Archive for the “PRC Workshop Recaps” Category

By Audrey Gottlieb, PRC Workshop Assistant

Photograph by Rania Matar

“A portrait! What could be more simple and more complex, more obvious and more profound…” This quote by French poet Charles Baudelaire (1859) was one intricate thread of the conversation opened by Rania Matar in her recent two-day workshop at the PRC. Her eight (nine including myself) students had the good fortune to meet Rania and share a dialogue about photography that came straight from the heart.

Starting with a slide projection of famous and not so famous paintings, Rania introduced the class to subjects who posed for the great masters such as Vermeer and Rembrandt. She pointed out the importance of observing available light pouring in from a window, of learning to see shadow, skin tones, body language and mood. She interspersed photographs made by the late August Sander, Irving Penn and Diane Arbus, as well as those of contemporary photographers Tina Barney, Lydia Panas and David Hilliard. Between the first and second classes, Rania sent us emails listing the other 20 plus photographers’ works she had shown us, as well as a list of poignant quotations about portraits that she had used in her presentation. There had been a lot of material to cover in the vast territory of portraiture photography, so these suggestions to familiarize ourselves with additional images were welcome and useful. Rania provided piles of beautiful photo books to reinforce her teaching us how to see through different creative approaches.

The second class was devoted to looking at and critique-ing the “homework” assignments brought in by the students. Everyone contributed to this exercise. The critiques were gentle, constructive, interactive and expertly guided by Rania. We looked at photographs of children, families, couples, Alaskan fishermen and new Bostonian immigrants. Students talked about how and why they were motivated to follow the subjects they did. The old saying that puts forth “A picture is worth a thousand words” was supported by the fact that story-telling is vital to any personal project. There was a fabulous repartee and camaraderie among the group.

The icing on the cake was at the end of the workshop when Rania showed us her extensive portfolio of beautiful prints from past and current projects.

Rania’s rhetorical yet practical question – “What makes a good portrait?” – was answered time and again in so many ways over the course of our instruction, leaving the class begging for more and for a follow-up class next spring.

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By Danielle Ashley Burke, PRC Workshop Assistant

Sequencing and editing a portfolio is one of the most important, daunting, and occasionally confusing things a photographer can do. From novice to professional everyone must make portfolio selections at some point, which is one reason it is great to get first hand information from a professional who has been doing so for decades. For me, signing up to be the workshop assistant for Ernesto Bazan’s Sequencing and Editing Workshop through the PRC could not have come at a better time. I had just graduated from photography school and was eager to get a fresh set of eyes on my work.

(c) Danielle Ashley Burke

The nine of us in the course were told ahead of time to bring 30 images to be critiqued (whether it be 30 from one series, or 30 images we considered to be our best work). Ernesto was able to give each person a great amount of time going over each and every image. He promised to be critical but constructive in order to help us improve and he definitely delivered.

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By Mike Murowchick, PRC Workshop Assistant

When first I signed up for Lisa Kessler’s “Vision & Voice” Master Class at the Photographic Resource Center in February and agreed to serve as the Workshop Assistant, I had a feeling it would mark a significant stop on my journey as a young photographer. I had never taken a critique-based photo class before, and I was thrilled to have the chance to learn from Lisa and begin to find my “voice.” Three short months later, I can say with certainty that this class has exceeded all of my expectations and has been the most meaningful experience I have had as a photographer.

Classmates view and discuss the work of David Mattox during the final project presentations. Photo by Lisa Kessler.


The workshop was comprised of ten students, each coming from various photography backgrounds. Some of us had been shooting for decades, while others, including myself, had only been shooting for a few years. Despite this, each of us brought a unique perspective to the class, and we were all able to rely on each other week-in and week-out for invaluable advice on how to improve our work. The class ran from 6-9 pm, but every week we all felt like we could have stayed at the PRC all night burning the midnight oil while looking at each other’s work!

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By Fran Gardino, Volunteer Workshop Assistant

I guess you could call me middle-of-the-road with regard to promoting my fine art photo work.  I have self-published three photo books, designed and posted an evolving website and participated in a seemingly endless series of local art shows.  I’ve also had two portfolio reviews and licensed several of my photos for relatively small fees. Like many in the audience, I decided that it’s about time for a boost and an update.  The PRC’s “Finding Your Audience” workshop with Mary Virginia Swanson — or Swanee, as she likes to be called — was just the ticket.

A multi-media presentation and Mary Virginia Swanson? Count me in.

A number of years ago, I attended a photo lecture given by an aging Doc Edgerton at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  During his lecture, Doc mentioned that despite his many years on the case, there were still plenty of strobe photography opportunities waiting out there, in particular, the photographing of complex wing movements of a large variety of hummingbirds in South America.  Even in his old age, Doc was still seeking lifetime challenges and inspiring all of us in the audience to do the same.

Similarly, Swanee, although much younger than Doc was at the time of his MFA lecture, showed an intense video slide presentation that was both inspirational and full of challenges, useful concepts and practical hints.  Her presentation was specifically designed for those of us that feel the need to exhibit our work in galleries, museums, etc., sell, and self-publish our best photos in printed books and on the web.

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By Stefanie Klavens, PRC Workshop Assistant

On December 1, a group of 13 eager photographers descended on the PRC for a two day Location Lighting Workshop™ taught by Rick Friedman. Tables were set up, pictures flew off the walls, and in short order, the PRC Gallery was transformed into a classroom and shooting space. The workshop began with an in-depth slide presentation of Rick’s work, where he walked us through the step-by-step details of how he created his shots and approached each assignment. What inspired me the most was his ability to walk into a job, and with very little prep time, come up with both great concepts and lighting that looks so sophisticated you would never know it was done on the fly with lightweight, compact Speedlites. Rick’s energy and enthusiasm were contagious, and it definitely set the tone for the entire weekend.

After the slides, Rick and his long-time assistant, Keiko Hiromi, brought out cases of equipment and the hands-on aspect of the workshop began. What happens when you turn loose a bunch of inquisitive shooters on a table full of gear? Let’s just say it was a little like trying to herd cats. We split up into groups of two and three and began working with our flash units mounted on our cameras. We experimented with bouncing flash into reflectors and nearby walls and a variety of light modifiers and diffusers, such as FlashBenders, hand-held and camera mounted bounce cards, pots and pans. (OK, so maybe I exaggerate a little…) No more “deer caught in the headlights” shots—under Rick’s guidance, on-camera flash became a tool to create soft, flattering light.

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By Liz Ellenwood, Workshop Assistant

Lets go back to the basics, I mean the real basics. You’ve got a cardboard box sitting in front of you. What do you do with it? Put stuff in it? Maybe break it down and recycle it? Let your cat play in it? How about you make it into a camera? Sounds ridiculous with the digital age that we are in. Why on earth would you spend the time and frustration of dealing with light leaks, over/under exposed images, darkrooms, etc. while you could be out clicking away on your digital camera not worrying about any of these things? Spend a day with Jesseca Ferguson creating pinhole cameras and that question will quickly disappear from your mind and be replaced by “what digital camera?”

I was introduced to Jesseca’s work a little over a year ago and find myself still captivated by it. Her work reminds me of the Pictorialist movement in the early 1900s and how photographers of that time depicted a romanticized world through soft focus, very dreamlike images. After reading about Jesseca and her work, I was awe-struck: she uses a pinhole camera! These stunning, ethereal images were created with literally a light-tight box with a tiny hole poked in the center. Needless to say when I saw that she was giving a workshop on “Pinhole Madness” at the Photographic Resource Center, I wanted to be a part of it.

At the Wednesday night pinhole presentation by Jesseca

The workshop was broken up into two days. The first was Jesseca’s presentation on pinhole photography in the PRC gallery. She showed slides of so many terrific artists: John Wood, Steven Pippin, Eric Renner, Pinky Bass, Barbara Ess, the list goes on and on. Jesseca spoke of how Eric Renner thought of the pinhole camera as a “sophisticated light leak” and how terrific it is because “a pinhole camera is the only camera that comes packed with food.” To explore this thought of food and pinhole, Jesseca brought a tin full of cookies that she purchased somewhere in Chinatown – apparently Chinatown is the place to go for pinhole cameras, big tins filled with food – and we were instructed of our first step of making a pinhole camera: eat all of the cookies. No complaints here!

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By Marisol Márquez, Volunteer Workshop Assistant

As the digital world advances dramatically and we snap away hundreds and hundreds of images, we tend to forget that the aesthetic value of a digital image is as important as its final printed version. We only seem to consider this complicated process when we decide to take the next step to print.

That was precisely the intent of the amazing photographer and educator Neal Rantoul’s workshop: to demystify what for most photographers and artists is considered a brain racking experience. This full day workshop was divided into two main sections: the first one, more theoretical, would deal with the workflow involved in the preparation of the file before printing; and the second half would be more of a hands-on experience, where everybody would have the opportunity to prepare their own files to subsequently print them in the print room.

Thus, once all the attendees arrived, we proceeded to briefly introduce ourselves pointing out our knowledge and main issues on the topic. After that, Neal showed us a sample of his printed body of work to exemplify the importance of a good quality print as the final product in the photographic process.  This raised some questions about different papers and results as well as inkjet printers.

The class moved to the digital lab where the core of the course took place, starting from basic concepts such as the meaning of calibration or what needs to be calibrated to more advanced ones such as discussing dpi, pixel counts, sharpening and the correct way to upsize a file. In summary, what’s involved in a Ready to Print (RTP) file, including a final demonstration on how to use the ColorMunki system of monitor calibration. The software used by Neal as part of his workflow included Aperture and Adobe Photoshop, along with Nick Software for sharpening.

A half day had already gone by and the time came for everybody to start putting into practice the recently acquired concepts. But before that, we moved to the adjacent room, the print room, where Erika, the Northeastern University print room assistant, gave us a thorough explanation of the Raster Image Processor (RIP) they use at NU for printing: Colorbyte software’s Image Print.

The long-awaited moment arrived and all the attendees went into the digital lab and began to work on their own files and prepare them for printing. This seemed to be the perfect time to solve some more problems about cropping, resizing or editing. As the files were getting ready, they were handed to Erika for printing or even reprint.

The workshop was at its height: all rooms were populated with attendees carrying out different tasks in a harmonious and smooth continuum. Some worked on their files using Photoshop, Lightroom, or Aperture; others handed over their files for printing; more problems were solved along the way; and some admired their final product.

Neal swung by every room to keep an eye on things until more or less everybody had their files printed, and we finished the session gathering around the same table where we started just a few hours back to review and discuss the prints, but this time with a feeling of accomplishment and the certainty that printing is not as challenging as it was before.

All photos by Marisol Márquez

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By Michael Ruggiero, Workshop Assistant

Harvey Stein – a professional photographer, teacher, lecturer, and author of four photography books – is a fantastic instructor.  His recent workshop for the PRC was divided into two sessions: the morning session had 21 students while the afternoon session was devoted to a maximum of 10 students. As students began filing in the classroom for the first session, Harvey outlined the subjects to be discussed on the classroom chalkboard. In front of him, his handouts were ready to be passed out.  He was very organized and eager to teach.

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By Bruce Wahl, PRC Workshop Assistant

One lecture and two FULL days with photographer Peter Vanderwarker. That’s what the workshop promised. In that time maybe a few answers to questions that plague all artists: How do I break out of this creative slump? What do I do next? Is any of this any good? Peter as been working as a photographer for 30+ years and has faced all these problems and and then some in that time. He’s even solved some of them. His workshop through the PRC was intended to share what he knows about breaking through barriers and creative stumbling blocks and getting on to doing the work.

Thursday night, March 22, the PRC’s Master Lecture with Peter was held on the BU campus. Peter spoke on many subjects concerning creativity and getting through artistic barriers, warming the audience with his humor and telling “War Stories,”  anecdotes from a career as a working photographer.  A list of books and some comfort food recipes accompanied the talk along with images of his work to illustrate his points. These images ranged from newer European architecture to a modern sewage treatment plant, and he focused on how to make them look interesting and have a “human touch.” Peter then fielded questions from the audience, and a thoughtful and lively discussion ensued. But not everyone’s questions were answered in full. For those seeking more in depth answers (and who had preregistered), a workshop on applied creativity awaited them. Read the rest of this entry »

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By Stephanie Robb, PRC Intern, Fall 2011

I’m not thrilled about the speed at which technology is evolving. Just when I figure out how to use one device, a newer version comes out and quickly renders my work unreadable. I have considered getting a website for my photography – and people frequently ask if I have one. Last time I attempted building a website, I got overwhelmed with computer language and put my website on the back burner. The pace of technology may be frustrating, but I can’t afford to fall behind. When the opportunity arose to attend a website workshop specifically designed for photographers, I decided it’s time to face the challenge, elbow out my uncertainties, and geek-out.

Glenn Ruga, Director of the PRC and presenter of the Websites for Photographers workshop on December 3, showed about fifteen photography professionals and enthusiasts how to understand the many different ways to create an easy-to-maintain website without paying someone else to do it. He showed us that we can pay, but with just a little bit of “geeking-out” we’ll be on the right track for doing it ourselves.

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