“You need to fall in love with your subjects.”
Sergio spoke these words to us during the orientation. It was my second time attending the Foundation Workshop as a student, and I was anxious to start shooting. “No problem,” I thought. I liked my clients. I liked the family who had graciously agreed to let me into their lives for two full days with a camera. At least I didn’t have to worry about that.
And so the first day began. I had gotten about 0 hours and 0 minutes of sleep because I had been lying awake with ideas flying through my mind and adrenaline coursing through my veins. I spent the morning watching, listening, and photographing the family. I focused on looking for stories to tell. I tried to ignore the obvious. In spite of my best efforts to keep it down, my ego crept into play because I wanted to prove that I was worthy of being on the “advanced team.” Then, Ben and Jeremy stopped by to check on me. Ben told me something along the lines of “Stop overthinking. Have fun. Observe and take good photos, and the stories will reveal themselves.” I had been trying to force a narrative that I wanted to tell. I was shooting with bias and ignoring both people and moments that I thought wouldn’t support my narrative. When I took Ben’s advice, I started to have a lot more fun. And I started to fall in love with this family.
I didn’t even realize it was happening at first. But it started to hit me when the little girl in the family gave me a huge hug before her bedtime. I spent a little down time throwing a football around with one of the boys. And I got teary-eyed when I said my final good-byes to the parents as I walked out of their home the next day. As I fell in love with this family, I had more fun and my photography reflected that. When my slideshow played in front of all of the other students and staff, I lost it. These people, who were strangers to me 72 hours ago, were like a second family now.
I honestly can’t believe that it’s been a week since this whirlwind of an adventure started. I had come back to the workshop wanting to become an even stronger photographer. I had already learned some rules and the basics from my first time and envisioned that this would be more of a “fine-tuning” of sorts. I was so completely wrong. My experience as a returning student surpassed even my first time at Foundation. I saw the difference between just liking my subjects and really falling in love with them.
Foundation has changed how I approach my subjects when I pick up a camera. I became not only a stronger photographer, but a better person. I am incredibly grateful to have had Ben, Anna, Craig, and Jeremy as my instructors. To my instructors and everyone who helped me at the workshop – thank you so much for your support, critique, and mentoring. To my clients – if you are still reading this, know that this experience has made me a stronger photographer and a better person. I can’t wait to fall in love with all of you.
At the top of this post is one photo from my time together with this amazing family. Below is a photo of me working, courtesy of JVS and assistant Derrick Rice.