Missouri Photo Workshop is a photojournalism workshop – a “thinking workshop”.
“Show truth with a camera. Ideally truth is a matter of personal integrity. In no circumstances will a posed or fake photograph be tolerated.” – Cliff Edom’s
This year I participated at Missouri Photo Workshop as a photographer, “I shot the workshop” as they use to say.
It was a once in a life time experience because I got to learn so many things and people.
I learned exactly what I wanted to learn: visual storytelling. I never had the experience of doing a photo story, moreover in such a short time. MPW pushed my limits .
Things that I learned at MPW64:
When you are nervous and stressed about anything: you will never get the work done. Don’t stress it. Let it flow. So, one of the greatest challenge at MPW is the limit of pictures. You know that saying that “your days are counted”, it is pretty much the same feeling when you know “that your picture are counted”. 400 frames doesn’t sound enough to get the gist, but actually it is more than necessarily. You get to think before you push the trigger – do I need that moment in my story?
Speaking about the story, another challenge was that you have one day to find 3 story ideas and after that to pitch them to your faculty members. If they don’t approve any of your stories, you don’t get to photograph. With my faculty: Randy Cox (Visuals Editor – The Oregonian) and Dennis Demick (Executive Editor Environment -National Geographic), I couldn’t start photographing until I had my title and my headline for the story, even if my story was approved.
Another important thing that I learned about stories – “It is not about the story, it’s how you tell the story.” When I got to Troy, Missouri, I was looking for drama -because drama is powerful -at least this is what I thought. After I did my story:”Francis and Sis’: Never too old” , a story about the friendship of two old ladies who met in an assisted living center and since that on they call themselves “best buddies”, I learned my lesson. Happy stories or soft stories are as powerful as the sad stories. They can express as much emotions and be as candid as a very dramatic story. I learned also how difficult can be to photograph in the same interior place, same room, same hallway, same living room and I learn how photographing from different angles and having different perspectives in your pictures can help to make the story more interesting visually speaking. So, I found myself under the table, photographing my subjects during their gymnastic class, or climbing on chairs, or hiding behind the sofas to make myself invisible.
I learned to be patient with my subjects, photographing a 98 and 87 years old ladies – asks for lot of patience and respect. Also, in order for me to get my pictures done and to become invisible for them -I had to spend a whole day only talking and hanging around -without taking any pictures, but having my camera with me. It is a good tip for photographers – when they have time to apply it.
After 3 days of shooting, I finally reached the last day -when I had to edit my story -to have my own final edit before going and discussing the edit with the faculty members. For me,the editing part was the most difficult and frustrating part. I am never good at editing my own work. But this is nice at the workshop -before you have to do it on your own -the faculty members have different presentations: how to find a story, how to photograph and how to edit. Thus, I tried to follow the guidelines -and also the opinion’s of my fellow photographers. At the end of the day – I had my edit – and I was happy to see – that I chose all the pictures that my faculty members have chosen for my story. In the end, I learned that sometimes you have to drop the pictures you love- if they are not building your story.
I learned this and many other things – about how to tell a story through the images but also how to find your story.
The second part of the workshop is the social part. I made a lot of friends and contacts -and we really had a lot of fun – social drinking in the hotel’s lobby -at the end off the day -to take “the pain” of the workshop away.
Overall, what impressed me at Missouri Photo Workshop is the humanity of the workshop. MPW may be in its mid 60’s, but its spirit is still young. It is a unique experience and at the end of the workshop -you will be a better photographer or at least a better person. I am more sincere with my work -and I never want to forget what I felt and learned at MPW.