It may seem a little strange but by the time I enrolled in my first photography workshop, I had already presented seminars and hands-on sessions through Canon for their clients and professionals. At the time, I had been photographing for 2 years building up a fairly large portfolio of landscape and travel images from Australia and Italy. I wondered what the heck I was going to be able to teach my audiences, many of whom had been shooting much longer than myself. In retrospect my photography back then seems a little predictable and lacking compositional finesse compared to where it is now. On the other hand, over a period of two years, I had mastered most of the technical aspects of using an SLR, with a particular expertise in filtration. People had also seemed quite interested in learning about my “5 minute digital workflow” which produced clean natural-looking results.
Whatever doubts I had about being able to teach this audience vanished on stage once I started talking and saw the interested facial expressions looking up at me, people taking notes and asking appropriate questions. While I did not profess to be an expert in photography, surely nobody could be as much an expert as myself regarding how I produce my own images!
So even before registering as a participant in my first workshop, I had already taught photography in a formal capacity. What were my reasons for doing so? Firstly, there is the issue about time limitations. I put in 7 weeks of research and scouting for my 18 day New Zealand workshop. Having someone who has done the leg work and possesses local knowledge can maximise your photo opportunities if you don’t have many weeks to do it all yourself. Even in a city such as Paris, this can make a big difference since many tourists spend the first 2 days floundering, trying to work out their bearings and how to get around the city.
The second reason why I still enroll in workshops is that I’m interested in getting new perspectives in how my favourite photographers approach image making. In contrast to most of the other arts, the traditional model of teacher-student pathway of learning seems to be less well established in photography. Although many photographers like to proudly say that they are self-taught (and I consider my self one of them), I am also always pleased to list the esteemed teachers I have had. These include Darwin Wiggett (landscape), Marsel Van Oosten (wildlife/landscape), Charlie Waite (travel) and Lara Jade (fashion). I think the time has come for me to shoot with a reportage photographer, so I’m planning on enrolling in a workshop this year. I believe my experiences with these highly accomplished people have helped enrich my photography by gaining alternative insights into image creation and the philosophy of it all. It’s good to be a self-taught photographer but it’s even better to be able to draw on inspiration and the teachings of others.