Learn to make authentic portraits looking with the eyes, the mind, and the heart.

A real portrait is not a headshot. It’s an encounter, a wordless experience of a person by another that invokes the subject in full, with all complexity and contradictions intact. How do you make such a full picture? Simple. Set aside what you should see and look at who is there in front of you. Look with the eyes, the mind, the heart. This workshop will be an intensive investigation into the art of making a penetrating and exciting portrait. The point is not to learn “how to do” a portrait, but to investigate and practice creative photography of people. It is a wide-ranging exercise encompassing the use of light, the energy of composition, psychology, and above all else to accomplish it with authenticity. The class will explore all of these aspects through a number of techniques and exercises that get us to a real state of presence with the person we’re working with and let us represent what it is we see. We’ll work with word pictures, in movement, in abstraction…and in photos.

We will acquaint ourselves with the work of great portraitists in different media and learn what we can from them. Assignments will include:

  • Writing the story of a stranger.

  • A portrait of ourselves.

  • A portrait of the same person by everyone in the class.

  • Encounter with a stranger.

  • The question of light.

We will be less concerned with techniques and "the steps" of  portraiture, but will focus on extending ourselves, exploring possibilities, making authentic work that represent humans, work that neither flatters nor denigrates, but is as authentic and as true as we can make it.



Sean Kernan

Sean published his first poem when he was 16, and he decided that if it was that easy he’d just go ahead and be a writer. Then he somehow deflected into theater and photography. But he always maintained some kind of writing practice throughout.

In college he worked as a reporter for the New Haven Register and a bureau assistant for the New York Times. Later he produced a series of articles and interviews on photography and a number of columns on the problems of creativity in the workplace for Communication Arts Magazine.

He also became a pioneering teacher well known for investigating creativity in various disciplines, and based on this work he authored Looking Into the Light. At this point he is nearly finished with one novel, The Invisible Library, and nearly begun another, Old Age, Sickness, and Death: A Comedy. And he has written any number of forewords, afterwords and introductions.

He has published two monographs of photographs, The Secret Books (with Jorge Luis Borges) and Among Trees, (introduction by Anthony Doerr), and has just produced a film, Crow Stories, about life on the Crow Reservation.

He has taught and lectured at Parsons School of Design, Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Maine Media Workshops and Santa Fe Workshops, University of Texas, and Yale Medical School. He has exhibited internationally and won numerous awards, including Center’s 2010 Teacher of the Year and an honorary doctorate from Art Center College of Design.

You can read a short collection of his work, Sean Kernan: the Incomplete Workshere. His website is www.seankernan.com. 


Course Dates

Aug 13 to Aug 19




Class Size