I’m sometimes a little sceptical about ‘masterclasses’ and workshops, not least because I’ve myself taught a few over the years. While many seem worthwhile and some seem to offer very good value for money, others seem to be merely money-making exercises, charging high fees for the privilege of being taught by someone who has little idea how to teach and only a fairly basic grasp of the subject in which they are supposedly a master.
I’ve attended a few over the years too and they have varied immensely in quality, from disappointing to highly inspiring. I’m sure I wouldn’t be writing this now if in the 1970s I hadn’t made a trip to Derbyshire for a workshop with Paul Hill and Raymond Moore, something I’ve written about on various occasions, including in Darbis Murmury. It was so good I went back several times for more.
One that I’m sure was very worthwhile – and you can read about it from the point of view of a blogger who attended it - was last weekend’s Guardian Masterclass run by Antonio Olmos. At the bottom of sarasiobhan’s short piece is a list of ten ‘top things she learnt‘ at the class, which she is very complimentary about. Apart from the ‘(use a 50mm fixed lens)’ they are all good sense – really a 50mm makes it hard to get in close enough, and a 28mm or a 35mm is better. Since sarasiobhan already uses a Leica X1 – with a fixed 35mm equivalent lens – it seems in any case redundant advice so far as she is concerned.
I wrote about Olmos before when he gave a talk to Photo-Forum in 2010, and he has produced some great work you can see on his web site, as well as regularly in The Guardian where you can also read his advice on street photography.
I’ve been meaning for some time to mention his ongoing series The Landscape of Murder and the features on his blog (subtitled with typical self-depreciation ‘Ramblings of a mad visual mind’) are always worth reading. He has a separate blog devoted to his Landscape of Murder project which is perhaps the best way to approach this work.
In my post on his 2010 talk I wrote:
Olmos also passed on a great bit of advice he himself received, that if you find yourself surrounded by photographers when taking pictures, you are almost certainly in the wrong place.
and a week or so later I thought of his comment again when I was taking this picture:
US Flag, photo of pastor Terry Jones, lighter fuel, US Embassy & Press, Peter Marshall
and wrote about it in another post, Flag Burning, Photography & Politics. It’s something we very much agree on (and readers may notice that I have often passed on this advice), and his work is distinguished by his thinking about his subjects and finding different ways to approach them.