Photography as exploration and research, and a new free course
Recently, Anthony Bourdain took his own life. Although I rarely watch TV, I had seen his show a few times. I liked the way he explored foreign foods in foreign places and didn’t act all colonial about it.
This to say, I knew a little something-something about him but not that much. Once he died, however, there were suddenly many accounts about what kind of person he had been. And I found that I liked his approach to life even more than I thought.
What Anthony Bourdain Taught Me
It turns out, before Bourdain’s death, he spoke about the importance of taking risks, something I often obsess about on my blog. He was an advocate for exploring the world and argued that this exploration could fundamentally change your views and open your mind.
Last month I wrote about how he encouraged people to take risks.
He said, “Move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”
Can you take this advice to heart? You can explore the world on your own terms. Whether you decide to move across the ocean, or simply across the river, how can this benefit your life and worldview? Don’t let fear limit your life.
(Read the rest of the article here.
Tools to help explore
So, Anthony had his love of food and I have my love of photography. I think at the heart of the matter, both are about opening your mind. A hungry belly or a camera, both tools at your disposal, that allow you to explore the world meaningfully. Of course, we need food for sustenance, but exploring food can also help us become more adventurous, learn about someone else’s culture, reach out to those less fortunate, and share or fuse our customs and traditions, not to mention forge divides and make connections. Sharing food is akin to sharing love. Trying new food is opening your world.
When tensions were especially high between Israel and Palestine in 2015, Israeli, Kobi Tzafrir, owner of Humus Bar in Tel Aviv offered 50% off to Israelis and Palestinians who came to eat together at his restaurant. He pointed out, “If you eat a good hummus, you will feel love from the person who made it. You don’t want to stab him.”
Photography offers the same kind of opportunities for understanding. Photographers who spend time deeply observing their subjects can establish a deep bond with their subjects and create more truthful photo stories, as a result. Visual stories have the power to change people’s perceptions about important issues and help both photo subjects and photographers alike better understand themselves.
I consider photography my version of heart-led research, much like how Bourdain explored and got to know different cultures through food and travel. I get to explore different customs, cultures, practices, all by documenting them with my camera. The best part is getting to know the people behind these practices. I love how generous people are with their time.
Create A Compelling Photo Story In One Week (my new free course!)
In the spirit of sharing, I want to offer my free email course to you. After surveying some close friends, I found many of them are interested in honing their visual storytelling skills. It’s one thing to have an idea for a photo project, but another to execute it skillfully.
This free course Create A Compelling Photo Story takes you through 4 concise lessons, each sent to you by email. The course takes just one week to complete. You don’t have to be an experienced photographer to take this course, and I think it would benefit someone of any level. If you want to become a better storyteller, this course will help.
A few more details about my course, Create A Compelling Photo Story
Everyone takes lots of photos nowadays–what we used to call snapshots. But if you’re regularly disappointed by what you capture, this course is for you. I’ll teach you the skills that will raise the emotional and technical quality of your images. You can go beyond the surface to capture emotions and evoke feelings through your photographs.
There is a day in between each of the first two emails to allow you time to work on the photo assignments. Next, I give a two day period to tie together any loose ends and finish the project before it’s time to share your work! (And how you share your photo story is up to you, but I give you a few ideas in the course if you’re scratching your head.)
Maybe you’ve considered documenting your family, your relationship with someone, or even yourself, but you haven’t found the momentum to start photographing yet? The cool thing about this class is that you just won’t have the time to get caught up thinking about all the reasons you can’t begin. There just isn’t enough time to be a perfectionist in these exercises, and that’s a good thing. The class offers just enough time to implement the new approaches you’ll learn about before moving on to the next lesson.
Perhaps you’re guessing that you’ll need an SLR camera to learn the skills in this course? No. The only requirement is having a camera, but there are no rules about what kind of camera it is. Mobile phone camera, single-lens reflex (SLR), or pinhole (Eek…time intensive but hey, maybe that’s how you roll) are all ok.
How am I qualified to teach you?
Why should you take this course with me? Well, I’ve been teaching since 2001. I’ve had my own freelance photography business since 2009. And I’ve been using similar methods to create diverse photo stories including one documenting micro business owners in Indonesia, and another with women who grew up in foster care in the Phoenix, Arizona area. As part of a longform photo project, I documented artists who were recently released from prison in Java, Indonesia.
And even closer to home, I documented my niece’s home birth in her parents’ one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, California. Amazingly, my brother, his wife, their son, their 3 midwives, my mother, my niece and I all fit into the space and I was able to capture photographs of a momentous time. I used many of the same methods that I teach in this course to create that photo story.
Photographing my niece’s birth felt like a great responsibility. Despite the fact it would be my first birth photography experience, I started to feel more comfortable about photographing it after doing some pre-planning. For example, I wasn’t sure what time of day the birth would take place, so I considered the possibility that there wouldn’t be much available light.
True to form, Shasta came in the middle of the night. The only source of light was some lights on a Christmas tree. But I steadied my body on my knees, or the floor to get the least blue possible. I was also happy that one of the midwives was using a headlamp, so when she would move closer to my sister-in-law, I would take a lot of photos.
Planning is an important part of telling a coherent story
This course will help you think out the details before you start a project, and also help you reassess as you go along. But you won’t have a chance to get bogged down in planning, the course is all about working quick and smart. You’ll quickly create specific goals for your projects and plans that help you clarify the story you’re trying to tell.
So, who would you like to document…with intention?
If you’re interested in signing up, click here.
Also, do you have a friend who would be interested in my course Create A Compelling Photo Story? Please send them the link to my signup page.
I agree with Anthony Bourdain, who said we shouldn’t be afraid to try new things. I think we can learn a lot through exploration. It’s up to you how you decide to explore the world. Taking my course could help you become a better photographer, and in turn, get you motivated to get out there and explore with your camera.
Finally, after reading this blog, do you still have any questions about the course? Leave a comment below and I’ll reply as soon as possible!