Being Challenged

At its best a photo workshop both challenges each participant as well as give him or her a sense of achievement. Both are important. If you are challenged and don’t feel you can handle the challenge, you will soon lose your self-esteem. On the other hand, if you are not really tested beyond your comfort zone, you will hardly develop or improve your photography.

This idea has always been the basis for any of the workshops I teach, as it is for Sven Creutzmann, my friend and colleague with whom I teach the photo workshops in Cuba. For us it’s equally important that we challenge each participant at the right level. Good photographers need to be put to a harder test, whereas with beginners or less confident participants we cannot push as hard.

When we start a new workshop, we always commence with a desire to boost both ourselves and the participants as hard as possible. It’s a matte of motivation. It’s fair to say that we are very ambitious, both with respect to ourselves as well as on the behalf of the participants. For some participants this may come as a surprise. They might have attended other workshops without having the workshop teachers pushing them much at all. In the beginning when they are met with our determination to challenge, they may actually feel a little uncomfortable, but it doesn’t take long before they start to thrive, particularly when they see some dazzling development in their approach to photography.

I think it’s reasonable to say that over the years we have become good at finding the right balance between pressing each participants beyond their comfort zones and making sure they keep a sense of achievement. I also think our feedback during daily picture critiques have become precise and immensely valuable for the participants. After all, we have taught workshops for quite some years by now.

Although I have organized workshops longer, Sven’s and my first Cuba workshop took place in 2006. Quite a few changes have seen daylight since then. This year’s workshop in May took us to a different location, for instance. In addition to Havana, we went to the beautiful, colonial town of Trinidad. We, as workshop teacher, are also more out on the street shooting along with the participants, whereas during the first workshop we went to the rural Viñales. Particularly photography one-to-one with us has become something our participants value. It gives them a change to see how we work as professional photographers as well as letting us guide them better in their own shooting.

Most notably for this year’s workshop, was a new meeting point for lectures and picture critique the days we were in Havana. At the end of last year, Sven open his own art cafe in the district of Vedado. It’s probably one of the coolest cafes in Havana, displaying a lot of Sven’s photography as well as colleagues’ and friends’. ArtCafe Belview has already been picked up by many travel guides as well as gotten ravish reviews, and is a perfect place for teaching a photo workshop.

Do you want to come to Cuba for a photo workshop? Our next one, In the Footsteps of a Revolution, will take place from Nov 24th to December 7th later this year. Or maybe you’d rather go for an extended weekend. From September 21st to 24th I teach the photo workshop Street Photography in Bath, in England.

The group with participants and teachers during the Cuba workshop this May.

31 thoughts on “Being Challenged

  1. Wow, this is amazing . It looks like so much fun still I realize it is a workshop for learning. I would love to visit the new cafe. Congratulations to you and Sven on the workshops success.

  2. I really like the first photo, Otto. I enjoyed seeing the workshop participants focusing on a developing skill and I could almost hear their thoughts as they were using the information you and Sven had been sharing with them. I’m confident this would be a transformational experience.

  3. sounds very exciting! i don’t like being pushed as i have lived most of my adult life with anxiety issues, and my gut is always telling to me RUN!!!! lolol

  4. Of course, it’s another great post which reflects what’s ‘all good’ about workshops like this! Thanks, as always, for the smiles you place in others hearts! You’re a gift to others, Otto, and photography is just one of your special gifts to the world! Writing, encouraging others, coaxing out the best in people, etc etc…

  5. It sounds like you have honed your workshop skills to a fine point – I like that you work one-on-one, give daily critiques, go to different places, and most of all, that you seek a balance between pushing each person to do more and ensuring they’re accomplishing something. I hope you’re enjoying a little time off!

  6. I completely agree with your teaching philosophy! And use the same mindset with my kids. They have to learn what they can do, and the only way for that to happen is for them to try it themselves… but with the knowledge that I’m right there, believing in them. Sounds like a great workshop. Any chance you’ll offer one in Seattle? 🙂 Also, how do you get your colors so beautifully vibrant? That third photo, of the two men with the cameras between them, they look nice and bright and so does the background and colors on the buildings. Your photos are a treat!

    1. Thanks for the lovely words, Melissa. I have actually been thinking about doing a workshop in Seatte since I spend so much time there. I might have to think it over seriously. As for the colours in the photos, Cuba is a very colourful place.

  7. I love the splashes of colour that are always around when you share pictures of your Cuban adventures. It looks like you have had another successful workshop with happy, happy participants.

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