I stopped by Richard Remsen’s Foundry in Rockport, a quintessential collection of New England style barns, an old farmhouse, rolling fields and a gallery filled with glass lures in various stages of completion. The sculptor’s retreat provided the perfect backdrop for a handful of lanky, otherworldly looking models running around the property like woodland sprites striking poses for a diverse group of photographers enrolled in Joyce Tenneson’s Portrait Workshop.
“I want to capture movement. Can you try spinning?” Lisa directed the tall, thin brunette wearing torn, fashionably ripped jeans, complimented with silver metallic gladiator sandals and topped off with a cropped tank. The photographer, a painter and sculptor from San Francisco Bay Area, explained she was interested in capturing the spirit connection of her subjects.
Joyce called out it was 2:30 p.m. and that it was time to rotate. On cue, each group of three found a different location and model to photograph, choosing between the brunette, a set of strawberry blonde identical twins on their way to Bates and Wesleyan in the fall, and a young Jamaican man working in Camden for the summer.
While composing their shots, Joyce coached her students on perfecting composition, light, and ways to get below the surface of the model to their essence, their soul, so that the photographs would reveal a psychological dimension of being human. She asks her class, “How do you open them up? Communicate and collaborate.”
“The workshops give me the chance for total immersion,” shared Ed from Boston. “I’m living, breathing, and sleeping photography. I mean Joyce—we all hope some of it will rub off. Joyce is thorough, professional and getting a critique from her, she’s pointing out stuff like catch lights, saying that without that twinkle in the eye, the portrait is dead.”
Back on campus the next day, I sought out Joyce’s class again at lunch. They looked like the “fun table” as they sat and ate, thoroughly enjoying themselves, talking, laughing, and comparing notes. I sat next to Lisa, the sculptor and painter from the San Francisco Bay Area, and she introduced me to her teenage daughter Rachel, creative in her own right as a burgeoning cellist and writer.
For them, attending workshops had become a family affair. Years ago, Lisa’s father and mother took a class with Ernest Haas, the pioneer color photographer. Then Lisa came back with her father to take a class. Now she was sharing the experience with her daughter.
“En lieu of Greece or Italy, I thought this would be an amazing place for us to experience together,” said Lisa. “At first Rachel wasn’t interested, but I told her she could document her other interests with photography. In our IPhone culture, media is so important.”
“I didn’t know this place existed. I have grown so much since I’ve been here. There are lots of artsy young people, and to be around Joyce, someone of that caliber,” Rachel added. “I didn’t understand photography as an art form before. Now taking photographs makes me believe that everything is art if I want to make it art. As an artist, getting a grasp of yet another medium will add to my repertoire, which I can use to express the things I want to express.”
After lunch, we all head back to Remsen’s Foundry, more statuesque models, not all of them completely dressed or dressed at all. I sat down in a comfy, cushy outdoor rocking sofa set along a barn wall. Maria, a neonatologist, sat down with me for a short break from shooting. Maria and her son Drew had driven to Maine together from their home in Madison, Wisconsin.
“I got into photography years ago before my son was born. I took pictures of him, then I did some documentary work at spaghetti dinners,” she added with a wry smile. “It was Drew’s idea to come here together. I think this is his fourth time at the Workshops. I’d been looking at the catalogs for years, and he said I should take a class with him this summer,” Maria explained.
When I asked Maria how the experience has been for her, she said, again with that same smile, “It’s exhausting! I’m so left sided. The right side of my brain is being stressed, so Drew came to my room last night and helped me pick photos.” Then she looks down, thinks a moment, and in a more serious tone of voice added, “Joyce is awesome. She’s self-effacing, extremely talented and gifted but approachable, positive and patient. She demonstrates how to engage models and get something out of them. The things I’ve learned here, I would have never figured out on my own.”
After Joyce called it a wrap for the day, and the team took a group photo, I finally pried myself from the comfy chair and walked around the property till I found Drew, who was packing up his gear. I told him I had chatted with his mom, and wanted to ask him about his experience at Maine Media, getting the mother-son angle of the story.
“I attended two summer residencies here in 2008 and 2009. I loved it so much that I wanted my mom to experience the same—that feeling you get in Maine when immersed in the workshops—especially now that I’m older, and we actually get along,” he said. “She was worried about being in the same class, but I don’t mind. I liked helping her pick out her photos, but my fear is not to interfere with her choice too much so she grows as a photographer. I asked her what she likes, why it works and why it doesn't, so she could develop her eye as an artist. Not everyone is going to like your work, and that’s fine. It’s kind of a role reversal for us!”
Drew, who is a full-time web designer and professional photographer back home, then switched gears to discuss his style and intentions for taking Joyce’s class.
“I want to shoot portraiture in a photojournalistic style. I love people. People are expressive. Landscapes are beautiful too, but to me if I look at beautiful landscape shot, I think but where are the people? Joyce develops a connection with her subjects. Her photos are very intimate, and that’s what I want to bring to my portraits. She’s helping me to know if I’m actually engaged with the subject and if the photo is engaging. I had a good grasp before, but I’m better now. She describes my style as edgy, and likes that I push the envelope.”
After talking with her students, I found Joyce back at the studio. She shared that she really loved this class in particular, the diversity in age, students from 17 to 75, a balance between men and women. “We all got along,” she commented. “What was particularly interesting were the mother-son, and the mother-daughter combinations. The class was very much enriched by having these two younger members. It’s inspiring to see new ways of viewing something. They think out of the box, and that gave us cross-fertilization of ideas for the entire class.”
Next time you come to Maine Media Workshops, bring you son, daughter, mother, father, brother or sister. Make it a family affair will also allow you to receive a 10 percent discount for each additional person attending a workshop from the same immediate family. Click here for details about our family and other discounts available at MMW.
– Jennifer Cook, 2014 MMW+C PC Graduate in Visual Storytelling
This is the time of year when our sleepy harbor town is jolted wide awake. In a span of just a few weeks, the population explodes with visitors, all eager to experience Maine in a deeply personal way. As visual storytellers, we seek to explore the personality of the places we visit, and capture images that stay as true to that personality as to our own. Whether your travels bring you to Maine, or farther afield, the key to ensuring that you return home with more than just great memories is to have the right guide. Our Destinations Workshops are led by heavy hitters whose images have graced the pages of National Geographic, Newsweek, Harpers, LIFE, Outside, and The New York Times Magazine. This fall and winter, they'll be journeying to remote villages in Bhutan, Myanmar, Namibia, and Botswana. They'll explore the timeless elegance of Paris and Venice. And closer to home, yet far from the expected, they'll be hunting for fresh perspectives on the Canadian arctic and ghost towns of the old west. If there was ever a year to take an adventure with us, this is it!
Our instructors, some of the world's best photojournalists, documentarians, and street photographers, know their destinations intimately, and will take you off the beaten path to find unique opportunities for image making. You'll not only gain an insider's perspective on the cultures you visit, but priceless instruction that will propel your work forward and change the way you see the world. That's what happened to university English professor Larry Fink a few years ago, when he sought fresh inspiration for his street photography. Larry wrote to us recently to let us know that The Streets of Paris workshop he took with Peter Turnley four years ago still has a lasting impact on his work. "The workshop exceeded my expectations. I learned new technical skills and approaches, and produced pictures that surprise me," wrote Larry.
A life-long admirer of the style of street photography pioneered by artists like Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau, and Roni, Larry sought out Peter Turnley's workshop as a link to those masters. "Peter's passion for this art form and his personal relationships with its greatest practitioners make him a priceless resource," Larry told us. "I met and learned from legendary figures responsible for the stature of street photography in the art world today." Larry also honed his ability to interact with and photograph strangers, something many of our students feel apprehensive about, particularly when visiting other cultures. "We had several opportunities to watch Peter shoot and relate to strangers on the street," Larry told us. "Peter loves people and encourages students to portray them with dignity and respect. At the same time, he pushes students to kindly interact with strangers as they record their observations of the human condition in images. It was a challenging, rewarding, and often moving experience."
Peter will be returning to Paris for his New Year's workshop, as well as leading a trip to in Venice in October. For those of you looking to go even farther afield, be sure to check out the two workshops led by adventure travel photographer and guide Jock Montgomery. In late September, photographer and documentarian Sean Kernan will join him in a journey from Calcutta to Bhutan, exploring busy markets, Buddhist festivals, remote forest passes, as well as the famous Tiger's Nest, the Takstag Monastery perched on a sheer 800m cliff. In November Jock will be joined by National Geographic photographer Mike Yamashita on a two-week adventure across Myanmar, photographing the floating farms and leg-rowing fisherman of Inle Lake, washing elephants at the Green Valley Elephant Camp, and exploring caves filled with thousands of Buddha images.
We're also really excited about the three new workshops that Arlene Collins will lead this winter. A specialist in documenting remote cultures and changing civilizations, Arlene will take two back-to-back trips to Africa in January. The first will take you to Namibia, on a photographic safari to one of the oldest, driest, and most pristine areas on earth. In addition to witnessing the sunrise over the golden Sossusvlei dunes and big game in spectacular settings, you'll also document the disappearing culture of a remote nomadic Himba tribe. Following that trip, Arlene will travel to Botswana, home to wetlands, deltas, deserts, and the amazing animal species that inhabit them. In February, she'll return to North America to lead the Inuit Arctic Adventure, where the unspoiled arctic landscape will be explored by snowmobile and dogsled, with polar bears, northern lights, and native traditions on the itinerary.
Each one of our Destination Workshops is an adventure of a lifetime, and there are many more to choose from! Check them out on our website, and then pack your bags for an unforgettable journey. It will be a trip that will stay with you long after you return home.
I chose a sunny Thursday afternoon to duck into Sam Abell’s classroom, a cool respite a couple flights of stairs below Maine Media’s Gallery overlooking Rockport Harbor. My timing was perfect. As the group settled in after indulging in the lunch spread served back on campus, the Nat Geo veteran prepared his students for a collaborative crescendo culminating the past sever
al days of shooting.
After reviewing a few housekeeping items, including plans for a ferry trip from Port Clyde to Mohegan Island the next day, Sam dove into the essential theme of his class. It was time for each photographer to display the fruits of their efforts and edit them down to a five-image poem, complete with a succinct title to introduce its essence to audiences at the weekly Friday night show.
“Epic enterprises are largely out of fashion. We are past the time of showing a trip to Italy with 60 slides,” explained the renowned documentary photographer. “Poetry is an idea for our time, and a poem can be visual. But the idea should be strong-minded and heartfelt, a poetry-sized expression of an idea, person, thing or object. The Coast of Maine, for example, is not a poem, but a cemetery on the coast of Maine could be.”
A Maine Coast cemetery did in fact inspire one of Sam’s students to create a photographic poem called “Grave Gardens”. Clicking through the series, Sam advised that the first photo should be the one that’s a suggestion of the grave with the back layer of fog, adding that fog is your friend here. The second should be the grave peeking out of the trees. And so the critique went on
from there until the final five images were selected and refined into a lyrical sequence, hanging tightly together just like the poetry-sized expression Sam had discussed.
Other poems explored included “Not Here” depicting life in transition; “Day Drinking” complete with a photo of PBR, Tabasco and a drink umbrella; and a rich autobiographical story called “My Journey Thus Far.”
“Yes, no, no, yes,” Sam said, selecting images as he clicked through each series. I sat down scribbling notes as fast as I could, while he generously imparted words of wisdom to his students.
“A poem can’t be redundant. We can’t be slammed by the fact of it. I’m looking for the intimacy of a poem. It needs to be delicate. Keep the maintenance of tone or the spell is broken. The visual tone needs to be true throughout,” Sam said.
He came to Paola’s photographic verse, “Everything She Touches Changes”, about a local woman weaver. Sam suggested “Song of Susan”, while Paola described the songs the artist sung while she wove. Then an image popped up on the screen, which Paola said was a recreation of a dream the weaver had.
“In the dream a ghost told her she could weave masks. I wanted to take the idea and make it real,” Paola said, pointing to a picture of the woman in a white woolen hand-loomed mask.
That image made Sam's cut.
During the class, Sam also reminded the group that they are here to disallow creative burnout. “How will you keep your love alive?’ he asked the accomplished photographers, some who even earn their living with a camera in hand. Sam then shared a secret of how he maintained his passion over a 30-plus-year career with high demands and constant deadlines—he kept a diary, a daily personal photo diary, used for his own creative expression.
“Think outside the box,” he advised. “Pick up a color Holga some weekend, and I promise you it won’t be Groundhog Day.”
Watching Sam teach, with a quite confidence, warmth and genuine interest in his students, I certainly didn't fell like it was Groundhog Day.
That’s just how it is here, working side-by-side with the giants of photography, film and other media arts, without feeling like your standing in their shadow. Time and time again, I hear that the most meaningful experiences students have during their week at Maine Media is finding out how approachable everyone is, no matter how long they’ve been in the business.
– Jennifer Cook, 2014 MMW+C PC Graduate in Visual Storytelling
Entering into the last week of July, we have a full spectrum of visual media workshops. Aspiring filmmakers are getting hands-on experience and skills in Directing Episodic TV with Peter Werner. This workshop walks students through the experience of directing high-quality episodic programming by taking a recent network show and breaking down all of the stages from pre-production through shooting and into post-production. In the new course, The Portrait as Doorway to Creativity, with Sean Kernan, students will learn to make authentic portraits by learning to look with their eyes, mind, and heart. This workshop is an intensive investigation into the art of making a penetrating and exciting portrait through investigating and practicing creative photography of people. In Stretching Your Frame of Mind, Joe Baraban helps students strengthen their photographic vision by showing them how to incorporate elements of design and composition into their shots. Baraban demonstrates how adding tension, patterns, perspective negative space, texture, and a vanishing point to the frame will allow students to create powerful and memorable photographs. Our young photographers are also on campus taking workshops like Media Mash Up with Andy & Alex. This new course allows students to explore a variety of artistic mediums including narrative storytelling, photographic technique, filmmaking, graphic and sound design, and way more. Additional workshops range from Digital Media for Teachers with Brandon Koons to Advanced Digital Photography with Alan Vlach and from Feature Film Lighting with Jacek Laskus, ASC, to the new course Shooting the Cinematic Documentary with Sid Levin. For a full schedule of workshops, click here.
MMW continues to expand its creative offerings this week with a range of new classes from Refining Your Darkroom Practice and Introduction to Visual Effects to Experimental Photography and Introduction to Letterpress Printing in the new Book Arts Lab. We are so proud to have award-winning DP Amy Vincent, ASC on campus teaching a Camera Operator Workshop! Her workshop prepares new camera assistants, operators, filmmakers, and videographers with practical and theoretical experience necessary to collaborate with professional crews on set. All forms of filmmaking, whether shot on film or digital video, will be covered. Bob Sacha is also in town. The renowned photographer and multimedia producer, known for his work at National Geographic, Life Magazine, and MediaStorm, is teaching a Multimedia Master Class in MMW’s state-of-the-art computer lab. The class is designed to help journalists and documentarians diversify their skill sets necessary for today’s ever-changing media landscape. Students will learn from Sacha’s first-hand experience of gathering photography, audio, and video in the field. Whether you’re new or seasoned photographer, filmmaker or visual storyteller, there is a class for you. Click her to see a full schedule.
This week Maine Media workshoppers immerse themselves in everything from portrait photography to landscapes and from fine art printing to screenwriting. Documentary photographer Sam Abell is on campus sharing 40 years of expertise, including three decades at National Geographic. Abell’s fully booked Moving Forward in Photography workshop is designed to help students answer two essential questions: "What is a well-lived photographic life, and how do I achieve it?" Working side by side with participants, Abell will help them edit existing portfolios, generate new work, and move careers forward to the next level. In The Intimate Portrait, fine art photographer Joyce Tenneson will guide and inspire image makers to create elegant, insightful, and memorable portraits, as well as master ways to use available light. In The Color of Light, award-winning photographer Arthur Meyerson will demonstrate how to strengthen students’ sensitivity to the effects of light, color, composition, texture, and design through daily shooting assignments, critiques, and discussions. Workshops in alternative processes, film production, and camera basics are also in the mix. Thanks to Arri for bringing the Alexa and Almira on campus for our Camera Assistant Workshop this week. Click her for a full schedule.
“Magic” was the key word echoed by students this week, whether they were focused on learning 19th Century photographic processes from our resident expert Brenton Hamilton or contemporary lighting techniques from one of the world’s most renowned magazine cover photographers, Greg Heisler.
Yesterday, I walked into Greg’s Light Work workshop. The class was taking place in a cavernous barn-red boat storage facility turned high-tech studio for the summer—think Maine meets Manhattan. I sat riveted as Greg effortlessly choreographed different lighting configurations, and compared it to my own clunky bull-in-a-china shop approach. He swiftly arranged a set of Dynalites to the front, back and side of the model, even using his hands to shape highlights and shadows on the model’s face. After each image was shot, he then projected the results for students to compare. My favorite set-up was a reverse U-shaped trellis-like-structure with a top light and two side lights set against a black velveteen backdrop, all sitting behind the model, who was much closer to the camera. Front fill was used, and the effect was stunning, a soft rim light around the model’s hair and shoulders brought both drama and dimension to the portrait.
“I’m learning to trust my instincts and create light based on my individual perceptions,” said Sharona, a professional portrait photographer from Boston. ”It’s not formulaic. Greg teaches different recipes seasoned to taste.”
While Greg is known as one of the industry greats, what I found even more impressive was his genuine passion for teaching. He seemed so at ease sharing his years of knowledge and experience with photographers of all levels. I watched him give example after example of how to craft a look, while also teaching students how to employ what’s right in front of them.
“Greg’s amazing. I met him in Dubai at Gold Photo Plus. Everyone said if you want to learn lighting, this is the guy,” said TJ, a student from Chicago, who started shooting a couple of years ago, explaining that he came to Maine for Greg’s workshop to expand his lighting capabilities. “He has taught me how to motivate light and think of my environment. Now I think more cinematically and don’t just put the light on a stick and fire.”
Whether shooting low-tech with available natural light or in a studio using thousands of dollars worth of equipment, Greg encourages his workshoppers to really see and engage with what’s around them before snapping the shutter. “Motivate the practical,” is the mantra Greg often repeats.
“Greg is a magician with lighting. He’s an intuitive lighter and an individual lighter, who totally caters to the subject rather than to his particular style,” explains Chris, Greg’s teaching assistant from Maine Media. “On top of it, he’s a really well spoken, sweet guy. I’m honored to watch his process. “
Earlier in the week, I decided to escape the humidity and duck into the cool comfort of our newly minted AltPro lab. My timing was perfect. I walked in the door just as Brenton began a Salt Printing demo. It was the first alternative processes class in the new space, and the anticipation among the group was palpable—lots of questions, note-taking and videoing Brenton’s every word and every step. Brenton stood beneath sheets of paper with hand-painted emulsions, drying on clothespins. He had a specified brush in hand and began applying a historic chemical concoction of silver nitrate. He directed the workshoppers to paint “luxurious” amounts of the emulsion onto the pieces of artistic paper pre-treated with a sodium chloride solution. He also warned them not to make puddles on the paper so that uneven emulsion thicknesses or brush strokes would distort the final image.
I learned that each formula has its particular behavior and requires its own special brand of brushing. Ziatypes for instance are a saturate and coat technique. It’s something that needs to be learned by doing, a kinetic process where you simply have to experience and feel your way through, from the back-of-the-hand test to tell if your paper’s dry to how long to let your image develop in the sunlight. Yet that’s the fun of it all. Rolling up your sleeves, getting your hands wet, seeing the image slowly emerge when exposed to light. It’s the hands-on gratification of making something real, a tangible link to image creation that’s just different from moving Lightroom sliders back-and-forth on the computer for hours.
“I entered into photography during the digital age,” said Amy, one of the workshop participants, who owns a portrait studio in Ohio. “I think there’s a little something magical about the idea of using historic processes.”
Over the week, the students learned a total of nine different historic photo printing techniques including Cyanotype, Salted Paper, Kallitype, Albumen, Platinum Palladium, Ziatype and Gum Bichromate.
“It’s making photography magic and fun again,” said Skip, who travelled to Maine from Baltimore. “I’m excited to play.”
– Jennifer Cook, 2014 MMW+C PC Graduate in Visual Storytelling
Our campus is in full summer swing this week and bustling with directors, cinematographers, photographers, animators, and screenwriters. Click here for full schedule. Best known for his more than 70 cover portraits for TIME magazine, Greg Heisler is teaching this week, greeting photographers from around the country who have come to learn his innovative and distinctive use of light; award-winning photographer Cig Harvey leads students to delve into personal experience and emerge with visual images full of color and gesture; and Emmy-nominated Alan Myerson guides future movie directors to realize their creative vision through inspirational leadership of cast and crew. All this and more while our Rockport Gallery hangs its new show, A Maine Media Legacy, to raise scholarship funds; and our staff gets ready to host its annual bash this Saturday evening. Come join us and bid on a private photo session with one of 11 internationally claimed photographers who have photographed a stunning array of Hollywood A-listers, world leaders, cultural icons, and sports heroes. Click here for event info.