want to photograph and then your voice of putting that vision into action. Some main points from Saturday were:
- Create constraints: We all work better when we are constrained, for example use only one lens, only colour or b/w, only one camera body, constrain yourself in some manner. Pick a theme (ex. Backlit only, selective colour, one subject, etc).
- All projects are personal projects.
- When arriving at a scene, assess the light, lines and moments (what is the light doing, what are the lines doing, use a composition to express the moment but treat with urgency)
What makes a great image?
- Repeated element that is broken can capture the eye
- Add tension to balance
- White space (the eye needs room to move)
- Visual mass in the frame (reduce size of stuff not needed)
- Isolate your subject
Today everyone brought 10 of their own, personal images and our time was spent talking about critique (how to give and receive) and then critiquing others photographers (very nerve wracking indeed).
The Art of the Critique
David talked about how important it is to get and give critique with someone on a regular basis.
- What kind of feedback are you looking for?
- What was your vision?
- How is the audience reading the image?
- What other decisions were possible?
- Consider the source (this is especially important, you want a qualified source that YOU respect)
- Don't take it personally (ha, easier said than done)
- Is the critique valid?
- Is it helpful?
- Is it human? (Does the feedback support the artist? Is it kind, respectful?)
After such an incredible weekend, we were left with a to do list:
- Print your work
- Study the masters
- Begin to teach
Obviously David covered a lot more information during our time together, so this was only a sampling of what we learned. I know David does workshops overseas and I have to admit, I was never interested in them. But ... after spending this time with him again, it would really be a treat to see a foreign place through his eyes. So, another trip added to my bucket list!!
Thanks David for a fantastic weekend and sharing your knowledge, skills, passion, honesty and humour! Please come back soon.