There was a discussion on HCSP a few weeks ago about the merits of street photography workshops.
Is there any point in doing them? Are they worth the money?
Marja one of the curators of the HCSP pool, wrote:“Even if flickr and internet exist, you cant really compare anything online to the possibility of meet up with people in person. To discuss, or listen to someone skilled and insightful will do something real for your photography. There has been a lot of workshops around this summer, many organised by photographers well known by regulars here in the group and in my opinion people interested in this would take huge advantage of participating. Discussing work in person is a must and cant be replaced by internet-forums.( Not even close.)” I’m very independent so I tend to just go out and tackle things on my own. But after a year of that, and inspired by Marja’s words, I thought it would be a good idea to talk to someone, in person, who really knows what they’re doing.
Nick Turpin was hosting a street photography workshop at the School of Life, so I booked up. It was actually a lot cheaper (less than half the price per day) than the 6 day Guardian Masterclass that kicked off the discussion on HCSP.
Nick manages to be pretty focussed but easy going at the same time, which is a good mixture for getting along with a group of 20 different people. He’s also very articulate so he’s able to convey clearly his ideas and thoughts. I felt he was very generous with his time over the weekend workshop, as both evenings we finished late, what with the dinner on Saturday and heading for the pub on Sunday evening. The School of Life make a big effort to make their events sociable so they serve a tasty dinner at their headquarters (a shop on Marchmont Street near Russell Square).
In fact, they pepper the weekend with tasty treats like vodka cocktails and fresh coffee and muffins on Columbia Road market. Which you can’t complain about!
The basic structure of the workshop was slides and talks plus six ‘shoot on the street’ assignments. We went to some photo friendly (I guess touristy) locations where it’s common for people to be carrying cameras and you don’t stand out. I think really, the workshop was aimed at people who want to give street photography a go for the first time. At least, it assumes newbies will be there. It may well have said that in the course description, but for some reason I jumped to the conclusion that everyone would be the same as me… In other words I assumed that it would be a workshop for street photographers rather than a ‘try street photography’ workshop.
I can safely say it was well worth the money but I think perhaps a workshop that focussed on editing and on existing work might have been more useful for me. I’ve done 38 of the Street Photography Now Project assignments, so another six that were much the same thing, and effectively involved just going out there and tackling it on your own (sort of but Nick was on hand) weren’t just what I needed. However, I did shoot at a different focal length the whole weekend and I started using continuous shooting and those two things alone were a departure and have led to some pictures I was pleased with. But yes, editing and getting feedback on existing pictures would have been really useful for me.
On the second day, Nick invited a colleague, Sean McDonnell to show us his work. I loved it: very beautiful and dramatic. Even though I generally prefer colour. It was very colourful black and white!
So I would recommend that particular workshop if you want to try street photography. And I’d conclude that workshops are worth doing, as connecting with people face-to-face is somehow very important. It’s hard to explain but I suppose it’s the way you can pick up on the feeling of inspiration from people who really care about what they do.
It’s in my nature to just do it by myself and find my own way most of the time. And I think with creative work that’s deeply important. But sometimes input from someone experienced just makes a difference.
Here’s one or two more pictures. They’re all from the first day. I think I was just too knackered on the second day.
Not sure if there are places left, but Nick’s next workshop in association with the World Photography Organisation is (glamourously) in New York
And, Nick continues in his mission to promote street photography with the release of in-sight, a new 38 minute short film this week via Distrify ‘a pioneering way to allow independent film makers to charge a small fee per viewing of their film’.
It’s good (especially the Gus Powell interview) and it only costs a couple of quid to watch.
[Edit Tuesday 27 September]
If you’re interested in photography workshops AND travel, check out the trips offered by Maciej Dakowicz. I expect most people reading this will know Maciej’s work, but if you don’t it’s fantastic. Very fresh, ‘spontaneous’ and above all, compassionate. It so often it appears that he’s greatest friends with the people he photographs.