Update: A nice feature of a "4am | Japan" photo over on the Magnum Photo site, thanks Matt!
Last weekend I spent two days in a Magnum Photo workshop focused on long term projects. About 36 photographers attended in SF and we had five main instructors: Matt Black, Shannon Simon, Leo Jung, Jacqueline Bates and Judy Walgren.
Matt is a well known and respected photographer (Time Magazine Instagram Photographer of the Year 2014) who is from the central valley in California. He is on a path documenting his immediate environment often including the migration of farm workers from Mexico to California and back. This has lead to a much bigger project "Geography of Poverty" where he has crossed the USA four times telling the local stories of families below the official poverty line. He is a deep guy and really committed to the narrative. Take a moment and check him out here.
Did I say committed? His trips last between 2 weeks and 2+ months, often going back multiple times. When you think, ALL IN, this is it.
Lauren Heinz from Magnum NYC was the workshop leader and organizer, the event held at SF Camerwork on Market Street. Excellent job keeping the class on schedule and the space was large, well lit and perfect for this kind of event. Lauren is working on other education classes for Magnum as they rollout new workshops.
Shannon Simon, Director of the Americas and Content Director, Magnum Photos started off the sessions discussing her view of long term projects, with a good dialouge on the operational realities of getting a project completed and published.
Matt was up next and took us though some of his portfolio as he discussed finding an authentic project and his thoughts on publishing directly to the viewers through social media.
After lunch Leo Jung and Jacqueline Bates from The California Weekend Magazine gave us a glimpse into the work and focus it took to get a new magazine published. Super cool as they have made photography and design key elements in the story telling. Check it out here.
The day ended with Judy Walgren, most recently from the SF Chronicle and now with SF start up ViewFind. She shared her career path and what it has taken to adapt as a photographer over these last 30 years. Super valuable when you think about the future and long term projects. More about ViewFind here.
We also got to participate in two 1x1 portfolio reviews on day two, I brought 20 large prints from the "4am | Japan" project. Also nice to sit in on another dozen reviews, always good to see new work in combination with top flight feedback.
First 1x1 review was with Shannon and she had asked the "why" question, resulting in a good discussion of where I am headed. She had some good insights on publishing and encouraged me to send in the book when completed. Overall she liked the project and work. She also asked what is the next project, tougher to answer.
Second review was with Matt which was also very positive. He comes from a reportage background but appreciated my "poetic" fictional project. He had some good comments about distance in my shooting and adding a few more personal touches.
Another blog post soon with specific comments and class notes. A great investment in time and my preparation helped the reviewers see my scope and focus of my project. And of course pleasing when top flight professionals dig your work.
Pro tip: With long term projects, good constructive feedback is invaluable as it is inevitable the work evolves through the shooting, editing and publishing process.