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Reid Callanan Founder Of Santa Fe Workshops

- - Workshops

Jonanthan Blaustein: When did you fall in love with photography?

Reid Callanan: My junior year of college, which I spent abroad in London. I was a geology major in college, at St. Lawrence University, and couldn’t find a geology program to mesh into in London. So I took a year at Richmond College, which offers a cross-cultural program.

I took a photo class, though I’d never done any serious photography before that. The teacher was wonderful, and that’s where I got the bug. Her guidance and inspiration, alongside the great city like London, was enough to turn my head around.

When I came back to school for my senior year, my focus was on photography. My degree was in geology, but I spent a lot of time in the darkroom, making my own pictures.

JB: Does this mean that you’ve got a hidden trove of black and white street photos from London?

RC: I do. In storage, I have pictures that I thought, at the time, were amazing photographs that would catapult me into the A-list of photography. Of course, that was a young man’s misplaced calculations and expectations.

I haven’t gone back and pulled those out. I had a lot of images from Speakers Corner which is a great place to do street photography. And there are other images from London, the British Isles and the Continent.

I traveled a lot when I was there. I ended up in the Soviet Union, for my spring trip, and went to St. Petersburg, which at that point was called Leningrad. I went to Moscow too.

I was one of the first tourists to get into the Soviet Union, back in the mid-70’s. They had just opened up the country in a limited way, and I was lucky enough to get on a trip. It was an eye-opening experience.

JB: And you took pictures?

RC: Yes, in St. Petersburg, but I was not so free to photograph in Moscow, as it was the seat of the KGB, and was a much more closed city.

Early on, I developed a love of traveling with my camera. If you fast forward to the Santa Fe Workshops over the last 10 years, a big part of our expansion has been in travel photography and workshops. Going to places like San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, or Havana, Cuba.

It’s a big part of our business right now: traveling with your camera. You open up many doors and windows when you go to a place with a camera that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

JB: What is that lesson you learn in Physics? Light particles behave differently when they’re observed than when they’re not? Is that right? I’m sure you know what I mean.

RC: One of the stories I like to tell the students when they come here, particularly in a portrait class, is how important that camera is to you, when you’re approaching a person to make their picture.

With a camera around your neck, it’s relatively easy to walk up to a total stranger, introduce yourself, and say something like “I love your face. I love the way you look. I love the way you’re leaned against the wall. And I’d really love to make some pictures of you, and in the process, just talk about who you are, and what you do in this world.

You can do that with a camera. Imagine trying to do that to somebody without one. Imagine walking up to somebody without a camera and saying, “I love the way you look. You have a great face. I’d love to spend some time talking with you.”

They’d think you were crazy.

JB: You’d get a kick in the johnson.

RC: Yup. You’re right.

JB: Allow me to switch gears. I really appreciate that you guys at the Workshops have sponsored this series of interviews. I’d love to show my gratitude by putting on my art professor hat for a moment.

I’m in Taos, and we’re all hippies up here. You bring up a large archive of photographs, and then mention that it includes pictures from the former Soviet Union, which is a super-hot-topic right now. Then you say you haven’t gone back and looked at them.

Let me put you on the spot? How about you dig the work out from storage? Who’s to say? Maybe they are the immature photos you remember?

Or maybe, as you’ve changed, you’ll see them differently. You never know until you look.

RC: I will do that.

JB: Great.

RC: You know, there’s a wonderful story that Sam Abell tells. He’s one of our long-term instructors here, and Sam has a theory that we take pictures ahead of ourselves. Meaning, when we make pictures, we don’t understand their importance, their significance, or their photographic acumen.

We’ve made them ahead of our ability to read them. What he is very fond of doing is going back through his old Kodachrome slides from 10, 20, 30 years ago. Every time he does that, he finds images that he rejected at that point.

He looks at them now, and says, “Oh my god, that is an amazing image, and I didn’t realize it when I made it.” He does that
on a consistent basis, and I’ve done it as well.

So, you’re right. If I go back to those images, which I haven’t looked at in 40 years, pictures made in Leningrad and Moscow, I will find a handful that are probably pretty interesting pictures.

JB: You’ve got to. Thanks for allowing me to have an inspirational moment. But I promise I won’t check up to see if you’ve actually done it. I’m not a Jewish Grandma about these things.

You’ve made mention of instructors at the Workshops, but we haven’t gotten to talk about how you built the program.

This is a big anniversary year, right?

RC: It’s our 25th Anniversary here in Santa Fe. Before that, I worked 15 years at the Maine Workshops. You do the math, and that’s 40 years. Basically, my adult life has been spent in the photographic workshop experience.

After college, I decided to try on photography as a career, to see if it worked for me. I lasted two weeks.

The first job was making pictures for a real estate rag, the kind of thing you see in supermarkets. My job was to photograph 35 or 40 homes in a day. To do that, I had to do drive-bys.

JB: What now?

RC: I’d slow down, point the camera out the window, take a picture of the front of house, and then I’d go on to the next address. After two weeks, I decided, if this is what a professional photographer does, I want no part of it.

It wasn’t fun, and I didn’t want to take my camera out in the evenings or weekends, because I wasn’t excited about photography.

I knew I didn’t want to be a professional photographer, but I did want to stay in the community. So then I tried a short stint in a camera store, which a lot of photographers do, because they figure they can get some discounted equipment that way.

That job only lasted two months, but one day, near the end, I was opening the mail, and there was a fold-out poster for the Maine Photographic Workshops. The name jumped off the page, because I had spent summers on the coast of Maine.

Maine as a destination was something I was interested in, and then to realize there was a school there? It was as if I just found Heaven.

So I quit the camera store job, went to Maine, and took a two-week class at the Maine Workshops from Craig Stevens and Sharon Fox. I ended up staying the next 14 years, after that two-week experience.

JB: That’s wild.

RC: I did every job that business had to offer, from being the Darkroom Manager, Store Manager, Operations Director, and the last 4 years, I was Managing Director of the programs.

In 1989, I realized I’d been there 15 years, I’d done everything I could do with the business, but I’d hit a ceiling, because the owner/director, David Lyman, wasn’t going anywhere at that point.

So I decided that life had run its course in Rockport, and I needed to go out and try it on my own. In 1990, I left for Santa Fe and caravanned across the country with my staff from Maine, and a lot of hopes and dreams. We started our first program that summer.

JB: Why did you choose Santa Fe, of all places?

RC: Two reasons: family and business. I had a brother and a sister who lived in Santa Fe, and I’d visited them a number of times in the early 80’s. I fell in love with what Santa Fe is about: the arid climate, the landscape, the mystique.

It’s much easier to go someplace when you have family there already.

JB: Of course.

RC: With respect to starting the business here, there were a couple of things I was looking for. I wanted a location that was West of the Mississippi, because I didn’t want to start a workshop program that competed directly with the Maine Workshops.

I didn’t want to start the Vermont Photographic Workshops, or the Connecticut Photographic Workshops. That didn’t make a lot of sense from a business standpoint, nor an ethical standpoint.

I wanted to go out and find a different demographic region to offer workshops to. Photography workshops need to be located in a visually inspirational setting. You need to be able to attract people to a destination where they want to go and make images. Santa Fe fulfills that requirement, and also has a wonderful photographic past and legacy to it.

The final reason was that I wanted to live here.

JB: We’re talking about a decision you made many years ago, but it’s now 2014. Jumping forward 25 years, what do you think of Santa Fe? Did it live up to your hopes and expectations?

RC: I love living here. It was a great decision on my part. When you make decisions to go places, there’s always a chance that it isn’t going to work out.

When I first got here, in the summer of 1990, was that I would wake up every morning, and the sun would be out. I wouldn’t even have to question whether the sun would come out. That was not normal for me, having spent most of my life on the East Coast.

The first few weeks, I’d ask myself, “Can this be true? Can the sun be out again?” That’s still very true today. The bright sun and the blue sky makes such a difference in the way I approach the day, and my life.

I don’t think I could now do well in a place that was overcast more often than sunny.

JB: We get addicted to the Vitamin D. Setting aside the fresh air, and all.

RC: Santa Fe has not disappointed me personally, nor for the business. Because one of the great tenets of business is “Location is everything.” We certainly have benefited hugely being based here.

Typically, if a business is going to fail, it’s in the first 5 years. We got lucky, and our timing was spot on. Moving to Santa Fe in the beginning of the Nineties, it ended up being a good decision, because that’s when Santa Fe began to explode on an international level as a travel destination.

Santa Fe started to appear in the top rankings of travel magazines. Santa Fe style and Santa Fe cuisine were getting known nationally and internationally in the early 90’s, so we benefited hugely from that exposure.

It’s still true today. I do focus groups every Friday at lunch, which is typically the final day of our workshop week. One of the questions I ask is how they found out about us and why they came.

At least half if not more say they were attracted to coming to Santa Fe, and they’ve always wanted to come here. The fact that they found a photographic workshop that was located in Santa Fe was one of the deciding factors on why they ended up coming here.

It’s a world-class destination, so that certainly helped us get over the early hump that most businesses go through.

Location, location, location.

JB: You’ve been an educator for four decades. That’s a long time. What are some of the things you’ve learned?

RC: It dawned on me fairly early in this experience of coming out to Santa Fe that my interest in and passion for education really started with my father. He was a role model, a mentor, and an educator.

He was the headmaster of a private school in Baltimore, where I grew up. I actually went to the school and got to witness very intimately the running of the school from a business and educational standpoint.

JB: So you and your Dad both spent lives in education?

RC: That is what we do here. We are an educational facility. One of the reasons that the education here works well is because people who come to this business have a great educational and inspirational experience here.

Typically, one third of our customers each week are alumni. That’s a great number, but it also means that two thirds of our audience are new to us.

One reason the experience works so well is that we take the people out of their normal, workday environment, and we embed them into a very energized, inspirational, creative environment where who they are at home falls away.

They get to live the photographic life, to coin a phrase from Sam Abell, for a week. That’s a large part of what they’re coming here for. If they’re doctors or lawyers, or homemakers, or whatever their profession is, they get to be photographers for 5 days. Though we’ve added shorter workshops recently, the core model is Monday through Friday.

People come, and they get to eat, sleep, drink and breathe photography for 5 full days.

JB: Has that always been your core audience?

RC: Our clientele has changed, from when we first started. For the first 8-10 years, our primary participant was a pro photographer. I would say that the ratio was 75% working professionals, and 25% advanced amateurs. Then the digital revolution began to take hold at the end of the 1990’s, and the pro photographic businesses were greatly challenged.

It became much more difficult for pro photographers to afford to come out to the workshops. Our audience changed, around 2000. Today, our audience is 80-85% the ardent, amateur photographer, and 15-20% working professionals.

We’re dealing with people who come from other walks of life, and they don’t get to do their hobby as much as they’d like. They have to carve out blocks of time that give fulfillment. They come and immerse themselves in a community where they get to talk photography, make pictures, get feedback, instantaneously, from their instructors. The learning curve goes through the roof, because of the single-minded focus of what you’re doing here.

JB: So you encourage that sense of dropping into a rabbit hole?

RC: We make an effort on the first night, when we meet the people, to talk about being present, turning your cell phone off, and checking email as infrequently as you can. It’s like putting a firewall up. We tell people, “You have invested a huge amount of time and money to be here. Take advantage of that investment you’ve made in yourself. This is important to you. You’re not doing it because your parents sent you here, or your boss told you to do it.”

It’s no mistake that our campus is located at a retreat center. It’s run by the Catholic Church, and is called the IHM Retreat Center. There’s also a Carmelite Monastery on campus, so it’s a very serene, cloistered, quiet facility tucked in the hills overlooking Santa Fe.

Our program is different from traditional educational institutions. We don’t have faculty that are here teaching every week. We don’t have tenure track. Our model is to bring in photographers to teach for a week, then they leave and go home.

JB: What do you think are some of the skills and personality traits that great teachers bring to the table?

RC: Great teachers are articulate. They can talk about the photographic process: not just technical information, but why people make pictures, and why some pictures are better than others.

You have to have your ego in check, so you can talk about other people’s photography, and bring yourself down to the level of the student. You may be the best editorial photographer in the world, but if you can’t bring yourself down to the level of your students, who are 3, 4, or 5 levels below you, you can’t understand where they’re at and what they need.

It’s also important to be compassionate, to understand where these people are coming from, and what they want from you. Those are the main things I look for in a teacher.

JB: Are you still making photographs yourself?

RC: Yes, I’ve been working on a series of black-and-white portraits. I like to work with projects, as I find it difficult to photograph on a consistent basis without a focus. Though I do use my iPhone for Instagram.

The project I’m working on now is in black and white, because I like to strip away the color, so it doesn’t get in the way of saying something about who they are. It becomes less representational, and more of a subjective, intuitive approach to making portraits.

The series started in Cuba, because I have more time to make pictures when I’m traveling. But it has extended now into Mexico.

Typically, I wander the streets, make digital portraits, go back to the hotel, process the images in Lightroom, decide on a couple of favorites, and make some prints. Then, I take the prints and go find the person that I photographed and hand them a print or two

The reaction is always a wonderful one. They’re very thankful, appreciative and surprised by it. That opens up the door for more portraits that tend to be more insightful, because it’s the second or third time I am working with them and the level of trust his higher.

They see that I’m for real, and I’m offering them a gift, so they want to gift me something by showing me more of themselves. And people nearby, like someone next to a vendor in a market, will see what’s going on, and realize they can get some prints too. I get more people that want to be photographed, when they see that process.

People want to show the prints to more people, so you get to meet the family. More and more layers are peeled back in that process, which helps to make more powerful, memorable, interesting pictures.

The process opens up a world of possibilities.

JB: And free tacos.

RC: I didn’t get free tacos. But I did get chickens with their heads cut off. Free fish too. It’s a process of give and take. If I can give something back to them, while taking time from them, it tends to work really well.

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SFPW_APhotoEditor_Jan2014

Interview with Santa Fe Photographic Workshop Instructor Paulette Tavormina

- - Workshops

aPhotoEditor: You make lovely, almost decadent still lives. Many, but not all, involve food, and are inspired by Old Master paintings. Has a passion for food played a role in your life and career?

Paulette Tavormina: I grew up in a Sicilian family and, with that heritage, my grandparents lived a mile away. I spent a childhood surrounded by family and we spent a lot of time together. Most of that time was around the dinner table, or talking about the food we were going to have at the next holiday. I had an amazing grandmother that baked fresh bread. It came with the territory.

And when I first moved to Santa Fe and became a photographer, I was renting a studio with two other photographers. One was doing Mark Miller’s Coyote Cafe cookbook. I became good friends with Mark, so he asked me to photo-style the cookbook. I fell into photo-styling six or seven cookbooks. That’s how it all started.

Then, when I had taken a class at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, one of the professors said, β€œPaulette, you really need to specialize in something.” I thought food sounds perfect because one of my favorite things to do in Santa Fe was to go to the farmer’s market every Saturday morning with my friend Sarah. It was a ritual that I loved.

aPE: You said you were offered the chance to food-style the Mark Miller cookbooks. Does that mean you’d never done it before?

PT: Well, I did have a little bit of a background, as I had worked at Sotheby’s in New York for five or six years, and as a prop stylist in the film industry. That gave me my art history education. After Sotheby’s, I became a prop stylist for a commercial photographer here in New York.

A friend of a friend introduced us, and he took me on. I worked on Kent Cigarette shoots, AT&T shoots, Citibank. We worked on high-end commercial jobs, and he taught me how to find that perfect prop.

For example, if we were doing a scene that needed an English dartboard, and there wasn’t one in a prop house, I would run around going to English pubs, begging to borrow one. He gave me the experience I needed to be a stylist. It was a great education.

aPE: You’re now a successful fine art photographer, showing at the Robert Klein Gallery in Boston and you had your work at Paris Photo. At what point did you start shooting for yourself? Did you always make pictures for yourself, or did delving into photography commercially encourage you to make your own art as well?

PT: It started in New York after I became a stylist. I worked at a PR agency, and they asked me to go photograph Jean-Pierre Rampal, a famous flautist, after a concert.

All I had was this little Olympus clamshell camera, with a little, pop-up flash. I went to the concert, and lined up with the other photographers, and there I am with this little camera, and all the other photographers had their giant flash units. But I got the shot.

And I thought, β€œWell if my boss is going to hire me to do these events, I’m going to have to learn what to do.” So I took a class at ICP, and bought myself a manual Nikon camera, and just started learning. I went all over New York, photographing.

aPE: It’s so much fun, that phase when you’re roaming the streets of a big city, learning as you go.

PT: Then, in 1987, I moved to Santa Fe. I was working in the American Indian art business, and I’d loved that one photography class I had taken, so I took a black and white class at what was then the College of Santa Fe. You put the paper in the chemicals and an image that reflects back at you.

I was hooked.

Then, a friend who was an Indian dealer, said, β€œI have this historic Cochiti pottery collection, and I know you love photography, can you photograph it for a book I’d like to get together?”

I thought, now I need to learn how to do studio photography. It was 1990 and Santa Fe Photographic Workshops had just opened. I called Reid Callanan, whom I’d never met, and told him I had this potential job. I asked if he had a studio photography with lighting class.

He said, β€œNo, actually, we don’t, but I will find you a photographer that can teach you.”

So he called up David Michael Kennedy. He was living in that little dusty town, Cerrillos, where they filmed Young Guns, and I drove out to his house every day from Santa Fe. He had a Hasselblad camera and some strobe lights.

I had all this expensive Indian pottery he showed me how to shoot for four days, so I got the job. I spent a year photographing that collection and that segued into doing the cookbooks.

aPE: And you also photographed art for Sotheby’s in New York, right? What’s the most incredible thing you’ve had your hands on? What’s the piece of art that made you melt, even though you’re a pro?

PT: There are a number of things, but for my first catalogue it was the collectibles. Baseball memorabilia. So I had to photograph Babe Ruth’s baseball mitt. And Lou Gehrig’s jersey.

aPE: Priceless.

PT: It meant so much to me that I was handling and photographing these American icons. I also photographed photographic prints, like Tina Modotti, or Ansel Adams. I spent a lot of time in Abiquiu, where he made his β€œMoonrise Over Hernandez,” and I used to pass by that spot all the time.

I’d look out the left-hand side of my car, and see that image all the time, and there I was photographing it. That was exciting. And one time I got to photograph a minuscule Rembrandt etching. It was like 3β€œx3”. There I was, holding an image of Rembrandt’s wife Saskia in my hand. That was pretty amazing, as were the Rothkos.

aPE: No doubt. It’s fun the way these strands tie together. You said earlier you go back with the Santa Fe Workshops to the very beginning. They’re sponsoring this interview, as you’ll be teaching your first workshop there in April. It’s called β€œThe Art of Still Life,” yes?

PT: Yes, April 3rd through the 8th.

aPE: What’s that like for you, being an alumni who’s now taking the reins? How are you going to approach this?

PT: I’ve never taught before, but I feel that it’s been a really long journey. There were so many factors that brought me from becoming a photographer in Santa Fe to now being a successful fine art photographer. There are so many things to talk about and educate people with. Obviously, I’m very passionate about what I do and, like everything in life, we learn through our experiences. Now, I want to be able to impart a lot of my practical knowledge about being a photographer.

aPE: I’d think lighting has to be one of the single biggest keys to do what you do? Are you going to give away the lighting secrets to how you make your food look so luscious and Old-Mastery?

PT: I have to figure that all out. But what I’d love to do is bring the students, if they want to, to see really beautiful still life photography. I know several gallery owners in Santa Fe, so I thought it would be wonderful to take a field trip to some of these galleries, and look at work. It helps educate the students in all the different genres of still life photography, whether it’s Steichen or Irving Penn.

I also want to have beautiful surfaces for people to work with. Wood, marble, different kinds of backgrounds. I’ll gather different props, sources for beautiful flowers, and fabulous-looking fruits and vegetables from the markets.

aPE: I went right to lighting but you’re explaining it’s more than that. You need the background, the surface, the objects, the light. Are you going to look at everything and teach the photographers an immersive photographic experience?

PT: Yes. You have to marry everything. The texture of the surfaces with the texture of the objects. It could be a still life with using glasses, or shells. It could be anything. But it all comes together. It’s a blending of things. The composition and the relationship between the sizes of the objects. Many times I spend hours and hours setting something up and I don’t light it until the end. It’s getting all the elements together that tells the story.

Everyone’s lighting is different. Mine is based on the Old Masters, because that’s what I gravitated towards. But other people might like bright light. I can demonstrate how I light things, but in the final analysis, the students will do what appeals to them.

aPE: You must be excited to come back to your old stomping grounds for this teaching opportunity. It’s a chance to say, β€œI know what I’m doing. I’ve been doing it a long time. And I want to share my passion.”

PT: Yes. That’s exactly it. I was so honored when Reid called and said, β€œHow about still life photography and who better than you?” I’m so excited. I’m educating myself about anything that could be meaningful to the students so that they come away from the workshop really happy with what they’ve created, and looking at another path they can take.

aPE: We wish you the best with the workshop.

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SFPW_APhotoEditor_Jan2015

This Week In Photography Books: Richard Renaldi

by Jonathan Blaustein

We talk to strangers all the time, on the Internet. Twitter makes it so easy. Just add someone’s handle to the beginning of a short missive, and they’ll probably read what you have to say. What could be more impersonal?

I did it the other day. Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author of this brilliant article about Reparations, in the current issue of The Atlantic, was taking questions on Twitter. I happened to see the tweet announcing the conversation, so I asked him a question. Why did he focus his investigation on Chicago?

Then I went for a run.

When I got back, I saw that my notifications had blown up. He’d chosen my question as a launching point to explain his motivations. He sent six or seven tweets my way, deconstructing my inquiry in a very methodical manner. And hundreds of people had RT’d the info around the globe.

I felt bad for having started the chat, but not been around to reply. So I apologized to Mr. Coates, and then dropped him another note. Both tweets were summarily ignored, and I was neither surprised by that, nor offended.

Why?

He doesn’t know me. We’ve never met or spoken. Despite the fact that he used my handle repeatedly in his replies, it was little more than a Socratic technique. I was a stand-in for the many people out there who yearned to know more about what drove him to engage so deeply in the journalistic practice.

I was not a real person in this situation, any more than he was a real person to me. I typed a few letters, pressed send, and then my thoughts went out into the ether, where they were received as information. The words were disembodied; a process to which we have all become so accustomed in these last five years.

Our ability to “reach” people we don’t know has never been greater. I still remember the shock I felt the first time I got an email from “Barack Obama” in 2007. (Chicago again.) It seemed like magic. Now, I don’t even click on the spam he sends me. I’m under no illusions anymore.

At best, no matter how many “friends” or “followers” you might have, you can’t possibly have real relationships with more than a hundred people. Even that is a stretch. Which means that 99.9999999999% of humanity will always be strangers to you. People with parents you’ll never meet, boobs you’ll never see, stories you’ll never hear.

And that makes them fascinating. We may know that most humans have much in common with the herd, but unfamiliarity is its own kind of exoticism. Which is why I was so impressed with Richard Renaldi’s “Touching Strangers” exhibition when I saw it at Aperture, in New York, this past April.

For a guy who writes about photography on a weekly basis, there’s surprisingly little I see that embeds deeply in my brain. I’m the type of artist more likely to be influenced by cinema, painting, sculpture, or fiction. Photography doesn’t boil my blood as much as you might think.

But this project was mindblowing. It was the perfect metaphor for the medium writ large. We accept the nature of the rectangle or square. It is the biggest part of what makes a photo; that delineation between what is included or excluded. We accept that there is a world surrounding the border, but we choose not to care, for a brief moment.

As the exhibition has since closed, we’re lucky to be able to view it in book form, also called “Touching Strangers,” also available via Aperture. (The publisher’s name is itself a reminder that the camera is inherently limiting, in its access to light.)

Mr. Renaldi spent years combing the bus stations, laundromats, public spaces, and fancy museums of America, casting regular folks to be his models. Once the text, (and a video in the exhibition) allows us access to the process, a world of wonder floods into our consciousness. We imagine him out there, wrangling people, making small talk, offering compliments about a woman’s hair, or a young man’s bandana.

Yet it all happens offstage.

It puts me in mind of the story Reid Callanan told in our recent interview, how a photographer can approach a random person with odd questions, but, minus the image-making apparatus, the same interlocutor becomes a nuisance, one step short of an assailant.

It’s hard to believe these subjects never met until Mr. Renaldi intervened. The pictures feel so natural, which is a testament to his skill. They’re uniformly excellent, and seeing so many together allows those subtle differences to emerge. Who was reluctant? Who held back? Who cast a curtain across his eyes, to make sure we couldn’t steal his soul?

Which people had chemistry? Who opened up, blossoming into a faux-model for just a moment? Which of those Vegasites with beer cans was totally drunk? How close to death was the bald-headed cancer patient?

Did the Orthodox Jew and the African-American in Brooklyn each realize the other had a guarded look? Did they know the artist must have been thinking of the Crown Heights riots, back in the day? If they knew, did they care? Did their moment of contact create an opportunity for the suppression of prejudice?

I had so many questions, none of which I tweeted to Richard Renaldi. In his beautifully-written end note, he shares his own story, growing up in the segregated city of Chicago. Apparently, he ventured out into forbidden territory as a youth, in search of trysts with strange men.

He became intimate, we can only imagine, in ways far beyond what he’s asked of the people in this book. But the courage and confidence he developed, while fortunately not being kidnapped and killed, enabled this project to coalesce decades later. Thankfully. Because this book reminded me of why some of my colleagues, like the indomitable JΓΆrg Colberg, still find photography fascinating on a daily basis.

Bottom Line: Remarkable project, great exhibition, wonderful book

To PurchaseΒ “Touching Strangers” Visit Photo-Eye

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Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.

Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.

Santa Fe Photographic Workshops and Outside Magazine

- - Workshops

I wanted to give a quick plug to Hannah and my former colleagues at Outside who’ve finally collaborated with Santa Fe Photographic Workshops Director, Reid Callanan to create their own series of workshops with magazine contributors (here, here and here); an idea I had at one point that’s almost as good as the one where I proposed writing a blog. The workshops were always a bright spot of working in the relative isolation of Santa Fe as they brought high caliber photographers to town–I first met Dan Winters, Antonin Kratochvil and Keith Carter after the workshops. Instead of just a plug I thought I’d ask Reid a couple questions.

Can you give me a little background on the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops and your involvement?

After working 14 years at the Maine Photographic Workshops and doing every job that business had to offer, I felt it was time to venture out and start my own business. So, in 1990 I moved with my young family (wife Cathy and son EJ) across the country to New Mexico to start the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. This year we are celebrating 20 years in business. It has been a great success — due mostly to picking the right location at the right time, hiring an amazing staff of energetic and dedicated people then getting out of their way, and convincing the most creative and influential photographers worldwide to join us as teachers for our week-long workshops.

I’m surprised by the caliber of photographer that teaches at SFPW. You have commercial and editorial photographers in their prime, who probably don’t have much experience teaching amateurs or time to develop a curriculum. How do make it so it’s easy for someone like that to come teach?

One of the foundations of this business is to bring the best photographers in the country to teach workshops. We have been fortunate to have people like Albert Watson, Mark Seliger, Brigitte Lancombe, Platon, Jim Nachtwey, and Nadav Kander join us. Teachers at this level can attract working pros to take their workshops. We prepare our instructors by scheduling their week for them in advance. We have a formula, honed over 20 years, that works incredibly well of: daily critiques followed by assignments followed by shooting and then more critiques of the images just made. The instructors follow this structure and work with each participant to improve their vision and craft. Lectures, demonstrations, and discussions led by the instructors round out the intense week. So, the Workshops staff provide the overall structure for the week enabling each guest photographer to focus on imparting their years of experience and inspiring the class to create new images. As long as the guest photographer is open and giving of themselves and follow our lead, their teaching week is a success.

Do you attract a lot of semi-pro photographers to these workshops?

Our core audience right now are advanced amateur photographers – people who have a passion for photography and are willing to spent their free time and money to follow their dream of becoming a better photographer. These folks don’t make their living as photographers. We also have a healthy audience of emerging and professional photographers who take workshops for two main reasons – to improve their technical skills and/or to rekindle a love of imagemaking that may have become lost while building their careers. And pros come to take workshops with photographers whose work they find inspiring–like Chris Buck, Jonathan Torgovnik, Joe McNally, and Karen Kuehn to name a few of our guest instructors this past summer.

What are the traits and skills that photographers who are good teachers have?

All great teachers are articulate, caring, thoughtful and have their egos in check. If they can’t get outside their own box and be open to what their students are doing in the class, they won’t be successful as teachers.

One criticism I have of just teaching people technique and leaving out the business part of being a photographer is the potential that students will not understand the value of photography and not grasp their responsibility to the photographic community to help it remain a profession. What are your thoughts on this?

Since almost all of our instructors are professional photographers, they understand the importance of discussing business practices and the financial value of an image in their classes. I wouldn’t say it’s a major part of their workshop week (unless you are taking a workshop with Mary Virginia Swanson), but it does get the point across that images are valuable and need to be protected and treated as such. I think our audience places a high value on photographs because of their commitment and passion for photography. And, they also understand how difficult it is to make a really great image, so selling images for $1 is not the right thing to do. I do believe that it is our responsibility to impart this message to our audience.

Have you seen enrollment dramatically rise with the explosion of public’s interest in taking pictures?

Our enrollment has seen slow and steady growth over 20 years. We haven’t seen a dramatic rise because this wouldn’t match with our business and marketing philosophy of steady growth. Likewise, we haven’t seen a dramatic decrease in our enrollment because of the recession. I believe in moderation in all that I do and have placed a high value on this practice in my business. There is not much that is overly dramatic nor explosive about the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. We do what we do very well and will continue to be successful for years to come.

What have you got coming up that you’re excited about?

Besides working with Outside Magazine to produce a series of week long workshop with some of their key contributing photographers (Jake Cheesum, Jeff Lipsky, and Paolo Marchesi), we are also offering workshops this Fall in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. This will be the 9th year we are moving our workshop operation to this amazing colonial town and producing 12 workshops with the likes of David Alan Harvey, David Hobby, Sam Abell, Greg Gorman, and Paul Elledge, to name a few. I know travel to Mexico has gotten a bad rap the past couple of years, but San Miguel is a safe haven that is easy to get to. We wouldn’t be going if we didn’t feel it was totally safe. It’s such a great venue to explore photographically and also to build a closer relationship with your own imagemaking process.