Monday, October 6, 2014

Magnum Workshop Day 2/7 - Monday, First Day in Bruno Barbey's Group

I started Monday morning with a drive to a place I'd read about in Land's End (see Day 1 for a full reference on this book about Ptown), the Beech Forest. I was up before daylight, and drove into the National Seashore to find the place. I ended up hiking in the forest for an hour or so, knowing that I wasn't going to find my photo project for the workshop there, but still quite interested in the place.
Morning in the Beech Forest
Returning from the forest, I went for coffee at a place in Ptown called Wired Puppy. This ended up being my morning stop every day I was there.
I happened to run into Bruno Barbey there, and had a nice chat before starting our workshop at 9:00 AM. I was a little surprised to find that Bruno shoots a Canon DSLR and zoom lens. Bruno and his wife, Caroline, are very nice, extremely creative people, and are interested in the people they meet. It turns out that Caroline is a very gifted videographer.
Morning Coffee with Bruno Barbey
We began our first workshop day with each student presenting their portfolios. Bruno withheld comment, saying that he'd meet with each of us individually later to discuss them. I never really got the chance to get this feedback since I transferred into David Alan Harvey's group on Wednesday.
One statement that Bruno made that I liked very much, and that has stuck with me:
"Photography is a fantastic excuse to meet people."
Bruno Barbey
Viewing Portfolios (fellow student, Peter at top, Bruno Barbey below)
Bruno told us that we did not have to work on a project, but I was intent on finding some sort of theme to my week's work. At this point in time, I had no idea what that was. I also knew that a key to my learning would be to go at least one level deeper than just shooting pictures of strangers. Again, I had no idea how I would achieve that. This gave me more than a little anxiety about what was to come.
As soon as we broke at about lunch time to allow us to get out and shoot, I went to rent a bicycle for the week. My goal was to leave the car parked for the remainder of the week, which I achieved with only a couple of minor exceptions. Riding back from the bike shop, I stopped at the Ptown wharf, which I knew was a center for activity in the town. Shooting a few pictures, I left not feeling any closer to a real objective for the week.
I did stop in at the Center for Coastal Studies (, and learned of several interesting potential stories, including restoration of a historic sailing vessel, a fishing net entanglement project (where they go out and untangle turtles, whales, and other non-target sea life from nets), and even biological studies of whale age and bacterial environment using genomic and other technologies. Given more time in Ptown, this is where I would have focused my efforts. As it was, the group was at sea during most of the week, and I just couldn't rely on making contact later in the week. As it turned out, as much as I would have enjoyed it, I'm glad that I didn't rely too much on this one; we never did get to make contact when the boat came back in.
Ptown Wharf
One idea I'd picked up from Land's End was the transition that Ptown goes through between summer and winter. I saw a few indications of that transition at the wharf, but was unsure about how to proceed with it as a concept.
End of Summer, Ptown
I continued to bike around town, including passing by a local auto repair garage (Rego Automotive), where my attention was caught by a 1974 Karmann Ghia, similar to the one I'd first learned to drive in, far ahead of my legal driving age. I went inside and introduced myself to Pat who runs the place. I asked him if I could shoot a few images, which he agreed to. He was working on a lovely 1959 MGA at the time.
Pat of Rego Automotive
Not sure how to go further, and feeling like I'd probably distracted Pat from his work for long enough, I moved on.
It was at this point that I stopped in to visit one of our workshop staff, Angela Russo, who runs a fine art photography studio in Ptown. (Click Here) to visit Angela's website and see some of her amazing color and large format photography. Feeling a little lost for a subject, having a conversation with Angela really helped me to get my head back in the game and keep looking. Angela is one of those few people I've met that I immediately knew I'd make friends with. She's a very special person, and continued to help me throughout the week, even though she wasn't assigned to work with either Bruno or David's groups.
Each weekday evening, one of the Magnum mentors gave a public talk and presentation of their work. On Monday, Olivia Arthur presented her work, largely centered around the Middle East and the treatment of women there. While Olivia found trends in the roles of women across the Middle East, she also found very interesting diversity from place to place. For example, she found Saudi Arabia to be culturally entirely apart from the other countries she worked in. In Dubai, she explored the cultural aspects of this rapidly developing country where only 10% of the people are citizens, and 70% are male. Olivia is a master story teller, and currently has two books in progress.
I left the workshop late that evening feeling very disconnected and concerned about being able to achieve the goal set out by Bruno Barbey as producing 8-10 presentable images in five days, one of which was now over. We were scheduled to meet at 9:00 each morning to review progress; I felt that I had nothing to show for my first full day of exploring.