AMONG THE UNSOLICITED COMMENTS ABOUT THE WORKSHOP FROM FORMER PARTICIPANTS
I have been a commercial photographer since I was 17, I went to college, assisted the top photographers in London, worked on global international advertising accounts for the last twenty five years, and last year I went back to collage to do my Masters, not once in all that time have I ever had such an interesting and informative photographic experience.
Just a note of thanks to you both for having me at your wonderful workshop. There are events that occur in one's life that you consider a milestone for growth for who you are or become. I can honestly say that your workshop is one of my milestone events. I understand the work - now I must apply and perfect it - both in the making of a photographic exposure and making a photographic print. You have renewed my love of contact printing that has been dormant from my youth. You have renewed my photographic vision. You have reaffirmed my love of photography.
You guys changed me, my photography and how I view what I do more than any other single event in my lifetime! I am serious :) I came home to my new Linhof 4x5 and went crazy with it but I could not get the time with Paula under the darkloth with the 8x10 out of my mind. Lori and I spoke and I decided to sell my beloved Leica M8 and buy a Deardorff 8x10, lenses, holders, big ass tripod and film............... LOTs of film! It has only been a few weeks but I take 2 to 4 frames per day trying my best to learn the mechanics of the 8x10 and become comfortable enough to apply some of what I learned with both of you.
Just a quick note to thank the two of you for a wonderful workshop this weekend. I cannot begin to express what an eye-opening experience it was working with you, both in the field and in the darkroom. I have been photographing a long time and I have never come across anyone who uses the camera the way you do to truly explore the world as a visual experience and turn that experience into a print that becomes something more than what was seen. This was truly revolutionary for me.
I want to thank all of you for making the workshop such an unforgettable experience. I had the chance to make some new friends, reconnect with some old friends, view some wonderful photographs, dine on some marvelous food, and I learned a LOT too! I'll likely never look at a photograph or my ground glass the same way again. As I stated to Michael, from reading various posts, I figured I knew what Paula was going to do under the darkcloth, but she opened up a whole new world during that 30 minute session. I couldn't be more excited!
I used to feel that I mostly took OK images, and every once in a while I would have a real gem.
Their workshop helped me refine my sense of the image during the composition stage, and I started to realize that the photographer could find great compositions within almost any scene. But first you have truly use the ground glass to see and let yourself be open to what could be a good image.
I took it last year and the only drawback is that I now have too many good negatives and not enough time to print them all, but at least soon paper will not be a problem :)
The Vision and Technique workshops are amazing. Anyone who has not taken it, sign up now! I am an art/philosophy student at the university of Arizona, and that workshop was simultaneously the best and worst decision I ever made.
Best: You learn an incredible amount. Michael is an amazing teacher. The techniques he and Paula have developed make the process of making beautiful photographs simple, second nature like. Plus, they are amicable, down to earth, and give honest feedback.
Worst: I now feel the University is a waste of time and money! paying nearly $1200 (which is time and half the cost of Vision and Technique) for brutish 18 week stomp to cover a topic Michael can teach more eloquently, and thoroughly, in about 12 minutes! As you can see when I say worst I mean that as a compliment to Michael and Paula.
Take the workshop! It is amazing!
Christopher J. Breitenstein
I want to thank you both for your guidance and inspiration. It really has had a major positive impact as far as my photography goes. You are really good at this teaching stuff, Michael. Really good. You understand and connect with the creative process at a core level and along with Paula are able to pass it along to others without a bunch of rules and "shoulds". And if we can then connect (or reconnect) with that core (universal rhythms, visual relationships, inner resonance-whatever), we are free. Free to discover and see things in our own unique way. As long as vision/seeing stays in the driver's seat. That is some insight to be able to give to others. If anyone else out there is able to do the same, they are awfully quiet about it.
I truly enjoyed your workshop. The experience expanded my perspective and I have not felt this level of excitement since I started in photography. The best workshop of the dozen that I have attended.
I must say that your seminar was the best investment I have made since I bought my first shares of GE a long time ago. Not a day goes by that I do not put to use some of the vast knowledge base I learned.
I want to thank you for a wonderful weekend. It was great to finally meet you. It is difficult for me to express the impact you two and this weekend had on me. The events of the weekend are still resonating within me. I had such a good time and I learned so much. Much more than I thought possible and in areas that I thought I knew (like how to set up a tripod). I would have been happy if all we did was sit around and look at photographs and talk about them, but you did so much more. The two dark room sessions and field trip were as much fun as they were educational. Then there was the food. It was fantastic. The dinners were as good as your photographs. Thank you for opening your home to us and sharing your knowledge. I felt very comfortable there, like all of us were old friend who were getting together again. Having attended several workshops over the years I can say that it is difficult to find someone who is a master in their field and who can also teach. It’s very rare to find two masters who can teach as well as they photograph. It was without a doubt the best workshop I have ever been to and it’s hard for me to imagine how you could have a better one. I hope that you give some consideration to an “alumni” workshop. A day in which people who have taken the course can come back and bring our prints and talk about them and photography.
Once again, thanks for a terrific workshop-cheap at twice the cost (hell, the Saturday night meal was worth that alone).
I am indeed photographically inspired as a direct result of the wonderful weekend I got to spend with you and Paula and the other students. I’ve never attended any other photography workshop, so I have no previous experience to compare to, but I can’t imagine any time that could be better spent than the time I spent with the two of you.
Seeing how you apply your practical and straightforward methods for dealing with the technical aspects of photography, exposure and darkroom techniques, was an eye-opening experience for me. Of even greater value to me were the insights into photographic vision that you shared, and the critical appreciation of tension, flow, and composition that you and Paula exposed me to. Even though I didn’t have prints of my own for you to evaluate, I absorbed everything that you and Paula said about the other student’s prints and your own, and I’m sure that I will learn to apply my newfound understanding in my own work. Best yet was discovering how intimate an experience it can be to see the world through the magical upside down canvas of the camera’s ground glass, even when it consists of nothing more than the dust or leaves or common objects surrounding my tripod.
I’ve learned that it is not necessary to fully comprehend the chemical and physical science of photography in order to properly expose and print images. While I know that some degree of technical knowledge may help me to produce better prints, I also now appreciate the simplicity of the processes in terms of their practical application, and the broad latitude available in their utilization. I’m encouraged to experiment more in the darkroom, to be informed and guided more by my senses, rather than solely by my watch and my thermometer.
I’ve ordered chemicals and a #03 green safelight filter, and I’m looking forward to trying my hand at DBI. But mostly, I just want to go out with my camera and see what I can see. On my drive home, I spent a lot of quiet time thinking about everything I learned this past weekend. My perspective and my attitude toward photography has begun to change. Whereas I have heretofore looked for subjects or objects to photograph, often coming away from an excursion disappointed at the dearth of “things to shoot”, I now realize that I can go under the darkcloth and discover a world that was never before visible to me, and that the experience of doing so is valuable whether I expose a sheet of film or not. (But of course, I do want to expose film and make prints, too!)
I wish to thank you both very much for the most pleasurable and educational weekend of intensive immersion in photographic vision and technique that I’ve ever experienced. I will certainly always remember this past weekend with intense appreciation.
From a posting to The Large Format Home Page (Tuan’s site)
If you like Michael’s vision then I would highly recommend Michael’s and Paula’s workshop, Vision and Technique. I was fortunate enough to take it in August of 2000 and it was the best investment I have made in my photography. To learn first hand how they use the view camera to see their images will set you on the road to making great images. Check out their web site www.michaelandpaula.com if you haven’t already. I know they are only giving one workshop this year so you may have to wait but it will be worth it.
— Bill Bartels, March 24, 2002.
Dear Michael and Paula,
Just a few thoughts on your workshop, if I may, now that I’ve had some time to digest things.
As they love to say in business today, you met and exceeded my expectations. In particular I thought these things (not necessarily in any order) made the workshop a success:
Attitude - Your unpretentious approach made me feel welcomed and at ease. “Instructors” at two other workshops I had attended many moons ago filled the air with their “holier than thou” attitude and the experiences were mostly a waste of time.
Hospitality - Your “make yourself at home” atmosphere and wonderful meals smoothed out the interactions among everyone there and enhanced the learning.
Efficiency - No time was wasted. If we tended to digress too much, you managed to herd the group back into the corral.
Openness - If anyone had a question unanswered, it was their own fault for not asking it! Your repeated question of us was “Are their any questions about anything?”
Shared viewing - As I mentioned to you both, the time under the dark cloth “seeing” with Paula was invaluable for me. It seems to me that if you can spend just enough time under the cloth to let reality slip away leaving just the “threesome” - you, the student, and the ground glass - this will reveal another world for the student to view. Just don’t let the student peek out from under the cloth!
Surrounding quality - I now have a new, much higher level of print quality to strive for because I have seen it! And it’s wonderful!
In addition to the “viewing” sessions of your work with us, we had many other opportunities to look and look and look. Never before have I seen so much exquisite quality at one time, in one place.
Thanks again for such an enlightening experience. Good luck to you and enjoy your adventures!
Dear Michael and Paula
Its been several weeks since returning from the workshop and I am still filled with excitement about the weekend. It more than fulfilled my expectations and I learned much more than I thought I would The tremendous effort that was obviously involved and your overwhelming generosity were greatly appreciated.
Much of what I watched you do has already been put into practice with very promising results. (My supply of Azo paper has arrived from Freestyle Sales , the Amidol has come from Artcraft Chemicals and the Kodak green safe light is eagerly awaited)
I do hope we will find an opportunity to see each other again as it was a great pleasure meeting you both.
Michael and Paula,
Just a note to thank you for a very magnificent weekend workshop. The level of artistic, technical, and philosophical contributions that you both provided was a deeply rewarding and esthetic experience for me. You conveyed a remarkable blend of photography and art, photography as art, and photography as story telling.
The concept of “landscape relationships” was vividly conveyed by the prints you showed on Friday and Saturday nights; work “under the dark cloth”; and was reinforced by the examination and commentary of student portfolios.
Another notable aspect of the workshop, an enriching element for me, was your dedication to the values and treasures of the past. I share, what I perceive to be your goals, for high artistic standards, and the preservation and use of artistic and photographic techniques deserving of practice in contemporary photography. The subject coverage of the workshop was splendid: Kodak Master view camera; Goerz lenses; backpacking with large format; film holder bag (described); Reis tripod (setup and use; hazards of tripod quick release); seeing with the view camera; dark cloth affixed to camera with spring clamps; film exposure; film development with Pyro and visual inspection; contact printing with the Azo-Amidol process; relationship of film exposure for the shadows and film development for the highlights; darkroom layout; Deardorff 8x20” camera; book publishing; archival film and print processing; dry mounting; field record keeping; studio organization.
My journey home was filled with recollections of the weekend’s events and ideas. If a class reunion is held, I want to participate.
Paula, thanks again for your warm and generous hospitality. Michael, I was to remind you about writing an essay on dry mounting methods.
With warmest regards,
Dear Michael and Paula,
Again let me thank you for a wonderful weekend. Despite my having developed a much greater degree of disability than I’d anticipated, I thought everything went exceptionally well. Your thoughtfulness for me was greatly appreciated, I hope it did not inconvenience you too much. You could not have been more considerate to a grumpy old man. I had originally felt considerable apprehension about attending your workshop, as technically there is so little commonalty between your working procedures and mine. Large Format cameras, set on tripod, full frame composition with no cropping, individual film developed by inspection and printed by contact, against my slap-shot 35mm enlarged and invariably cropped. However it turned out that none of that mattered, the important thing was your obvious dedication to the art of photography, and sharing that sense of involvement with the group, myself included.
The field session, emphasizing the importance of making the photograph as a personal vision as opposed to the final photograph of the image as an icon, presented me with a point of view I have not previously considered. That, in itself, may have been worth the price of admission!
I have no specific criticism of the Workshop organization. I thought it was exceptionally well handled, and frankly see no ways in which it could be significantly improved.
With warmest regards,
Just a quick note, now that we are finally home, to say thanks and to ask a question. First - thanks to the two of you for greatly clarifying the notion of vision for me. “Vision” is a concept with which I had been struggling for a long time. Your advice to let the camera help one see and the ideas of responsibility for every square millimeter and attention to edges were, of course, things that I had heard before. However, your willingness to look with me on my ground glass and to point out first hand what those concepts meant, then and there, was what I needed and I will make better images than I did before our encounters. Thanks much for your kind attention and help.
I also want to thank you both for showing some of your prints during the workshop and for your critique. It was a joy, a privilege, and an inspiration to see your fine work. Thanks, too, for the notion of going looking rather than going to produce a photograph; that notion helps remove “produce or die” anxiety. I have since recalled what that great philosopher Yogi Berra said: “You can see a lot by just looking”. Indeed; it is a joyful and enriching experience to look, to see, and to be taken in by the beauty that is there, everywhere. Best wishes and again, many, many thanks.
Michael and Paula
Before any more time passes, I just have to thank the two of you wholeheartedly for the workshop! It was exactly what I needed. I don’t think you can teach somebody how to see, but you all came awfully close! I will approach photographing fundamentally differently now. I will probably bore you with some progress reports
The following workshop review was sent by John Sarsgard to “A Large-Format Photography Home Page.”
Vision and Technique: A workshop with Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee
Michael A. Smith was one of the pioneers of photography workshops in the early 1970s, when he organized and hosted many that included luminaries like Diane Arbus, Andre Kertesz, Gene Smith, Paul Caponigro, among others. After a number of years, he stopped teaching to concentrate fully on his own work, which lead to a 25-year retrospective at the George Eastman House in 1992, the publication of prize winning books of his work, 200 exhibitions, and placement of his work in over 100 museums...including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. And his marriage to the photographer Paula Chamlee. Paula also has an
extensive exhibition history and has published three books, including the well known High Plains Farm. She has extensively photographed the landscape of the American West. Both Michael and Paula work exclusively in large format black and white, with 8x10, 8x20, and occasionally with an 18x22 camera. They support themselves through the sale of their photographs. And they do no commercial work.
This three day (Friday night until late Sunday afternoon) workshop covered Paula’s and Michael’s process of seeing as well as their techniques for executing their vision in the darkroom. It was an intense and wonderful experience for eight photographers. We worked until after midnight both days, in and around their house/studio in beautiful Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Paula prepared our (very tasty!) meals, keeping the group totally together to maximize the interchange of ideas. We looked at hundreds of great prints, developed film by inspection (in pyro, of course), made contact prints on Azo (developed in Amidol, of course), worked under the dark cloth together, and had detailed, constructive critiques of all our own work that we brought.
I was interested in Michael’s and Paula’s favorite techniques–development by inspection and printing on Azo...but I attended more for the vision part, and was just delighted with what I got. I’ve been working in large format for just over two years, and had my head changed completely in this weekend. Previously, I had been finding “things” I wanted to photograph, like old factories, tripod, camera, and all the rest, and executing a photograph of that THING. Michael and Paula taught me to focus on the photograph, rather than the thing. A place or thing to which one is attracted becomes a place to start, and a photograph is created by LOOKING, on the ground glass. I learned more about discovering a picture with tonal balance, rhythm, shape, and texture. I learned about making all parts of the picture work as a unity, not just be there. I learned how powerful the corners and edges are. In a nutshell, I discovered the process of parking my tripod in a good place and looking, trying lots of things, and making a picture instead of photographing a thing. This process was reinforced in great detail in the critiques, where we spent lots of time figuring out how to improve our photographs, and in the time we spent under the dark cloth with Paula and Michael. I’d never actually spent time...not just a look...under the dark cloth with instructors before. It was a real-time experience in actually DOING the process we’d been discussing. We did it individually with both of them, and spent lots of time at it.
Michael’s darkroom techniques have been described in detail in his articles in View Camera (and are also available on their web site), but the demonstrations were great to watch. I was amazed at how easy it is to print on Azo, using a metronome instead of a timer. I had never seen 8x10 and larger Azo prints before, and the sheer brilliance and tonal range was most impressive. Impressive to the point that my next project is learning to scan my 4x5
negatives, work on them in Photoshop, and make larger digital negatives that I can print on Azo. Either that works or I guess I’ll have to trade up to an 8x10! I had never seen negatives developed by inspection before. Lots of advantages compared to guessing developing time for the highlights and then hoping for the best. Amazing to watch the film begin to change under a flicker of green safelight. I’m eager to try it, but this is scary stuff! Maybe all of this is beginning to sound familiar if you’re acquainted with Edward Weston’s work–8x10 view camera, development by inspection in pyro, contact printing on Azo. I don’t believe Weston (or Michael and Paula) owned an enlarger.
I very well may not use all of Michael and Paula’s technique–that development by inspection stuff is scary! But, what made this work for me was experiencing their process, from looking, seeing, composing, finding a strong picture through the finished photograph in a consistent way. This was not a vacation workshop. It was intense–on Saturday I believe we were together for about 16 continuous hours! I hope they offer it again soon. Meanwhile, take a look at their articles and some good discussion about how they work on www.michaelandpaula.com. There are no photographs there at the moment, but Michael and Paula tell me there will be many very soon.
The following workshop review was sent by Sean Yates to “A Large-Format Photography Home Page” and to several other web sites.
I recently attended a workshop led by Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee, leaders in contemporary large format photography. Paula’s and Michael’s straightforward approach has a strong appeal - they shoot 8 X 10 and larger, make only contact prints on Azo, and develop their film by inspection in A.B.C. Pyro. I had read Michael’s articles on Azo (View Camera 7-8/96 www.viewcamera.com), printing technique (V.C. 5-6/98), development by inspection (V.C. 5-6/99), and knew that I could gain a lot from this workshop.
Michael and Paula have proven it is possible to produce exquisite prints with a minimum of expensive technical paraphernalia. There are so many variables in the photographic process that some would have you believe the only way to achieve satisfying images is to purchase the newest and most technologically advanced equipment and spend the requisite time and money on testing and system calibration. I required an alternative, and Michael’s and Paula’s direct, traditional approach was just what I needed.
Eight participants from varied backgrounds attended: two scientists, a doctor, an E.M.T. who flew in from Germany, a semi-retired professional photographer, a college professor, a recently retired railroad administrator and a librarian. Among us, one had started shooting seriously when Michael had reached the ripe age of 10 and on the other extreme, one of us had been shooting seriously for only about 2 years. Two of us brought 35mm gear, one brought 4 X 5, one 4 X 10, and the rest 8 X 10.
Friday evening we met at 7 p.m., socialized a bit, showed our work and then looked at Michael’s and Paula’s prints, adjourning after midnight. While showing their prints, they talked about their visual concerns and began answering some of our questions. It is an oft-repeated axiom, almost a cliche, that there’s nothing like a contact print for sheer quality - gorgeous detail and exquisite tones like nothing you’ve ever seen. Well, I’m here to tell you it’s true! Even though Michael and Paula go to great labor and expense to assure the best quality reproduction of their images in their books, there is no substitute for seeing the genuine article. Although I own three of their self-published books and have had the privilege of seeing prints by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and one Steiglitz, I have to say I have never seen anything better than their work.
Paula’s and Michael’s approach is about seeing things in a purely visual way, the elements of a composition working together, while maintaining the individual elements. Like a symphony, the individual notes are important, but they must combine to form a unified whole, bound with dynamic tension. An image is not a success for them if the eye is not compelled to wander, examining the details and feeling the pull of the composition, from the center, to the edges, to the corners and back. Their photographs aren’t on their web site yet, but you can check out their work at the library (or you can order a book from them direct at www.michaelandpaula.com).
Saturday morning after breakfast we gave our most difficult negatives to Michael to demonstrate his printing technique with Azo and Amidol. We studied a sample negative of Michael’s to get an idea of what a good negative looked like–adequate exposure to assure detail in the shadow areas and sufficient but not excessive density in the highlight areas for adequate contrast and separation without blocking up.
At first I was skeptical about Michael’s technique of estimating an initial exposure time based on experience. He makes an initial exposure time estimate and then deliberately makes a second print too light or too dark, to establish the boundaries for the correct exposure. He calls this technique “out-flanking”. It establishes a window for the correct base exposure and at the same time, it gives an indication of how much dodging or burning will be required. I gave Michael a negative to print that I had printed less well than I desired. I felt grade 2 was entirely too soft and muddy and grade 3 seemed entirely too contrasty to me. Using out-flanking, Michael produced a print very much like my own final print in three sheets of paper, and had an idea how much the highlight areas would have to be burned in. With my former approach, it took me seven sheets of paper to establish the correct grade and base exposure, with no attempt made to determine burning in times.
In the afternoon, while the rest of us photographed and Michael offered technical assistance, Paula took each participant in turn under the dark cloth to examine compositional possibilities. She had allowed Michael to select the lens and initial camera position, forcing her to work with what she was given at random. By panning, and tilting, slowly examining and exploring as many compositional possibilities as she could, she opened our eyes to what was possible, what was there but what we wouldn’t have seen if we had merely gone with our initial reaction.
When you see something that grabs you, you get the camera out and make an image - but the image reflects what you already know, where you have already been. Instead of stopping with your first or even second perceptions, Paula showed us that you should really explore a position and location for all it’s got to show you. We were almost all working within 100 feet of each other but time and again that point was proven as Paula worked with us, helping us see what we had missed.
Occasionally in their own work, Paula and Michael told us, they discovered something on the ground glass, refined the composition and focus, and in preparation for exposure come out from under the dark cloth only to be baffled - unable to determine what the camera was pointed at. Some of their images are not the kind of thing you would see driving along at 65 and nearly ditch the car over in excitement. Paula is publishing a portfolio of some of her work from Tuscany, and eight of the strongest images she found literally at her feet. Just by taking the time to look, to let the camera show her things, she was able to make stunning pictures that the majority of us would never have seen or even bothered to look for.
After a brief respite, we followed Paula into the darkroom where she demo made six test Tri-X negatives that included some large bright areas. She explained the process of unloading and developing in trays and then turned the lights out. Paula and Michael use their own variation of the A.B.C. Pyro formula, but for the most part, their negatives do not exhibit the obvious staining one associates with Pyro. After eight minutes in the developer she turned on the inspection light with a foot switch. I don’t know what I had expected, but the green safelight was shockingly bright after eight minutes in total darkness. Sure enough, even though the base side of the film was a murky opaque olive drab, the highlights were clearly visible as dark gray splotches.
I am sure it will take some practice to learn how to judge the degree of development, but I am absolutely sure that the rest of my negatives will be developed this way. It now strikes me as odd that more people don’t develop by inspection. Folks get so worked up about exercising control over the entire process, and yet they develop their film with a machine by time and temperature, denying themselves that last, most important opportunity to have direct control over the end result. Using development by inspection and judging each negative individually, the technical pitfalls of Zone (N-1, N+1, etc.) are virtually eliminated.
It had been a very eye-opening day! We spent some time discussing what we had seen and done as Michael and Paula prepared a wonderful 6-course meal with a salmon entrée. One of the intangibles of workshops is the connection you make with other photographers. It may be easier to find people as serious about the medium as yourself if you live in a large metropolitan area, and certainly the Internet has a way of bringing people together. However, there is no substitute for spending an entire day with one another, listening to questions and answers, discussing problems and concerns, seeing other’s work, shooting together, admiring other’s accomplishments, gaining new perspectives, and helping each other.
We spent Sunday morning and afternoon in a print critique. One at a time we displayed our work and got Paula’s and Michael’s feedback. They had spent the weekend learning as much about us as we had about their technique and vision. While I had been rather apprehensive about the process, I discovered it was a very positive growth experience. Here we had two accomplished published photographers with work in private collections and museums throughout the United States and Europe devoting a good portion of time to looking at our work, helping us articulate our vision and giving pointers on our technique.
There was quite a variety of work—8 x 10 and 4 x 10 chromes, 11 x 14s from 35mm, 11 x 14s from 4 x 5, portraits, landscapes, urban landscapes, contact prints and enlargements. Paula and Michael looked at each piece in turn, discussed what the image was “about” or appeared to be about, how it worked and how it could have worked even better. Michael used cropping squares to show how compositions could have been improved, showing just how important the edges and corners of a composition are. With her background as a painter, Paula’s perspective was new and quite enlightening. Technical points were covered, but the most enlightening things we learned were about exploring visual possibilities and new ways of using the camera.
Throughout the entire weekend, one oft repeated phrase was, “Does anyone have any questions?” It was clear that they were making themselves completely accessible. We discussed matting and dry-mounting, archival materials, print trimming, floating mats, and whether or not, and why or not, to include the film holder edges in the finished print. It was very rewarding. Prior to this, I had only been able to get feedback from photographers I had met on-line and mailed prints to. While that is a beneficial practice, it’s not the same thing as having a free-flowing discussion with immediate feedback from experienced sources and the variety of perspectives available at a workshop. One participant pointed out that my close-ups of utility poles were reminiscent of West African Nail Fetishes. I would never have gotten that response in Northwest Indiana!
We talked for quite awhile on Sunday about everything. I mean everything! The workshop was scheduled to end at 4 P.M. and some of us had to catch flights. Others however stayed behind awhile, and talked and listened and learned.
While we covered a lot of ground in a short time, the pace was not hectic or grueling, my energy was never sapped. I have been given the tools, now I must practice using them. There is no short cut, but at least now I know I am on the right path, having had excellent guides share their knowledge and experience with me. Driving home, I saw a lot of possible images, things that caught my eye and asked me to stop. Instead, I kept driving, knowing that I would see more like them, and as I looked I saw more and more and more. Michael and Paula opened my eyes to possibilities, through their instruction and simply by viewing their prints. The next time I go out shooting, or into the darkroom to print, I will peruse one of their books, reflect on what I learned and use this powerful workshop experience.
Dear Michael and Paula:
Thank you so much for such a great workshop experience. All the information you both shared was so helpful; I’m sure I’ll continue to see benefits from it for a long time to come.
Thanks for the valuable critiques of our work. You handled the reviews so constructively I’m sure we all came away much richer for the experience and highly motivated to improve our work. The great care you showed in looking closely at our photographs speaks volumes about how much you care about this art form.
The location, the wonderful meals, and the warm hospitality made this a very memorable event.
My best wishes to you on your trip to Tuscany. Be safe, and enjoy!
Wishing you good light.
The following statement is a testimonial I thought might be helpful to anyone who might consider participating in Michael Smith’s and Paula Chamlee’s Vision and Technique Workshop. It also allows me to finally express the thoughts and lessons I learned from the workshop which for a variety of reasons I had not found the time to do since returning from the workshop in May 2001. Hopefully the reader will not see this as a bald face attempt to tout and promote the workshop for commercial reasons, but as an honest attempt on my part to express honest feelings about my experience! Of course, if, as a result of my statement, there is added interest in the workshop, so much the better! I truly believe that serious art photographers would have much to gain from Michael and Paula’s insights.
Firstly, it would like to say that any workshop, especially one given in the home/studio of the workshop director is not so much about the art as it is about the artists themselves. That was certainly the case with Michael and Paula. Since I had become acquainted with Michael over the telephone over a year and half earlier, I had some idea of how he thought and worked. I had seen his work originally in the new Black and White magazine and in View Camera Magazine and remember having seen a photograph he made in in the late seventies that was included in the Upton and Upton photography textbook. Nevertheless, meeting Michael and Paula and seeing their prints, darkroom and studio was work every penny of the workshop fee. The most important thing I came away with were the insights they in many cases let casually drop- but to me they re-ignited all kinds of thoughts and feelings about the photographic process and the reason for photographing. Moreover, the time spent with them also encouraged me to re-acquaint myself with the works of the acknowledged 20th masters combined with Michael and Paula’s books and in effect turned the workshop experience into a permanent one, having purchased quite a few folios of the 20th century masters. While I don’t want to be too specific, since that should be left for the workshop, I will suffice to say that even though I had been photographing for over a decade and had worked furiously in the previous 2 years with my view cameras, Michael and Paula’s insights, and comments, provided me with a whole new understanding of what I was doing! I felt like the man who didn’t realize he was speaking prose his whole life!
I also found that at least two of their books, Paula’s “Natural Connections” and Michael’s 25 Years Retrospective book also helped to put the workshop into perspective and in effect make it permanent! By always having these two semi-autobiographical works at hand, I feel as though I have instant access to their ways of thinking and working when and if I should need it! I could not more strongly recommend those two books especially to present, past and future workshop participants! They could almost be considered “required reading” as in a college course. For me it answered all sorts of questions about their work, but most of all it makes for a “permanent workshop experience” because of their reference value.
Just wanted to drop you a note to thank you both for a wonderful weekend. I had the most peaceful drive home, it was filled with your beautiful images that continue to float in my mind. I feel privileged to have been part of your workshop. I learned more in those three days than I have in all my previous workshops. No further workshops are needed. I am now ready to begin photographing.
David Gonzalez, May 2003
Thank you for a wonderful workshop, I am still reeling over how much information and advice you gave all of us. I was very impressed with how both of you were able to balance working with all of us as individuals as well as a group. A very rare gift. Both of you really made the workshop exciting comfortable.
Dick Coogan, May 2003
I’d just like to again commend you both on a wonderful weekend. You both certainly love what you are doing and it shows. Your attention to detail in your photography is quite evident; it continues into the organization and preparation of the workshop itself. I am fortunate to feel that I am at a point in my own work to most benefit from your critiques and look forward to new horizons. The thought process under the dark cloth is forever changed thanks to your observations and comments.
Steve Sherman, June 2003
Thank you for the inspiring and useful workshop you conducted last weekend.
On the long drive home yesterday, I was able to reflect on what I learned and how it will reflect my enjoyment of photography. The darkroom demonstrations were most helpful and you convinced me to use the metronome and to learn to develop by inspection.
For years I have looked at photographs in books and in galleries, trying to see what it is that makes some very special and some very hum-drum, but on my own I never found the answer. I believe your critique educated me so that I will look at the work of the masters with a new appreciation and understanding. I hope, too, my own work will improve.
I enjoy the process of making a photograph from setting up the camera to making a final print. I believe my experience with you and the other members of the workshop will help in every phase of the process and my enjoyment and sensitivity will increase.
This letter, then, is a big Thank You.
Robert Hutchinson, (82 years old, photographing for 65 years), June 2003