Photography fulfills many roles for each of us. It can be a way to unwind from work, a creative outlet for a spirit we always knew we had, or an excuse to spend idiotic amounts of time comparing tools that all basically do the same thing. Regardless of your goals, the thing we all have in common is that We want something out of this world and believe that photography is one way to get there.
A\M Matera Workshop 2015
Just a few weeks before the workshop, Harald Claessan asked if there was still a spot available. A photographer needed to postpone for medical reasons so Harald was able to join us. For every workshop, my suggestion is to COME WITH A GOAL. It does not need to be complicated, elaborate, or even impressive. The simple ambition to shoot on manual or be comfortable talking to a model is a great start. What always happens is the photographers who set goals accomplish them and the others…well, they tend to feel unfulfilled but never know why. I’m happy to see more of the first group and very few of the second.
Harald’s Matera goal was straight forward. He wanted to focus on making a single image. He wanted to know:
- What mistakes he was consistently making?
- How could he spot a picture before it happened?
- How could he stop making the same mistakes so he could move onto new ones?
If he could get 10 solid pictures by the end of the workshop he would be happy. More importantly, he wanted to take his photography up one level. But what does “up one level” really mean?
I’m not sure there is a workshop out there that does not promise to:
- Take you to the next level
- Help you find your signature style
- Tap into your creativity
But in reality how many programs actually do this? Sure it’s a great marketing pitch, but is it all meaningless fluff?
When I say next level, I mean that a photographer is working their way up the ladder from camera owner, to photographer, to eligible professional. The reason I say eligible is because many people would like to know that they COULD get paid as a photographer or COULD win professional level awards. They might not want to leave their current job and do this, but they want to know they are good enough to be able to play ball.
I always tell people, if you came to me and said, “I want to be a sculptor or I want to be a professional builder, can you teach me?” The answer is no…I would need you for at least a few years. But photography? Absolutely…you can go from zero to fully functioning in less than a year. Why? It’s just not that complicated. Having studied drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, and worked as a professional builder for 12 years…I can say from experience, some things take longer to learn than others. This is not to say that photography is any less of an art; it’s just got a shorter learning curve. I’ve taken people through it…it is much easier to get people up to speed than the other arts I practice.
After the Matera Workshop, Harald and I stayed in touch. He was thinking the next level for him meant working on his story telling. To do this, he wanted to apply to the Missouri Photo Workshop. In case you have not heard of it, a photo journalist friend of mine, Sebastian Meyer, said this week,” It’s one of the top two programs in the country.” (Sebastian is one of the co-founders of the first all Iraqi photo agency Metrography and a top tier photojournalist himself.)
In order to apply to the Missouri Photo Workshop, Harald needed a letter of recommendation which I was happy to provide. I felt that his professional background and his dedication would make him a strong candidate. A few months later, he was accepted. The program was a huge success for him and he sent me this note once his story was published:
Here is a link to the story that he researched, pitched, shot, and edited over the course of the workshop. It was really exciting to be a part of the process. View Harald Claessen’s entire story here.
Too many photographers sell themselves short, talk themselves out of possibilities, and never reach anywhere near their full potential. But when someone comes to me with specific goals and the willingness to learn, the results speak for themselves. Please join me in giving Harald a huge round of applause and I hope that his story encourages you to take the next steps, whatever that means for you.
See you at the “Next Level!”