Students Facing Their Fears

© Nina Ramberg
© Kari Anne Kvam
© Jan-Morten Bjørnbakk
© Jan Holm
© Berit Roald
© Anders Øystein Gimse

I am always amazed by the work students come back with during any of my photo workshop. During this year’s Cuba workshop we had participants with quite different photographic skills and knowledge, but not matter their background they were all able to produce some outstanding photos.

Personally for me, that is one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching a workshop. I believe I always learn just as much as the participants from their different perspectives and their different ways of shooting that they bring into a workshop. Yes, we as workshop teachers push them to grow and expand, but they all come with their own photographic voice, whether refined or still in the making.

Likewise for the participants, I think being push from teachers with a different perspective than themselves is what makes attending a workshop so worthwhile. When participants let them be move into new ways of seeing and are willing to go outside their usual box, that’s when they will experience tremendous growth and development during a workshop.

During this year’s Cuba workshop, all the participants did exactly that. Yes, some of them felt vulnerable when we pushed hard, which is something we experience in all workshops we teach, but they also came out on the other side with a new photographic confidence and a stronger sense of their photographic voice.

Shooting on the street is difficult for anyone who is not used to it. Particularly approaching strangers on the street with the intention of capturing photos of them can be challenging. It takes a lot of practice to be at ease when walking over to a complete stranger—even for a seasoned photographer used to shooting on the street. Even more so for participants who have never done anything like this before. But again, the participants of this year’s photo workshop ended up getting into any situation by the end of the workshop, yes, they equally easily entered houses of strangers and kept shooting inside their homes.

I think this willingness to face up to the task was what made their work so outstanding. This post gives a little sample of photos by the participants.


55 thoughts on “Students Facing Their Fears

  1. I’m very impressed with the photographs taken by your workshop participants Otto. I’m sure it was an exciting challenge for them and they were up to the task! Congrats to them all and hats off for your guidance. Wishing you continued success! My new address is:

    1. Thank you for the nice words. Mostly it’s to the students’ credit that they were able to produce such outstanding work. Thank you for the new link, I was wondering what happened to your old blog. 🙂

  2. Your students clearly had a very good teacher, Otto — their work is wonderful! You’re right that it can be uncomfortable approaching a stranger for a photo, but the subjects’ ease in many of these photos shows that your students established a strong rapport. Just wonderful.

  3. These are great works from your students. I know it very very difficult to do street shots. The skill in approach people and ask to take picture of them is just the tip of the whole thing. I think that in an of itself could change the dynamic for what you want to capture too.

    1. Absolutely. And I find it amazing, despite the difficulties they encountered on the street, the participants were able to capture people as if there were no photographer around.

  4. Each has its own special quality, but all stir curiosity, and interest. I’m not sure you can ask for more than that. If there are technical flaws I don’t recognize, those can be dealt with. It’s the spirit they’ve captured that can only be encouraged, not taught.

    1. I would say technical limitations are never a real challenge. They are easy to overcome. But capture real life is what matters, and also the most difficult part of photographing.

  5. Love that shot by Jan Holm.

    Personally, I think street photography is very hard to do and have great admiration for anyone confident enough to go up to someone and ask, then make close-up photos. I always use a telephoto lens and stand quite some way back from someone (or some scene).

    I’m sure your participants would have got a great deal of experience and confidence in the workshop. All the images you’ve posted show the group have captured the spirit of the country and its people in their work.

    1. It IS difficult to approach stranger on the street, but then only way to get around it is to do it. That’s part of what taking a workshop like this is about. It forces you to face the fear and get close. 🙂

  6. Interesting! I’m one of those people who don’t photograph people often, but I have to say, I’ve had some surprisingly good experiences doing it. I can imagine how much everyone grew at that workshop.

  7. I admire your students’ courage and determination. Just thinking about taking photos such as those above makes me feel almost ill with anxiety. I don’t know how they do it, but it must give them an amazing feeling of triumph when they conquer their discomfort and come home with such outstanding images.

    1. I think it does. At lot of them start out like you indicate, almost feeling ill by the thought of approaching strangers. But after a little push, their confidence grow. 🙂

  8. These photos are great! There is definitely talent in the students of the workshop. And I would agree, it is very difficult to go to strangers and ask to take a picture of them, although, it might depend on a place as well. In some countries, people are more reserved with such than in others.

  9. Looks like your workshop was a success, as well as fun, I know teaching its always hard work, responsibility, and it takes more than most people think, like: “Oh, it will be such fun, doing what you do!” Every job has its own problems, otherwise it will not be work, even if yours look as great fun doing it., I guess the good stuff outrun the bad ones.
    Congratulations. 🙂

  10. Dramatic results! They are all moving pictures, the ones that make you wonder of the subject’s real life stories. Well done, Otto, for bringing out the students creativities through your workshop and to experience the challenging environment when doing street photography. That’s something that I need to learn, I don’t have the courage to take pictures in the street..

    1. Thanks for the nice words, Indah. You may put too much credit to my teaching, though. 🙂 As for shooting in the street, it’s really about deciding to give it a go, and then with practice it gets easier – as with everything in life. 🙂

  11. Wow! These are great at telling a story and capturing a culture that is unknown to me.Never been comfortable shooting strangers, even more so with friends, so I admire their courage.

  12. When taking photos of strangers do you think it’s best to talk to them straight away and ask their permission? One photographer I spoke to says they never do this as it makes people more nervous, she just openly explains what the photos are for if people do challenge or question her or if she wants a close up. What do you think?

    1. Hi Zoe, I don’t think there is one answer to this question. First of all it depends on your own mentality, some thinks it’s unethical to take photos of others without their consent while others think it’s completely OK in the public sphere. Then it also depends on what kind of photos you want to create. It makes for quite a different expression whether you engage with people or you photograph them without any interaction. Personally I do both, depending on what I feel is right and what expression I go for.

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