¡Cuba Libre!

As a continuation of my post from Cuba last week, I want to continue showing a handful of other images I took during the photo workshop we, my colleague and I, taught earlier in May this year. As I wrote in my last Cuba-post, it’s only now that I have finally gotten around to edit and process the photos from the trip.

Some of the photos I show were captured during the actually workshop while others were taken beforehand. When I teach a workshop, I don’t always get much time to shoot my own photos. My time is dedicated to the workshop participants, either being out shooting with them or lecturing or doing picture critique.

Attending my workshop is always an intense experience, but not the least great fun. I think that’s fair to say. Participants univocally give our workshops the highest rating.

If you are interesting in attending one of our workshops in Cuba, we have just announced next year’s one week photo workshop in Cuba, similar to the one we taught this year and many years before. Follow the link to find more information about Street Photography in Cuba. If you are up for something very special, this autumn my colleague and I are organizing a two week photo tour/workshop in which in follow the footsteps of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara’s revolution. This is the link for In the Footsteps of a Revolution.

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Last Week’s Instagram

Once a week—or every so often—I will display one of my photos captured and/or processed with Instagram over the last week. It’s a way for me to show photography that usually is quite different from my regular work. The pictures are displayed without any comments, hoping they will stand on their own. But I still very much appreciate any comments you may have.

My Cuban Family

In May, I taught another of the photo workshops in Cuba, which I do together with my friend and colleague Sven Creutzmann. Before the workshop commenced we took a trip to the valley of Viñales in the western part of the country. There we visit the family of farmers I have followed for more than 20 years—and whom I have photographed ever since, as some of you who follow my blog already know.

First recently have I been able to edit and process the photos from the trip. It’s just been too busy ever since—and then the summer holiday in there as well.

The family of farmers has become my own second family in Cuba. I don’t often have as much time to spend with them as I would like. But no matter how short the visit, I am always feeling at home and welcomed by all the family members.

Today it’s two brothers and a sister who runs the farm, the children of the couple I started to follow first in the 90’s. Both parents are dead now, so the siblings have taken over, and the next generation is about to grow up as well.

The family doesn’t have much, but lives off the land that they own, where they cultivate boniatos, yuccas, potatoes, tomatoes and tobacco, to only mention a little of their crops. In addition, they have a small livestock of cows, some pigs and lots of chicken and a couple of horses.

It’s always a great joy to visit my family. It’s such a peaceful land, albeit also demanding. Their livelihood is full of hardship, but they nevertheless always have time to greet me and make me feel at home. They may not have much, but they always makes sure I can’t get away without eating with them and enjoy evenings around the farm.

These are a few of the photos from this latest trip of mine.

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.

Learning to Live (with a Camera)

It’s always fun to observe participants attending our photo workshops in Cuba; In the beginning they are all quite amazed—and for the most part surprised—about how easy it is to photograph Cubans. This is whether they are being photographed on the street or elsewhere. Not the least are the participants astounded about how easy it is to even get invited inside Cuban homes and be able to photograph their intimate and private life.

For most of us, it’s quite intimidating to approach strangers on the street with the intention to photograph them. Of course, if you have never done it before, it’s almost nerve wrecking in the beginning, but also for seasoned photographers it can sometimes take some extra courage to face some stranger on the street.

The ease with which Cubans open up themselves for strangers is one of the reasons why Cuba is one of the better places in the world to practice street photography. During our workshops, we more than once experience the joy with which participants discover they can do something they never thought would be possible. As each day goes, they approach strangers more confidently and even carelessly. Towards the end of the workshop, they don’t even think about it any more. We have had participants crying in the beginning of a workshop because they couldn’t manage to face strangers on the street—or so they though—only to lose them at sight later on, whenever they ventured deeper and deeper into homes and places that no one else would think about going.

So it was with this workshop in May, too. We saw it once again, the anxiety of having to get close on the street shifting to excitement in the meeting with complete strangers and in getting to know them through the process of photographing them. As the week pass, we—my colleague and friend, Sven, and I—push them to go closer and closer and even closer.

When participants start to play along with Cuban music or dancing on the street, we are far beyond the pure photographic experience. We talk about life in all its beauty and richness.

Pushing participants closer and closer is one think that we always need to do, Sven and I, in any workshop we teach. As we say, you can never get too close. In a street photography workshop, this is definitely one of our major missions. And then to push the participants to keep shooting, and the shoot some more. We see it time and again; most untrained photographers may capture one, two or at most five images of a scene or a situation. This is hardly getting started! Whenever we are out on the street with the participants, we have to keep forcing them to stay with a situation, almost to exhaustion, to make sure they capture enough frames. You simple don’t know when the best image will appear.

Get closer. Shoot a lot. And finally: don’t look at the camera’s preview screen. That’s the last of our three commandments for participants during a workshop. Too often, photographers need to check what they have captured all while the situation continues—and they lose maybe the best shot. All this is about being prepared, getting the most out of a given situation and make sure not lose “the” photo.

In the late autumn—in November-December—Sven and I will organize a new workshop in Cuba. This will be quite a different experience. We will travel all over Cuba for two weeks, following the footsteps of Fidel and Che’s revolution.

Back from Cuba

I have just rounded up my latest workshop in Cuba. As always, it was great fun, both for the participants and me. Cuba is maybe one of the best and easiest places in the world to train in street photography. Everywhere people are extremely relaxed about being photographed, very inviting and friendly. Any inhibition you may feel about approaching strangers on the street will easily evaporate in Cuba. In addition, the colours and the energy of the country make for captivating photos.

So far, I have hardly been able to recap the workshop and the whole experience in Cuba, not the least been able to process much of the thousands of photos I captured during the two weeks I spent in the country. Thus, here and now, I will only show a handful of images taken during the celebration of the international workers’ day on May 1. In later blog posts, I will get back to the workshop itself and of course show more photos both from the workshop and captured on my own.

Let me round up this post by thanking all of you who have commented previous post while I have been away. I have not been able to respond while being in Cuba, simply because internet access is very limited. However, I promise I will get back to each and everyone of you.

On my Way to another Workshop

As I am writing this little post, I am sitting in the airport of Amsterdam on my way to Cuba. I am about to start teaching yet another workshop in this fascinating country. It’s actually ten years since I did my first photo workshop here. Then as now, I am teaching it together with my good friend and colleague Sven Creutzmann.

As with the photography we do, we also try constantly to develop our workshops. The workshop starting up later this week is quite different from the first one we did ten years ago. Hopefully—and I believe it is the case—it’s a better workshop. Of course, that is for the participants to decide.

My flight is about to board, so I have left you with a few photos from last year’s photo workshop here in Cuba. As internet access is really poor in Cuba I most likely won’t be able to post anything again before I am back in Norway.

However, if you find Cuba intriguing, Sven and I are teaching yet another workshop later this year in the end of November and beginning of December. It’s going to be quite a special workshop, following the revolution of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in Cuba.

Develop Your Photography

Learning is a way to both improve and to develop. I believe in lifelong learning—as long as I am willing to learn I stay alive. There are many ways to replenish one’s knowledge and further develop oneself. Personally I find attending workshops one of the most inspiring ways to learn and develop. I try to attend at least one workshop every year. For me there is something about the format of workshops, being incredibly attractive and just evoking pure stimulation. This goes for whether I am a student or a teacher.

This year I am planning to teach more photo workshops than I have ever done in any year before. I am setting up two complete new workshops, in addition once again to organizing two workshops that have been successful in the past. They should cater to any level or interests of photography, whether you are a beginner or already a pro, whether you want to dig in and really develop your photographic voice or just want to have fun while getting a better grip on your photography.

I hope one of the workshops I offer may trigger your desire to further develop and learn. Maybe travel to a place you have not been to before, or maybe finally spending full time immersing yourself in a photographic learning experience. I promise your photography will progress profoundly during any of the workshops. I say so based on having taught workshops for more than ten years and not the least from responses from former workshop participants. As one participant stated: “The workshop was all about constructive critique that inspired to stretch myself to levels I had never perceived before. I believe I am a better photographer today than I was 10 days ago.”

This year I will for, the first time, teach a workshop in England. It’s going to be an extended weekend in the picturesque and distinctive city of Bath. We will stroll around in the historical city, which is built on a heritage extending back to Roman time and beyond. “Street Photography in Bath” will run from September 21th to 24th.

The other completely new workshop is going to be quite an experience. I am really proud to be able to offer a two weeks combined photo tour and workshop in Cuba, where we will follow the footsteps of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara and their revolution. I am teaching the workshop together with my friend and colleague, Sven Creuztmann. We will visit cities with important landmarks for the two revolutionaries fought, we will visit places that most visitors to Cuba never get to see and we will go deep into the mountains where the revolution started. “In the Footsteps of a Revolution” takes place from November 24th to December 7th.

The workshops I have taught before will run in spring. I will once again do the intimate photo workshop about how to develop your photographic expression in my hometown of Bergen, Norway. It’s going to be a very small workshop where we meet up in my apartment, when we are not shooting the streets of Bergen. “The Personal Expression” runs from June 15th to 17th.

Finally, Sven and I are running our regular workshop in Cuba this May. It’s a one week photo workshop, and one of my most popular. We already have a good group signed up for the workshop, but there are still some spots left. “Cuba in Essence” takes place from May 5th to 17th.

Maybe one of these workshops could be something for you? I would love to have you come along.

The Two Faces of Creativity


The creative process often seems to have much in common with a spiritual experience in that the artist often appears to be blessed with a godlike vision into new insights. We all stubble upon those moments where new ideas just seem to be raining down upon us, although, truth be told, a lot of the time the connection with the creative source seems broken or even completely cut off. Opening up this connection and staying connected with the creative well has often been the theme of my posts on this blog. For any artists there are a number of methods to encourage creativity in ourselves, and it’s absolutely necessary to be aware of these methods and use them in order to develop this creativity of ours.

Creativity simply doesn’t come by itself. Most importantly I believe—and this I have pointed out before—is to do the actually work. As artist we need to keep creating, we need to transform our internal vision into something concrete, be it a photograph, a painting, a sculpture, a video, a performance or playing with our kids. The creative process thus consists of two faces: Creation and Execution. The creation is the mental or spiritual part of the process but if we don’t execute the idea, in the end we have not created anything at all. Eventually if we keep omitting the execution of the creation, our creative ability languishes and we will be cut off from our creative source. There are moments in the creative process when creation is present, but there are many more moments when it is not. Often the execution doesn’t involve creativity; it can even be boring in that we just have to implement the creative impulse; for instance as photographers applying the right technique in order to get a pictures as we had envisioned.

Sometimes creation and execution goes hand in hand, for example again as photographers trying out different settings in Photoshop. But without any execution, creation will only be but an idea. For that reason I find it useful to distinguish between creativity and creating. Creativity usually refers to inventing something new. According to Webster’s Dictionary creativity is defined as «creative ability; artistic or intellectual inventiveness». On the other hand create is defined as «to originate; to bring into being from nothing; to cause to exist».

So let’s go out there and create, let’s encompass both creation and execution. Besides, I hope you keep enjoying the summer (or winter—if you are situated in the southern hemisphere).

Last Week’s Instagram

Once a week—or every so often—I will display one of my photos captured and/or processed with Instagram over the last week (this photo is actually more than a week old, but I haven’t posted any new material the last week). It’s a way for me to show photography that usually is quite different from my regular work. Except for the technical details beneath the pictures are displayed without any comments, hoping they will stand on their own. But I still very much appreciate any comments you may have.

Facts about the photo: The photo was taken with a Panasonic Lumix LX-100 with the lens set at 10.9 mm (the equivalent of a 24 mm full frame lens). Shutter speed: 1/60 of a second. Aperture: f/1.7. The photo was transferred to my cell phone and processed with the Snapseed app with various adjustments and filters.