Roughly 120 days from now I’m teaching a workshop in Peru.
My planning has already begun. You might find that a little surprising, but it’s very true. And while this might seem like a lot of prep time, let me assure you, it isn’t. Not by a long shot.
And when I say planning, I don’t mean dragging out my suitcase or beginning to prepare lecture notes. Those will come, in time. I mean, one of the basic questions is which camera will I take – my Leica or my Hasselblad?
At the moment, I’m beginning to prepare the logistics of my photographs. My personal introspection of what I’d like to make while in Cusco for the first time – what I’d like to make while there, not what I’ll be teaching. In fact, this note is somewhat of a primer on what we will be considering while there.
You see, in many ways, I’m in a similar position to the students who will be attending the Peru in Book Form photographic workshop. I’ve never been to Peru. I’ve never witnessed Easter in Peru. I’ve never seen Cusco. I’ve never been to this hotel. I’ve never flown through Lima. So, it is difficult for me to know exactly what will happen, which is what is so exciting.
(For those curious why the heck I’m teaching a workshop in a city I’ve never visited, I’m working with the producer of the PhotoExperience workshops who specializes in photography in Cusco. Between the two of us, we’ve got it covered.)
I think one of the most difficult things about doing an event like this is fighting the urge to preconceive what will happen or what I will see. More seasoned photographers might stand over my shoulder: “been there, done that“ trying to share the easiest solution with me, but again, my mind is telling me otherwise. I have grand visions, but there is always a catch.
In my editorial and newspaper days, assignments NEVER appeared like the concepts I’d preconceived. On the one hand this was frustrating. My visions were always incredible, and often times the visuals in front of me were not. I’d find myself cursing the assignment editor or saying to myself, “Gotta make chicken salad out of chicken sh%$.”
But on the other hand, arriving at unexpected things was fantastic, kept me on my toes, challenged me, and in the end made me a far better photographer. Heading into unknown territory with my camera became second nature, which has helped me tremendously when it comes to shooting weddings or even portraits. I don’t get rattled.
So today I find myself dreaming about Peru and also trying to figure out how I’m going to “design” my photographs – better yet, create my story.
I don’t know what I’m going to see in Peru. I could go online and look up Easter and try to find something specific, and part of me wants to do that, but I’m fighting the urge. Perhaps I don’t really want to know. I want to see with fresh eyes, knowing that what I see has never happened before. Each year brings something new, something I learned from photographing Sicilian Easter over a four-year period. I would return to the same towns, shoot the same events and see different things each time.
I’m thinking about other aspects of my images: how do I want them to look? In what format? Color or black and white? What size prints will I make? Will the prints be digital or traditional? Am I shooting for more of an editorial look? Gallery look? Or a book?
The specific goal of this workshop is to photograph Easter in Peru with the idea of producing a book from the material. What size book? What format? Will this be a commercial book? A personal book? A limited edition? Softcover? Hardcover?
What if I shoot two different ways and make two different books? Can I even do that? Will it water down the images if I try to do two things at once? Should I research previously published books on Peru? Of Easter?
Okay, by now it is evident I just finished my morning coffee, and that perhaps I’m a little fixated on this issue. Guilty as charged.
But this is my reality. You see my “design” on my images changes. I’ve got more than one look, and I’m trying to predict the future.
The easiest thing to do is shoot my Leica and Tri-x. I’ll love it. I know because I’ve done it so many times, in so many places. But I could also use the Hasselblad, which I love for portraits. Maybe I could shoot the action with the Leica and the slower stuff with the Blad?
It would be so great to board the plane with two small bodies, two lenses and a small bag of film. Light, easy, simple. But my mind tells me I can do more, make more, but this might just be another trick.
But in the end I can’t allow the concept of a book, or what a gallery might like, overpower the basics of light, timing and composition. I need to put myself in the best position to make the best photographs that are most reflective of me as a photographer.
It’s so easy to get lost in the “design”.
So, today my planning and designing continues. Soon I will work on lecture notes, slideshows, etc. I will curse myself for losing at least half of my Spanish ability. But I will also relish the idea of what will happen 120 days from now. I will dream about the moments and the happiness we will experience.
Like a fire burning inside, keeping us creatively warm, until that moment when the starter gun says,” Go!”