Finding Your Photographic Voice

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In January I will start up a new instalment of my popular photo eWorkshop. Are you ready to join? I promise you this will be an inspirational experience. Together we will explore many sides of the creative process within the realm of photography. It will be fun. It will be challenging. But more than anything it will be a learning experience.

Do you feel like you need some feedback on your photography? Would you like to learn more about the creative side of photography? Are you interested in developing your photographic voice? This is exactly what I can help you with during this online workshop. It’s for a reason I have called it «Finding Your Photographic Voice». Through weekly lessons and my thorough evaluation of your work, I will guide you on your way to develop this distinctive expression that all photographers are looking for.

The workshop starts up on January 26th and runs over eight weeks. Each week you will receive a little booklet (as a PDF-file) with inspirations, thoughts, knowledge and ideas for your shooting the next week. Then you will have a week to do the various assignments, of which you will send me an edited selection. Finally you will receive my comments about the photos, included suggestions for improvement – and in which direction I believe you should move your photography.

«Finding Your Photographic Voice» is foremost about creativity and developing your seeing as a photographer and being able to express your vision. It’s not a technical workshop, although we will touch upon technical matters whenever needed. Finding one’s voice is a lifetime project, and eight weeks will not make you come out on the other side with a fully developed photographic voice. But the workshop will guide you on the way to finding it.

If this sounds interesting, you will find more information about the eWorkshop here. Or send me an email: Otto

This is some feedback from previous participants:
You do a fantastic serious work and I feel that I am constantly met with full respect at the level where I am. Would not have wanted to do this trip with another photo teacher. Your way of looking at the photographic process, creativity and creation feels right for me and I have full confidence in you as a person.

I was especially impressed with the depth of the feedback you provided. You always highlighted both what was good and what could be improved. The balance is nice and important.

In my mind, I hear elements of the workshop echoing each time I pick up my camera. This was the most effective learning experience I’ve ever encountered with photography.

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A Delicate Balance

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Over the last week I have been allowed to evaluate a handful of photos from readers of this blog. On my page Picture Critique they have posted images they would like to have an outsider’s opinion about. Picture critiquing is always a very delicate balance. First of all the creators behind each photo have entrusted me with something that they have put a lot of energy and thoughts into. It’s their creation, their «child», so I have to be careful not to condemn their work in such a way that they feel trampled on. I believe in encouragement rather than negative critique, but at the same time I want to be honest and point to elements in a picture that I believe don’t work so well.

Another part of this delicate balance is that I have to be aware of the fact that picture critiquing cannot be done objectively and impartially. I must be true to what I believe is a good photo and the factors that make up a captivating image as far as I am concerned, but it will nevertheless be my opinion only. I think after having worked professionally with photos in more than 30 years I have gained some experience and knowledge, but the fact still remains that when it comes to evaluating photos no neutral or unbiased variables exist. Remember that; whatever I say or write is solely my opinion. Somebody else might see things completely differently and also the photographer himself or herself may not agree at all. Which is as it should be. There are no truths in this kind of picture critiquing. I hope each photographer who have entrusted me with a photo, takes to their heart whatever feels right to them and discards the rest.

We can all learn from each other – and picture critique is one such way. And it works both ways. I learn from the images I evaluate as I hope the photographers themselves learn from my critique. Even if we disagree there is always something to gain from getting other’s opinion. I believe in sharing; sharing knowledge, sharing photos, sharing the process itself, and not the least sharing the moment of capture with those we photograph. Picture critiquing is one such way for me to honour this belief. For me it’s a privilege to be allowed to evaluate other photographer’s images and share my experience.

As I work my way down to the last uploaded photos on the Picture Critique page, I will keep it open at least another week for any other photographer who would like to have his or her photo evaluated. If that’s you, don’t wait, though; before the Christmas holidays starts I will close this session of picture critique. Until then you are very welcome to post a photo or a link to a photo.

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Originality

Thanks for the photos submitted to the picture critique so far. I have not been able to evaluate all images so far, but will eventually write some words about the all. Right now I am in the process of packing in order to get back to Norway for the Christmas. I will upload the photos that I still haven’t critique and do it while crossing the Atlantic. As soon as I am back in Norway I will post the picture critique. For anyone else, just keep posting more photos, I will do the critique consecutively and as quickly as possible.

Because I am running out of time, I will repost some thoughts – with some rewriting – I wrote for this blog some years ago. It’s been a while and I think the message could very well be repeated:

Here the other day, I got involved in a little discussion with a friend of mine about originality and how almost everything has already been done before. Or so my friend thought, a little disillusioned. He was bored with so much of what he considered contemporary photography – according to him, it only copies what other masters before photographers of present days have already done. He is a professional photographer himself, and on a certain level, I see that he has a point. However, I have to I disagree. It’s just too cynical a viewpoint. It doesn’t give justice to the individual approach and personal vision.

Yes, most everything has already been photographed – this much I have to admit to my friend. Travellers a hundred year ago or so could come across unknown sights and make complete new photographs of subject matter that nobody had seen before. And if you work in science you can still cross new barriers today if you photograph the latest advancements. Otherwise most everything has indeed been done. However, that is only on a level concerning subject matter, not photography as a personal expression, whether it justifies to be called art or just a happy snapshot by the occasional holiday photographer. The tower of Eiffel certainly has been photographed until boredom from the same perspective again and again. Still every photograph brings traces of each individual photographer into the equation. Maybe not a whole lot but put 100 people with cameras alongside each other and let them shoot the same subject. The result will be 100 different pictures – albeit resembling each other possibly quite closely. The difference will not necessarily be enough to make all 100 pictures strong personal expressions, but nevertheless. If you on the other hand let photographers with a creative vision who are used to thinking in ways of expressing they own ideas, do the same thing, the result will be far more differentiated.

Any photographer has a different approach to the subject or subject matter. We bring our lifetime of experience into the process of making or taking photographs, as well as our emotions, our accumulated knowledge, our technical skills, our understanding, our soul and spirit if I may use such an expression. Take myself. Often have I worked alongside my good friend and photographer Sven Creutzmann in Cuba in particular, and even when we stand side by side and shoot the same subject, we know from experience, that we will come home with completely different pictures. We see things differently; we work in different ways – even under conditions when you would think there isn’t much individual leeway.

Or take a simple cup. How many ways can it be photographed? You may think a cup is a cup is a cup. You may think that Paul Strands photos taken 80 years or so ago have done cups for all times. I think not. I think everyone of us will photograph a cup differently. Again not necessarily better or more interestingly – or even interesting at all. We will nevertheless photograph it with our own vision or even our own limitation of vision – which makes any photograph unique to a more or lesser degree.

What do you think, when it comes to originality? Has everything already been done, or can we add differences and nuances to what has already been made?

Posted in Creativity, Photographic Reflections, Photography | Tagged , , | 79 Comments

Another Round of Picture Critique

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It’s been a long time since I have been available for picture critique. I think it’s time for another round again! So once again, I open up for submission of photos anyone would like some feedback on. This is the third time I do this and the previous rounds were well received by those who sent me their photos. If you want to see the photos I previously critiqued you will find an overview in my posts First Session of Picture Critique and A Good Round of Picture Critiquing.

For a long time I have wanted to start a new picture critique session, but life has been too busy the last year or so to be able to make it happen. It’s definitely about time to get going again. As last time my idea is to let any of you who have pictures you want to have some feedback on to post them on my page Picture Critique. This could be a picture you are unsure about, a picture that is different from your usual style or just a picture that you want know how to do better. Go to the Picture Critique page, post a link to the picture and I will soon give my honest view and perception of your picture in what I attempt to be constructive and meaningful critique.

I both teach and attend a lot of workshops, and one of the greatest values from participating in photographic workshops is the possibility to have feedback on pictures you take. I know from the workshops I teach that this is what students appreciate the most. Therefore, here is a chance to get feedback on your pictures without having to participate in an expensive workshop. Not quite the same of course, but I hope it can be of some value.

If you are interested, go to the Picture Critique page to read more or just post a picture there. I hope to see your picture soon. Please do not post any picture or links to pictures here, but go to the Picture Critique page.

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More Cuba

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I think enough has been said about the workshop I taught in Cuba with my friend and colleague Sven Creutzmann about a month ago. I just want to round up the experience with a few more image from the magical Caribbean island.

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Muted Contemplation

© Monica Amberger

© Monica Amberger

© Monica Amberger

© Monica Amberger

© Monica Amberger

© Monica Amberger

© Monica Amberger

© Monica Amberger

© Monica Amberger

© Monica Amberger

Monica Amberger took my eWorkshop earlier this summer and showed some excellent work during the eight weeks the workshop lasted. She is a very talented photographer who prefers so shoot in Mother Nature. There Monica captures everything from vigorous wildlife and animals in their natural habitat to gorgeous tableau and sceneries mostly in her beloved Swedish forest landscape. During the workshop, Monica also showed some fun picture of almost life-size dolls she has made herself, captured in lifelike situations. Very playful and humorous.

Still for the presentation here, I chose to show some of her more quiet images, all capturing the ambience of that beautiful Swedish landscape. There is a simplicity to this work that encourage contemplation and reflection. If the viewer let herself or himself into these images, they will find a peaceful place and a grounding that most of us have lost with our urban life style. Just let go of everything else and enjoy Monica’s pictures. Find the stillness in you that resonate with Monica’s images. For more of her work, look up her blog, M Amberger fotoblogg.

By the way, I plan to start another eWorkshop sometime in January. I will soon get back with more information.

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The Workshop Experience

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Participating in a photo workshop is always an intense experience, but also very rewarding – on many levels. I have participated in many workshops and I have as well taught many workshops myself – and I always do return feeling boosted with energy and inspiration. During a workshop it’s often long hours. Get up to shoot in the morning, at some point attending lectures and picture critique, then in the afternoon out shooting again and finally in the evening editing the catch of images of the day and process the selected ones for the picture critique the following day.

A photo workshop is not a holiday in the sense that you can spend the day on the beach. Well, of course you can, but why then sign up for the workshop in the first place? On the other hand, if you do something you love; you don’t really need to have a break from doing it, do you? I love giving everything I have when I teach, and I love when participants are equally geared up for getting the most out of a workshop. We push each other in new and stimulating directions.

Of course there is a time for hard work during a workshop and there is still a time for relaxing moments. Like in my last workshop I taught in Cuba a couple of weeks ago with my good friend and colleague Sven Creutzmann, we all had time for a swim in the ocean, we could all enjoy early mornings with a cup of coffee and, not the least, luxuriate and relax in each others companies during long dinner hours. And of course there is a lot of fun during a workshop.

I do try to push participants, and nothing is more exciting when they find new confidence in their shooting and see that the result is something they had never expected. Particularly when we go out and shoot on the street. For many inexperienced with street photography it’s quite a barrier to step up to. They may just lack confidence sizing up strangers on the street. All the more fun then, to see those same participants by the end of a workshop not thinking twice about getting close to people when they discover something they want to capture.

The photos here are but a few from the workshop Sven and I taught in Cuba in September/October.

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Posted in Photography, Travel Photography | Tagged , , | 64 Comments