Having special guests always adds extra positive energy into an already dynamic mix. Special guests Greg Barnett and Patti Russotti, both long-time high-level educators at RIT with vast experiences in the medium and it’s digital evolution, participated in my recent field workshop Along the Waterline. Their presence and the receptivity of the students encouraged me to ramp up the curriculum to an even more advanced level conceptually. We moved progressively varying our modes of inquiry, to identifying ways of looking, focussing on themes, and identifying ways to make the finally images more psychologically loaded. Each day built upon the previous one. At the end, everyone had increased their skillset, learned a lot of different ways of looking, and deepened their authentic voice. It’s great to see everyone progress together, all in different ways. It was really stimulating for everyone involved. In many ways, both small and large, it will change my teaching for the better.

Greg and Patti mind at the end of the week here.

“Over the last few days while working with John Paul, I’ve had somewhat of a breakthrough …”


Greg Barnett

“Over the last few days while working with John Paul, I’ve had somewhat of a breakthrough. For the last couple of years, my work (photography) has been very focused on a theme surrounding the effects of water on the rocks of the desert Southwest. But what I could not quite lock on to was the end-game, where was I taking this? And without a focus of where it I was taking it, I had been continuing to shoot but without much satisfaction or a feeling of accomplishment.

One of the threads of discussion that John Paul wove through out the last few days was that of telling a story. I’ve spent enough time with JP over the years to have heard this many times before but this time — it clicked and I had one of those proverbial “ah-ha!” kind of  moments. This influenced my shooting during the workshop and by critique time yesterday, the concept of weaving a story into how I would present the images starting coming together. I needed to make the connection between water/stone/movement. It’s what I had been missing all this time, the flow of it so to speak.

This is the kind of experience that comes from immersing yourself into a collaborative event like one of John Paul’s workshops. You are exposed to questions, ideas, opinions, different school’s of thought, all flowing from a sense of an intimate community that he creates from a group of total strangers. Pretty cool stuff!”

Patti Russotti

Lifecycle of an artist
“Never before has imaging required us to truly think thru the options and execution of a thought to achieve an end result.

Understanding the life cycle of an image has become a critical element for photographer’s efficiency. Part of this understanding includes accepting the relationship that each decision in the process has on the next one. If we do not make informed decisions early on, think about the compositional aspects within a frame, then the image can resonate to a much higher degree and will contribute to the quality and vision of the work.
One of my theories is that we learn fixed amounts of information and then often stop learning about what has evolved. Spending a few days in the field working with a true teacher reminds me of what goes into making decisions and creating the relationships between elements to create a unified image. How to make concepts ‘stick”, resonate for each individual is a bit easier when dealing with pure technology. Linear, easier to measure results. Aesthetic, craft, craftsmanship, artisan spirit is difficult to measure, especially within a short period of time.

I found that looking thru the viewfinder, looking at an LCD display changed after putting words to the process. The ability to vocalize intentions and vision changes perspective. Spending time with people that are looking and evaluating what they create helps one more clearly define what their work may be about.
As a lifelong educator, the value of watching teaching and learning provides invaluable insights. Not only related to teaching, but to how I look at the world. I found myself asking –  Am I a Photographer today? Am I an artist collecting bits and pieces to compose with later? What happens when I mix them together and then have to select 1 image to illustrate the assignment concept? Now I remember how it feels to be a student and be faced with – ohh, yeah, the structure of an assignment ….

What does the act of placing language to the experience and the resulting images do to the overall result? One of the group members said “ I took myself off the shelf….” He went on to explain that the few days of working with the class enabled him to find the essence of his vision. He had rediscovered the childlike maturity of his youth. Another group member fully embraced his dark side to create emblematic images of his shadow side.

The images became stronger when in the proper context with each other. Either nothing or everything.”

Read more in my Creativity Lessons here.

Learn more in my field workshops.


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