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 Kernan is a photographer, writer, and teacher who came to photography from theater. He is the author of several books, including Looking Into The Light: Creativity and Photography, The Secret Books (with Jorge Luis Borges), and Among Trees.

He has exhibited at galleries and museums across the US and the world, including: Centre Regional de la Photographie, Duchy, France; Biblioteca Alexandrina, Egypt; Photosynkiria, Thessaloniki, Greece; William Benton Museum; Museo de la Ciudad, Queretaro, Mexico; Friends of Photography (San Francisco); Wesleyan University, Connecticut; Whitney Museum (New York), and has created media performance pieces at MASS MoCA, Guggenheim Projects in New York, and Portland Performing Arts Festival. He is currently working on a theater/dance/multimedia piece, Drowned.

He has produced and directed two documentaries, The Kampala Boxing Club, about boxing in Africa, and Crow Stories, about the Crow Reservation in Montana, and contributed the concept for the CBS film, To America, and served as Associate Producer.

His photos have been published in the New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian, New York, Harpers, Bloomberg, Communication Arts, Graphis, Polyrama (Switzerland), Photo World (China), as well as magazines in Iran, Greece, Italy, and Switzerland, and he has done a wide range of advertising work for clients such as AT&T, Amex, GE, Pratt & Whitney, Dow Jones, Harvard, and Knoll,

He has taught and lectured at the New School/Parsons, Art Center (Pasadena), Yale Medical School, International Center for Photography, University of Texas, Wesleyan University, and has won numerous awards, most recently from the Center in Santa Fe for teaching, as well as a Doctorate (HC) from Art Center in Pasadena. He writes and lectures about creativity, the arts and commerce, with articles in Communication Arts, Graphis, and Lenswork, among others

Course Dates

Jul 24 to Jul 30



Class Size