Feb 102014

Artist + Curator Seminar Follow Up

This is the story of six photographers…


The Artist + Curator Seminar with Adam Marelli and Susan Bright.  All went well and was smoothed over with a few glasses of Paolo Bea from Umbria.  One of my favorites.  Adam Marelli

The Artist + Curator Seminar with Adam Marelli and Susan Bright. All went well and was smoothed over with a few glasses of Paolo Bea from Umbria. One of my favorites. Adam Marelli

Weekend Wrap Up 

New programs are always exciting.  I have never offered a photography program where we don’t actually shoot pictures.  It might sound crazy, but I have found that many, many photographers don’t actually have difficulty taking good pictures.  What they struggle with is taking meaningful pictures.

Why do you take pictures?  Why did you make that series?  And why would anyone want to look at it.  These are questions that even the fanciest cameras can’t answer.  These problems of project development were hashed out with pen, paper, discussion, and a little bit of vino.  The results were exciting and by Friday night I could not wait to get started.

Eric Luden of Digital Silver Imaging, my black and white printer,  was in New York City for the night.  We had a chance to sit down and discuss the things I had on the table for 2014.  This seminar was just one of them.  Going through the ins and the outs of the seminar with Eric only got me more excited.  By Saturday morning, I was ready to get things going.  It was the first time that I have hosted a program with a colleague, in this case curator and writer Susan Bright.  Our goal was simple:

We wanted to help six photographers stop taking random shots

and build a body of work they could turn into a book, an

exhibition, or even just a personally fulfilling exercise

that had a start and a finish.


This was no small challenge.  We had six backgrounds, six skill levels, six points of view and at least six genres of photography to work through.  The photographers came from as far as Poland, Rhode Island, Washington DC,  and as close as the West Village.

Doubting Thomas by Caravaggio

Doubting Thomas by Caravaggio

Six is the perfect party

By day’s end, everyone had a clear cut, easily definable, and potentially successful project to shoot.  Susan and I both agreed that if each photographer completed their respective shoots over the next year, they would all represent books we would actually be interested in buying.

The day was divided into three parts.  I led the morning with totally new talks on Caravaggio, Cartier-Bresson, and Gregory Crewdson.  We looked at the pitfalls of Andy Warhol and how everyone turned their failures into successes.  Then Susan took the afternoon, giving the photographers an insiders view on what curators look for from photographers.  (Clarity counts for a lot here folks.  The best ideas are often lost in poor editing, and I’m talking about image selection, not post-production.)  Then we went through everyone’s body of work.  We listened to each photographer’s interests and picked out the disconnects we saw as viewers.  Often the ideas you have in your head are great, but they don’t make it into the image.  That’s where the problems arise.

Finally, after much discussion, the photographers were given assignments and step by step solutions to shooting their projects.  The turnarounds were incredible.

Just to give you one example, and I won’t use their name, we had a photographer show up who said they were into landscapes.  I mean, who doesn’t like a good landscape picture, right?  But why shoot landscapes when everyone knows that trees are pretty and mountains are majestic?

The Transformation

After unpacking the photographer’s stories and answers, it became clear that the themes of loss and isolation were at the forefront of the pictures.  All of the landscapes had a sense of loss that stood out to both Susan and I immediately. It turned out the images were of munitions storage  from World War II along the eastern seaboard.  These idyllic seascapes were punctuated by the vestiges of the WWII era preparation for invasion.  Now, these bunkers are decommissioned and appear to be melting back into the soil they guarded for so many years.  In a poetic parallel, we pointed out to the photographer that in a few years, all of the remaining soldiers from the War will be gone too.  What a timely conclusion to a cycle of war and fear.

For us, as leaders of the seminar, it was so exciting to see the gears turning in everyone’s heads.  We all agreed that we will meet again in six months for a follow up seminar.

So what else did we do?  Well, you will have to come to the next seminar to see.  See the schedule here.  There are only three spaces left for the July seminar.

The First  and Second Testimonial

Jay Holtzman's Testimonial

Jay Holtzman’s Testimonial

Best-Adam Marelli

  3 Responses to “Artist + Curator Seminar Wrap Up”

  1. What a great project. Close to my heart is the concept of restrain.

    • Hey Paul,

      Glad to hear you enjoyed it…I think project development can add an enormous amount of pleasure and fulfillment to any photographers development. We hope to see you at the next one in July or November.


  2. Hi everyone, my name is Asier and i was one of the participants in this first seminar that Adam put together. If you get to read this comment, chances are you might be already considering attending any of the upcoming seminars or workshops; long story short: do it :)

    Now, if you want more context here is what the real value added of the seminar is: 99% of stuff out there will teach you how to light, how to direct models, f8, iso100, ttl… but the reality is you can as well learn this with books and videos online. The real value added of Adam’s seminar is 1. a six people group really “forces” you to participate and makes the whole experience personalized and 2. you will go deep into the WHY and understand your motivations and where you want to go. The reality is many of us we are unsure about the destination, and that makes the path way harder.
    You probably spent 2 o 3 times the cost of this seminar in a new camera, or even a lens. Take a step back and invest in what really matters first, which is in your chest and in your head. That is the most valuable gear.

    Asier. March 2014

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