WOW. I went a whole week without blogging, which tells you how intense this experience was for me!
I'm still pinching myself because it just felt like a surreal dream to me. The Foundation Workshop 5 gave me the chance to work with some of the most amazing photojournalists and wedding photographers in the country.
I traveled to Dallas, TX for the workshop and started off with a great evening at Gary Donihoo's house, which was absolutely beautiful and a ton of fun! I have to say that Gary seriously intimidated me when he pointed to me after just meeting me and said, "I bet your images are great. I can tell. Show me your images." He then gathered several other people into his office, and put me on the spot by asking me to pull up my website in front of all of these people I had never met before! I think I stopped breathing until I heard someone speak! "Nice. That's good. Yup. I knew I was right about you. I'm glad you didn't embarass me," he said. What an introduction that was!!
Here are some fun pics from Gary's photobooth, which he rents out for weddings. I'm in the lower left with Janine McClintock on top and Davina Fear to the right. Davina and I roomed together and I couldn't have asked for a more perfect roommate. She is such an amazing soul with wisdom and grace that go beyond what most people are willing to share with others. I had admired her work and philosophy for quite some time and was so glad that our paths were meant to intersect at this workshop. I made her give me her autograph so I could say I knew her when she becomes even more famous!
The workshop was split into three teams and my team was led by Huy Nguyen with Anna Kuperberg as an additional mentor. We were each given a photojournalism assignment and had to go out into the field to photographically tell the story of our subjects. I was given a wonderful family who had two sons, one of which had just received a prosthetic leg three weeks earlier and was celebrating his 4th birthday at school on Tuesday. It was such a moving story and when I get more time to go through the nearly 5,000 images I shot, I'll put together a slideshow that I can only hope will do this family justice. It was an incredibly moving experience for me and I feel so fortunate that they let me into their lives to photograph their stories and intimate moments.
After each day in the field, we would meet as a team and our leaders and mentors would edit our work with us, much like a news editor would go through and find the most compelling images that capture the essence of the story. Here's a little clip of Huy, talking to my team about getting the story from a photojournalist's perspective:
Of course, after a few days of hard work, we also took time to enjoy ourselves. Here's a clip of everyone gathering into one hotel room to surprise Bill Holland, who organized the event and just so happened to have his birthday during the workshop...
After two long days in the field followed by very late nights of editing sessions, we went to a fabulous Brazillian Grill where we presented our final images and shared our slideshows from our projects. If you'd like to see my images, they're on the Foundation Workshop Website under Photographers -> Anne Ruthmann. It's a little better with the music and full frame images, but you'll at least get the idea of what I've been doing all week long! Jesse Reich took this little video of my presentation intro... listen for the part where Huy mentions that I said he didn't look through all 4,000 images from the first day, and then he responds with, "no, because the sun came up!" ;-) Editing is definitely one of the hardest things for me - and he really helped me learn to narrow my focus and concentrate on what's really important. (Caution: my boobs look huge in this video!)
So, after all is said and done, what did I learn?
- That I tend to be more self-conscious with a camera in my hand and that I need to approach people in the same way that I would without the camera. I think this comes from my own insecurities about being photographed, and I need to not impose my feelings onto other people.
- That I can get a lot closer than I have been in the past, and that it can create some really powerful images to capture people in such close proximity.
- That I've been lazy about cropping my images. I've always taken pride in my ability to frame things just the way I want them in the camera so that I didn't need to do any cropping later, but I've learned that cropping can sometimes help me see something differently or draw attention to something that may not have been as noticeable otherwise.
- That I should take more risks and spend more time just "playing". After I've captured the safe shots, I need to go back and make them better, different, more compelling. It's not enough to just get the shot and say "OK, next!"
- To stop treating digital like it's film. To not hold on to each frame so preciously and to not worry about wasting frames after the decisive moment. Perhaps something better will come along - and that's what I'll be prepared for.
- To let my vision be the strongest vision in my work and that sometimes dumbing my work down so that everyone can understand it is not the best thing for me.
- To go out and find compelling stories of interest to me and to force myself outside of my comfort zone by challenging the way I see and interact with the people around me.
- That I can experiment more with light and angles - going more extreme, more interesting, more different.
- Last but not least, that I'm a really good photographer. It sounds silly to say that, but I always had this question of "how do I measure up" in the back of my mind because I never really knew, because no one had ever really critiqued my work with a critical eye. I'm definitely one to think that my client's opinion is the only opinion that matters, but I had always wondered if the people that I admired thought my work was any good. I received a ton of amazing compliments about my work from people who just blow me away like Greg Gibson, Emilie Inc., Brooks Whittington, Tyler Wirken, and David Murray. I'm going to try VERY hard not to let it go to my head, but I have to say I feel like I can do anything now!!! More than anything, I just feel so incredibly lucky that I get to do something I absolutely love.
I'm so sad that it's over and that I won't be able to see everyone again for quite some time!! It was such an amazing experience for me and I only hope that I can give back to others all of the things I've learned. The year ahead is going to be full of amazing experiences and wonderful surprises. I can't wait!!!
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