In late May, Memorial Day weekend in fact, I had the opportunity to attend the Art Wolfe Creative Session workshop held here in San Francisco. I had a great time, but before I jump into the review to keep things transparent… I talk with Art every once in a blue moon and have gone out to shoot with him from time to time. With that being said this review will be impartial and should be a good measure to gauge the workshop.
To kick off the weekend on Friday night Art gave a photo presentation at the Yerba Buena Gardens. 70-100 people were in attendance. The presentation was sharp and professional and noticeably more polished than his “Edge of the Earth / Corner of the Sky” presentation I saw in 2006. Photographs were shown from Nepal, Madagascar, Africa, Alaska, South George Island and Antarctica. I can’t say how the presentation impacted others, but I found myself quickly transported to each location displayed. From time to time I would turn to my wife, who joined me, and she particularly lit up when viewing the Madagascar photos. I think the Lemurs clearly won her over.
The surprise of the evening was a sneak peek at Art’s new show “Travels to the Edge with Art Wolfe” that is being broadcast on PBS stations across the country. An episode on Ethiopia was shown highlighting three different tribes and their culture. Much to Art’s chagrin he shared with the audience some controversy behind the episode, namely that the FCC has deemed the content obscene and that all views of tribal members must have their behinds or to be more blunt buttocks blurred out when broadcast. Note all long shots of tribal members were from behind. I found this a bit surprising as growing up National Geographic shows used to show nude natives in their programs all the time. Regardless the unaltered episode was far better than I expected. I’m looking forward to seeing more of them in high definition.
Overall Friday nights presentation exceeded expectation. It was really entertaining not just from the great photography, but most of all from Art’s colorful commentary and stories.
Saturday & Sunday:
The workshop was held at the Hotel Rex in downtown San Francisco. It wasn’t overbooked and Art was quite accessible. The workshop was made up of numerous slide shows and videos (with great music I might add) intermixed with giveaways courtesy of various sponsors including Adobe, Arcterix, Gitzo, Lexar, Lowepro, Microsoft, etc. As a whole the workshop was more of an experience versus a lecture and that was a pleasant surprise.
The focal point of the workshop was “the art of seeing“. At first this might seem a little too ethereal for most, but it was quite informative for photographers of all skill level. Art very early on stated his main goal of the workshop, “to provide tangible ideas to inspire attendees to go out and shoot.”
To support Art’s goal, workshop content was very well thought through and quite comprehensive, covering nearly 75 photographic concepts. One great thing about the presentation was the inclusion of photo rejects used to contrast successful photos. This really helped to highlight what worked and what did not. As impressive as Art’s body of work happens to be, he was quite down to earth and did not rely solely on his work including photographs from other respected photographers.
Saturday’s topics included an Introduction, “Discovering the Subject”, “Elements of Design” and another showing of the “Ethiopia” episode of Travels to the Edge for those that didn’t make the Friday presentation. Sunday’s topics included “Black and White Conversion”, “Light”, “Creative Solutions”, “The Landscape”, “Wildlife Experience”, and “Concepts” and a showing of the “Arctic National Wildlife Refuge” episode of Travels to the Edge.
I think what I enjoyed most of all as a photographer was the air of openness. There were no restrictions on questions. As a result Art and his assistant, John Greengo, would share detailed information about locations, exposures, best practices and anything else you could want to know. Overall this helped create more of a conversational atmosphere versus that of a strict lecture.
In the end I felt as though many of the things I look for and do as a photographer were validated. I also learned quite a few new things. I took notes through out and will definitely review them from time to time to keep my approach from getting stale. If you live in or live near a city where the Creative Sessions tour is traveling to I’d recommend attending. The information, entertainment value and educational opportunity far out weigh any cons you might think of to avoid going.
[tags]Art Wolfe, Travels to the Edge, photography, creative session, workshop, review, art, art of seeing, workshop, landscape, wildlife, travel, photo[/tags]