Structure, Aims and Organisation
Ian Wright ARPS
1. Integrated Learning on Location
The first thing to emphasize is that we are on location – a fascinating and intriguing location. My ‘workshops’ are adventure holidays with an added photographic dimension – we will be observing and recording ‘through the lens’ but we will also be having a great experience, using all our senses. The trips are all about ‘encounters and engagements’. In fact, the trips are not really 'workshops' in the traditional sense at all - most of the more structured teaching being done before or after the trips - but help is fed in constantly while actually shooting. We often work with local photographers.
While it is possible – and sometimes desirable – to divide the essential photographic skills and knowledge into different categories such as camera skills, design or composition, production skills (Photoshop etc), working in the field, awareness of photographic history and ‘great’ photographers and so on – the experienced photographer integrates this knowledge and their skills in practice – they become ‘second nature’ in doing what matters – making images.
‘Influences come from everywhere but when you are actually shooting you work primarily by instinct. But what is instinct? It is a lifetime accumulation of influence: experience, knowledge, seeing and hearing. There is little time for reflection in taking a photograph. All your experiences come to a peak and you work on two levels: conscious and unconscious.’ (Arnold Newman, Interviews With Master Photographers).
The basic concept behind ‘workshops’ on location, is to help the photographic ‘student’ (and we all keep learning) develop existing skills through an intense period of practical work, analysis and observation of a social and physical context alongside other photographers (we constantly learn from each other) and with the help of an experienced professional mentor.
Skills are important but it is not just about skills. Ideas and awareness are crucial –thinking about photography, and translating that thinking into image making – and this includes wider issues such as the ethical dimensions of photographing in developing societies.
As I say elsewhere, I embrace Henri Cartier-Bresson’s sentiment that, ‘Photography is nothing - it's life that interests me’. I find that my travel is driven by a desire to understand people and their historical and social context. That’s because we see ourselves – and our own societies - clearer after experiencing an engagement with another society – its’ culture, its’ natural landscape, its’ created environment and so on.
So – one of the prime aims of my workshops is to provoke debate and analysis about the nature of photography in general and more specifically documentary and travel photography in the context of an understanding of wider political, historical, philosophical and ethical considerations.
2. Logistics and Basic Organisation
Intrepid’s Trip Notes provide an outline itinerary and photographers will receive a more detailed breakdown of each day’s travel arrangements, accommodation, photo events etc at the introductory meeting on location. An experienced Intrepid guide accompanies the trip and is responsible for all the logistical and organizational arrangements. Local guides are widely used too. Transportation varies – and travel by train or local transport offers excellent opportunities for photography – but our own driver and bus will be with us for much of the trip. Motorcycle trips in rural Viet Nam are a fantastic experience.
Each day, we have a full day of visits – sometimes including considerable travel. Each evening a short review of the next day’s programme is given. In travel terms, there are some periods when we are based in a specific place for 2 or 3 days interspersed with travel days. These are sometimes quite long but we have regular photo stops – and we can respond spontaneously to opportunities that present themselves.
Photographically, there will be a balance of ‘set up’ opportunities and small group and independent photography. Because a group of 12 photographers working together can be problematic in social contexts, sometimes the group will be sub-divided and sometimes individuals or pairs will photograph independently. Without being too prescriptive, it may be that we divide into working pairs on a specific assignment or two.
I will endeavour to work one-to-one alongside every individual photographer during the trip. Each country location offers a different balance but in general we try to cover a wide range from street photography to landscapes, from rural locations to towns, portraits and architecture etc. (see below).
3. Photography Elements
The first important element of location photography is of course access to a wide range of photo opportunities which would normally be very difficult or impossible for the general traveller to achieve.
Because individuals will come to the workshops with different levels of skill, experience and interests, it’s important that there is a significant element of flexibility in what we do – it is both undesirable and impractical to provide a ‘course’. Nevertheless, participants can expect advice on camera technique, composition, working in the field, potential subjects and computer skills (workflow, Lightroom, Photoshop, RAW etc).
The expectation is that participants will bring with them a digital SLR – preferably with at least a couple of lenses – and that they will have a reasonable working knowledge of the camera and digital photography in general. A tripod will be useful as will having a laptop – but the latter is not absolutely essential. It is likely that participants will like some general advice on camera operation – for example, shooting in RAW – and general shooting techniques etc. This will generally be done ‘in the field’ and much will arise as a response to individual requests.
My Guide to Travel Photography on this website – in a state of constant development (currently, it has been a little neglected) – provides a lot of information about potential subjects, design or composition ideas and so on.
Ian Wright September 2009