These are strange and testing times, with many of us stuck at home for the foreseeable future, cut off from many of the things we normally turn to for creative inspiration and release from the tedious realities of life. Some of us are also grappling with illness, or the illness of those close to us. For all of this darkness, looking for positives and opportunities in this situation seems to me to be one way to make it a bit brighter, however scarce they may seem. Where they don’t seem to exist at all perhaps we need to find ways to create them, for ourselves and for others.
One thing about difficult situations is they sometimes spark innovations and changes which might never have happened under easier times. To quote Orson Welles’s character Harry Lime in The Third Man “In Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, they had 500 years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
For my part these circumstances have finally pushed me to develop an online version of my popular Studio Workshops program. Online teaching has a mixed reputation, I guess partly because many people have never tried it themselves, but also because a lot of people who teach online try to do it the same way they would teach in a classroom. Since 2013 I’ve been teaching on the London College of Communications innovative online MA in documentary photography, and I’m currently it’s acting course leader. I’ve been lucky see some brilliant examples of digital pedagogy in that time (and almost as instructive, I’ve also seen some terrible examples).
I’ve drawn on all of these experiences to redesign my workshop program so that it will be I hope just as interesting, enjoyable and educational online as it was in person (the only thing I haven’t yet figured how to replicate is my legendary home cooked lunch!) The new format workshops will come in two forms, one taking place compressed into one Saturday day as before, and another version spread over four weekday evenings (dates for these will launch in the next week or so). Workshop sessions will take place in an open source e-conferencing platform, you’ll just need an internet connected device with a microphone to join. Recordings and other resources will be available to participants afterwards. I’m hoping to introduce some new topics in the near future, for now the topics remain the same old standbys that I have now taught a dozen times in a physical setting. They are:
Research Techniques, which focuses on developing and carrying out a research-based photography project. It includes techniques for formulating an achievable project idea, explores tools and strategies for carrying out your research, and covers basic legal, organisational and other practical issues that an aspiring researcher-investigator should keep in mind as they develop their project.
Photographic Storytelling, which draws on ideas from cinema, literature and other sources. We spend a day getting deep into different techniques and strategies for editing and sequencing, exploring the different ways that we can make narratives from images and other media, whether for photobooks, multimedia, or exhibitions.
I’m very aware that many of us are also losing out on work and other opportunities as a result of current events, and besides the financial burden of this I know it’s also emotionally tough. In response I’m offering at least one free place on each workshop to a creative in need. If that’s you please drop me an e-mail via my online shop and we can have a chat in confidence and work something out.
(Photo: Nicolai Tesla’s experimental wireless electricity transmission tower at Shoreham, Long Island, August 22, 1907)