Last November The Compelling Image (TCI) reported that it had teamed up with Photojournale “a key player in the future of visual storytelling and photography publication on the Internet.” The partnership led to the Emerging Photographer Program. Several weeks ago, Vlad Sokhin, the first of TCI’s graduates emerged from the program…brilliantly.
Vlad’s Photojournale exhibition: A Time of Crocodiles | Human and Nature Clash in Mozambique explores the relationship between the crocodile-filled Zambezi River, a culture governed by ancient beliefs, government favoritism toward foreign hunters and an increasing loss of limbs and lives.
Like so many of TCI’s instructors and students, Vlad is a global citizen: Russian born, resident of Lisbon Portugal and about ready to return there enroute to relocating to Australia. I was eager to know more about his work and experience as a TCI student so I contacted him in Tete, Mozambique with a round of questions. Here’s what he had to say:
With such high quality stories already under your belt, what drew you to The Emerging Photographer program at TCI and how did you hear of the program?
I found the TCI web-site on the Internet a couple of years ago. It seemed very interesting to me, but I didn’t have a chance to do a course. Then, in the beginning of this year, my wife asked me what I would like to receive for my birthday. In the Mozambican town, Tete, it’s very hard to find anything to offer. I remembered about TCI and we checked it together and found The Emerging Photographer Program. I told her: “That’s what I want!”
Which courses did you take?
I chose the Documentary Photography / Photojournalism Track. This program has three parts: Photojournalism with David Bathgate, Street Photography with G.M.B. Akash and a Portfolio Review with Ami Vitale.
How was the experience for you? How did it compare to face-face instruction?
We are all accustomed to face-face lessons. But it looks like it will be a thing of the past soon. More and more universities offer their students on-line courses, including master degrees. As for me, it was the only option to learn more about documentary photography and photojournalism whilst already working with it far away from the civilized world. And I enjoyed the learning.
Did the way the courses are set up time wise blend in well with your already busy schedule? How much time did it take for you to complete the program?
I was always late for my assignments. In the beginning of the course I had a motorcycle accident and was recovering from it for two weeks. Also my first story wasn’t very easy to shoot, so it took me extra time. In Africa nothing is fast, you have to relax and wait. It reflected in my assignments. The whole course took me about 4 months, but I finished it on time. I do want to thank my tutors for being patient with me.
Describe the process of interacting with your instructors: email, critiques, skype?
Usually I was messaging through the TCI web-site. Also we had email exchanges and I talked by skype with David Bathgate and, for the portfolio review, with Ami Vitale. She helped me a lot to understand what I actually have to show to the editors on my opening portfolio and what I need to do to produce deeper photo-essays.
What would you say is the main benefit of a program like this one?
For me the biggest benefit was meeting new people from the photography world. I studied photography for two years and had a separate course in Photojournalism. In the TCI course I learned a different way of approaching the stories I was working on. The past courses taught me how to produce a photo-essay but in the TCI program, I have also learned how to package it and how to propose the story to the editor.
Who would benefit from this program?
I already worked in photojournalism for a couple of years and I found the Emerging Photographer Program very helpful for me. I would recommend it to beginners because of its simplicity for learning and to the advanced photographer who wants to improve his/her skills. And the teachers “adjust” their help and attention to a student depending upon his experience in that photographic area.
Vlad’s rich experience will soon be followed by other Emerging Photography students.
Anne Salminen is Finnish, married to an Italian and living in Nairobi. She is doing a story on poor Kenyan women empowering themselves via a knitting co-op established by a Norwegian woman.
Kasandra Antoine is Haitian American teaching English in South Korea. Her story has to do with migrants from North Korea living and working in the South.
We will delve more deep ly into their projects after they have completed them. As well, we will delve more deeply next post into Vlad’s experience and stories of The Spirits of Mozambique. Be prepared for the mysterious.
This week, we continue our conversation with Jon Mortimer. Since online, interactive learning is still so new, I was especially interested in Jon’s take on the subject as it relates to his courses at TCI.
As a face-to-face instructor in London, and now online, aside from the “anytime, anyplace” aspect of online learning, what else do you think the online experience can offer?
Being a very hands on sort of person I was a little wary of the idea of on-line learning, but after really looking at how TCI course structures work and spending time developing and writing my courses I am a convert. I was at first worried that it would lose the personal touch, where the students would just feel like a cog in the machine and not that they were really being noticed and encouraged. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
“…but the chance to then upload and have a personal critique of your work is really where you start to learn about YOUR photography and YOUR vision. This is where you are then able to progress.”
The courses are not just downloads that you read and then move on from. I think, and this seems to be the consensus of my students too, that the assignments are the real gem in this crown. By having an assignment that gets you out there putting into practice what you have learned is one thing, but the chance to then upload and have a personal critique of your work is really where you start to learn about YOUR photography and YOUR vision. This is where you are then able to progress. This gives it the feeling of a face-to-face lesson where discussions can begin and turn into steps forward.
You are offering three online courses through TCI: Digital Photography Beyond the Basics, Contemporary Portrait Photography and now a new one in development, Self-Portraits. What do you want your prospective students to know about these courses?
I see The Contemporary Portrait Course as a great adventure of self discovery. Okay, so we look at a few technical matters, lenses and light but Portrait Photography is much more than that. It is a way of finding out how we see the world and the people around us. I like to approach portraiture as if I am that person’s biographer.
I look at what we try and accomplish through a portrait and then what we will inevitably end up with. As much as we try, we cannot tell the subject’s story entirely; we will however tell our story of that individual, how we see and perceive them. I also look at our most useful tools other than the camera and the lens; our ability to listen, our subject’s environment and time itself.
The Self-Portrait Course is in development at the moment but will be a fun look at the history and development of photographic self reflection and the ways in which we can capture our own stories. It will be a course on the visual autobiography if you like.
I also teach Digital Photography: Beyond the Basics: going through the process of working with the digital equipment we have at our disposal now. I address how we can harness the technology to take further creative steps and how to manage our digital work flow. It is a more technical course, but through the wonderful assignment structure, I bring in creative aspects where we don’t allow ourselves to lose our imagination and our creativity.
Tell us about your upcoming exhibition. Where, When, Theme?
The whole project is entitled “The Madness of St George” and it has begun its life as a living breathing mass… It comprises a pictorial journey through the England of my memory and dreams to see if it still exists in this age of the global high street…I believe England should be enjoyed for all its madness, eccentricity and quirks, whether they be sweet or maddening. This is the idea: a celebration of the spirit, individuality and heart of the people and their country and the history and the future of the areas that still thrive in my family’s old photograph albums.
The project will culminate in an exhibition and a published book. Along the way, however, I am chronicling the journey with a photographic blog. The plan is also to get interest in the project with a series of talks about the process and the idea along the way in galleries in the areas that will feature in the book. No dates yet but follow the blog and all will be revealed along the way.
Last Friday, people all over the world took a breather from hard-core reality to be swept up by the magic spell of love and beauty surrounding the Royal Wedding. We wondered what London-based photographer Jon Mortimer had planned for the day. He told us he was on his way out to shoot a few street parties in connection with both the event and an up-coming book about the English entitled The Madness of St George. What follows is Jon’s heartfelt take on his countrymen and his and their responses to the day.
This whole Royal Wedding to me was about the little stories that in the grand scale of life are the biggest you can find. I wasn’t really that interested in the big ceremony…but what fascinated me was the community angle. The working people of the nation, in these arduous times could quite easily have turned around and said “Hey, come on, we’re all struggling to make ends meet with the financial crash and the sorry state of the economy here, losing our jobs and scraping around for scraps of money and you Royal folk are splashing everyone’s cash on a big unnecessary knees up,” but they didn’t.
In fact the event had quite the opposite effect. Why? I have no idea but it actually brought everyone together and lifted their spirits far above their worries of everyday life. And this feeling on the day, of unity, community and kinship had the most powerful effect on me. I remember standing back a little at one point, looking across the street scene in front of me and thinking: “this is actually beautiful.” I had no idea really why this was happening but I just knew it felt like a wonderful moment.
Although I approached this with an open mind, there was inevitably the question in the back of my mind: “Why do Royal Weddings bring the nation together and stir up so much loyalty in the common working Brit?” Everything that the Monarchy stands for could be seen as divisive. The notion of a group of people that is held up as our betters purely by the chance of birth should grate with the average working man and woman. But it doesn’t.
And here it was clear to see that a whole nation was being lifted and cheered by the Royal Wedding in an atmosphere reminiscent of the stories I have heard about the street parties of the early 1950’s when the Queen was crowned just after the end of World War II. Maybe it is our chin up attitude to difficult circumstance or maybe we just like a good old knees up and a beautiful Princess. I still don’t have an answer to my question but what I do know is that within those street parties on Friday afternoon a whole host of communities arose from their arm chairs and met the neighbours. Can that really be a bad thing?
The idea for photographing the street parties came about during research for my latest book project about the English and their eccentric traits. I felt that the street parties being arranged all across the land were a particularly English phenomenon. They may not have invented them but they do them very well. So I started researching where they would be. I wanted to cover a few to get a good cross section but I obviously needed them to be all in one area for logistic reasons.
This research was more difficult than I imagined. For various reasons local councils didn’t seem to feel the need to publish lists…so I had to start trawling through Facebook pages, asking at local pubs, calling friends and knocking on doors. Eventually I found four wonderfully friendly and inviting streets that welcomed me along for the ride.
The main one I covered was quite a big affair with around 200 people but still had a wonderful community spirit with everyone from the neighbourhood and the pub and the church and the school all working together and linking arms to bring the community closer. And not just for the day but creating new bonds and friendships that will run and run.
When I shoot my documentary pieces and actually even my portraits I like to work in a relaxed and low key way. With documentary I don’t want to be noticed, or actually I don’t want to stand out as a photographer is more the point. So I don’t have a big zoom lens, I generally work with a 35mm wide angle and no flash and I talk to people and listen to their stories. The more connection I have with my subject the better the images I will end up with.
Sometimes we are all too keen to start snapping every where we go, but if we don’t actually have an emotional link to that moment and place then our images are going to be soulless. So…the experience was important and wonderful too, like being at a mini wedding reception that you knew was being lived out thousands of times over, all across the land and at that very moment, a fabulous feeling of family and community.
For many the Monarchy really sets England apart. After this experience, how does the whole idea of “The Royals” sit with you?
Ideologically I should be very cynical about the whole thing. The Monarchy in theory should divide the nation and can only really be negative in the assurance of class differences and privilege lorded on a family purely by the accident of birth. And this is where my fascination kicks in. If truth be told, after my experiences this weekend at the street parties in the backroads of this merry England, the Royal Family appears to be the one thing that is binding the people of this nation together. Creating the idea of Community in far better ways than any modern day voted in political idea of a Big Society could ever do. My eyes have been opened and my cynicism sucked dry. The whole project was all about the little stories within the local communities and as it turns out, these stories have joined together to form a much bigger story than I could ever have imagined.
Next Post: Information about Jon’s online, interactive courses at The Compelling Image
The future role of photography was the focus of a recent conference presented at the Foam Museum of Photography in Amsterdam. The keynote speaker was Fred Ritchin eminent professor of photography at New York University and author of the provocative tome After Photography. As reported recently in The British Journal of Photography. Ritchin posited the idea that…”what’s next for photography is less important than what’s next for the world and how photography can contribute to it?”
He added that he had attended an earlier conference that week …”listening to Kofi Annan describing the state of the world – floods, oil spills and radioactivity. With 1bn cameras already in the world, it’s clear that it’s not enough to ask about the future of photography and make more images. We have a responsibility to ask how photography can help.”
Several weeks earlier in New Zealand, André Tanguy, TCI’s SEO expert, was dealing with one of those very issues. In his online diary of the earthquake and events unfolding around him he speaks about his attempt to make his way to his partner, Deb, on the other side of town, Forced to abandon his car, he bicycled his way through the ravages of the earthquake. From his journal he tells us:
Christchurch City is built on a 1-way traffic system, but that didn’t matter anymore. I cycled the wrong way up a 3 lane road in the middle lane against on-coming traffic to make sure I was as far away from falling debris as possible. Then I saw the first dead person, his dog sat next to him completely silent. 2 people were already attending and placed a jumper over him; I felt so sorry for him and his family. He had been bit by falling debris from a building.
Then it was onto Manchester Street; words can’t begin to describe the utter carnage – buildings missing complete sections and rubble all over the street. Then all of a sudden, everyone stopped. A MASSIVE rumble I can only describe like thunder comes from nowhere. Then the screams – but it sounded like everyone was screaming with cushions over their mouths, muted; surreal. BANG – a building behind me collapsed and there was nothing I could do, so I continued my journey through the nightmare.
He successfully reached his destination and with Deb at his side, later connected up with their good friend, Piedad Barillas, who supplied the photographs seen here.
In the face of this devastating event, André and his friends acted as citizen journalists. Ritchin cited dramatic examples of citizen journalism in his speech, a term being bandied about more frequently now with the proliferation of cameras and crises everywhere. In those moments, the locals may be the only ones who have access or can get to the scene fast enough.
For those who ask themselves the question: how can I help the world through my own photography? check out TCI’s course: Spot News – Capturing Events as They Happen taught by Bhatia Ashwini. Bhatia lives and works in Dharamshala, India where he covers Tibetan affairs for the Associated Press
Spot News – Capturing Events as They Happen
Classes begin every four weeks from
May 2, 2011- May30, 2011
Many of us remember falling in love with black-and-white film and spending days and nights in the darkroom. When digital photography started to evolve, many photographers who had worked primarily in black-and-white, were dazzled with the ease with which they could now create in full color. Fortunately, black-and-white photography never disappeared; rather it had to be reinvented from scratch to reach the beauty it had during its life in the analog/film era. Now it has come full circle.
So what is it about black-and-white imagery that seduces our senses? To find out, we touched down in San Diego, California to chat with black-and-white photography maestra, Memphis Barbree. Memphis is teaching Digital Black-and-White Photography: Getting Started for The Compelling Image Online Courses. Here are Memphis’s insights into the power and beauty of black-and-white imagery.
I love photographing in black-and-white. It’s my main medium of expression as a photographer. For landscape photography in particular, creating in black-and-white communicates a sense of timelessness that I find really appealing. It provides such a great immediate abstraction of a subject and helps a viewer of a photograph take a visual step back and see even the everyday from a different perspective. I experience nature and all of life as one continuum – a process that loops through fascinating twists and turns, shifts and slides, back and forth, in and out, and over and over. I want my photographs to express this view. Using black-and-white helps me transport the viewers of my work into a place that could be the past, present or future.
Many people, when new to photography, are immediately drawn to create color images because bright colors easily draw and excite the eye. After studying the art of black-and-white for some time, a photographer will began to understand the difference between luminance and color values. It can be helpful to work only in black-and-white for a time while training your eye. After a while one can come to understand and love black-and-white’s unique language and way of expression.
Studying black-and-white photography can be a path to learning the basics of photography the way one learns basic classical scales of a musical instrument before going on to play all sorts of music. You’ll be a better color photographer to have studied and mastered black-and-white work. It could even happen that you find the world of black-and-white its own unique and magical path of photographic expression for you.
Digital Black-and-White Photography: Getting Started
Classes begin every four weeks from
March 28, 2011- August 29, 2011
The wonders of cyberspace still continue to amaze me. I am writing from Mexico and am about ready to drop in on photographer Susan Wright currently based in Rome, Italy. Just hearing the word Italy calls up dazzling images in my head and Susan lives there to create them everyday. Beginning this week, Susan will be teaching a course in Lifestyle Photography through TCI online, interactive workshops so today I am eager to learn more about what the lifestyle genre is all about.
An Australian native, Wright, has a dream job traveling around Italy capturing gorgeous places and people. Her assignments take her to UNESCO World Heritage sites like the surviving Greek temples in Agrigento, Sicily or the lush Baglio Di Pianetto vineyards of Count Paolo Marzotto or the best coffee cafes in Rome. These experiences endow Susan with a rich store of approaches she can draw from to offer her lifestyle photography students.
We asked Susan to email us a few notes on what this style of photography means to her. This is what she has to say:
Lifestyle photography demonstrates people of all ages, genders and races experiencing and interacting in a myriad of everyday life situations. Because lifestyle photography is projecting an ideal of what a consumer would want to experience in life, the mood is generally up-beat, energetic, fun, romantic, playful and light-hearted. It is essentially optimistic and idealistic.
Lifestyle photography is the art of capturing these quirky, spontaneous and beautiful moments of interaction between people and their environment. Not only light, color, props and design play a huge role in creating vibrant images, but also the right selection of your subjects to communicate and express the desired mood in the photographs.
You are basically creating the environment, the stage and the atmosphere, with particular attention to artistic and technical elements, while effectively working with your subjects and allowing the spontaneous energy and interaction to flow.
When all of these components come together perfectly, you will have created great lifestyle images with high commercial appeal and value.
In the midst of her own very busy and glamorous lifestyle, Susan’s Lifestyle Photography course begins now. It comes packaged with a touch of Italy.
Classes begin every four weeks from
March 6, 2011- June 19, 2011
Bring your camera, favorite lenses and laptop and be prepared to capture in a whole new way – the world where East Meets West.
Accept the challenge! This workshop will fill fast – SIGN UP NOW!
Photography legend, Al Satterwhite, has been on the leading edge of every change in the world of photography since his start in the 60’s. Today he is deeply involved in digital filmmaking while his still imagery sales continue to soar. At present, he has three new books in the hopper to add to his other published works.
When it comes to mastering color and design in your photographs, Al wrote the book on it, literally, and his images, shown here, are proof of his mastery. At The Compelling Image, you can tap into his storehouse of knowledge through his series Color and Design in Photography, a six week course launching on February 28, 2011.
You may be thinking: “Hey, with my digital camera I can set the menu to vivid and then use the saturation slider in Photoshop, and…voila.” To this kind of thinking Al says: “You can get screaming color and well placed composition in your work if you know how. To make color zing in your photography, even with Photoshop, you have to start with a well made picture. Are you on automatic or are you getting something you really want?”
Satterwhite explains that the difference between point and shoot and a great image is that one day you see something or have an idea about how you want your work to look and feel. That’s the moment you move away from just snapping the camera and move toward developing your vision and your craft. You learn how to work the image.
“Learn placement, composition and color. Think about what you are looking at. What I am trying to show here is that knowing how to place something in the foreground will give the picture depth. And also …you have to know what optics to use. While zoom lenses are easier in a way, going by foot sometimes trains your eye and broadens your knowledge. You move forward, for example, for a telephoto effect and backwards for a wide angle effect. And you use your feet to zoom.”
About online classes, Satterwhite says, “These classes are like Photography On Demand. What we offer is knowledge that we give to you in a way that you can make use of it.”
Whether you are just starting out or a long-time enthusiast, Al Satterwhite can tailor his lessons and critiques to meet your interest and level. And you will be learning from a genuine “Nikon Legend of Photography.”
Color and Design in Photography
Classes begin every six weeks from
February 28-October 31, 2011
Let’s say you’re ready for the big leap: a face to face portfolio review. Like an evening of speed dating, you’ll have twenty minutes to wow your potential “date.” During your hour, your work will be judged by three reviewers. If all goes well, the door to your most fervent dreams might open up, even if only a small crack. Or…?
Slow down. Slow down. Before you take the big plunge, perhaps you might want to explore something less intimidating, more like a personal coaching session with an in-depth analysis and critique of your work where you receive 100% of an hour of virtual face time with a great photographer. Well, that’s precisely what a TCI portfolio review/critique can offer you.
Here’s how it works: first, select your choice of reviewer: Ami Vitale, Lisa Wiltse or Tim Clayton. Second, choose a date that will allow you enough time to do a tight edit of your work to select the best ten images to be examined. Third, prior to your skype discussion, return the questionnaire you received to your reviewer so he/she can get to know you and upload your images to the TCI site for your reviewer to study. Fourth on the appointed time and day, spend an hour with your reviewer via skype. Fifth, take notes and apply the suggestions the next time you think about, shoot or edit your work.
For an intimate feel for the process, go to Marco Ryan’s four part blog about his experience with Ami Vitale several years ago. Marco’s generous in-depth retelling of the experience is nothing short of inspirational.
At TCI’s virtual portfolio venue, take a moment to look around to meet our reviewers. All are vibrant and seasoned photojournalists with many awards and accolades. All are global, humanitarian citizens who care deeply about the world, its children and the daily lives of those children and their families and what it is that makes them more like us than apart from us. Hear what Ami Vitale has to say in her “The Story Within the Story” 12 part talk at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles last summer or take a look at Lisa Witsle’s article in The Fader and then visit Blurb to preview the six books she has produced.
Read what eight times World Press Award photographer, Tim Clayton has to say about his work, ever-changing attitudes in the newspaper business as it affects photographers, and most especially his poignant advice to beginners in his 2008 Sydney Herald Interview. Here’s a sample:
Your passion for photography has to flow through your veins; you have to be driven by a V8 turbo inside you… You have to love photography so much you are willing to sacrifice almost everything else in your life for your love of photography… Remember there always is another level and keep working towards getting to that level. Always respect the subjects you are photographing and remember it is not about you! Always be humble, there is a photo.
The TCI Portfolio review can help take you to the next level…and keep you humble too
The Compelling Image instructors, David Bathgate, Heidi Laughton and Christopher Booker join other international, award-winning multimedia journalists, including Sandy Huffaker, Donald Miralle, Ackerman Gruber, Pierre Kattar, Abir Abdullah, Carolyn Cole, Benjamin Lowy, Deanne Fitzmaurice, Hazel Thompson, Michael Robinson Chavez, Tim Wimborne, Rick Loomis and Omar Khalifa in exhibition of career and personal work at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, 117 N. Sycamore St., Santa Ana, California 92701. Opening Reception: 5 February / 6 – 10 p.m. The exhibition runs through March 26, 2011. Contact: Gina Genis, TCI Instructor and Exhibition Coordinator
Photo: Tim Wimborne / Reuters