I was fortunate in finding Sean Kernan’s workshop, years ago, now. For me, he exemplified some key qualities as a teacher. Foremost, for me, was that he approached us with a kind of quiet openness to who we were and what we might be about. Then, with respect to our “come from’s” and “go to’s” (and also properly disregarding them), he guided rather than directed, suggested rather than taught, nudged rather than “ruled”. His suggestions as to how we approached each others’ work, during the class, gave us each and all room for what he called for in his workshop descriptions, “We’ll work deep, wake up, and have fun and we’ll prize audacious failures over small, safe successes.” We were asked to see what we see and say what we see in any of the photos up for feedback, each day. Feedback is the key word, not Critique. Anyone can trash or praise a photograph, but to actually read it, see what’s there, simply report what we see, so the artist can make choices based on what the image is communicating/representing? That’s Powerful.
In a world where everyone has native opinions, finding simple reflections for our visions was like breathing fresh air together, instead of braving the hot stale draughts of “my way is better”. Giving feedback like that was not only refreshing to do, but was Great practice at seeing; we could approach making images like a mirror as well as a window.
What a great way to photograph, yes, maybe life, too? At least as a powerful option.
Sean’s recent blog post includes a few images that he says “…just don’t fall into categories easily…except maybe the ‘Look at that!‘ category.”
They Do fit into a category of mine, though; they exemplify images that start out as a kind of discovery and (my bias, here, maybe) Transmit a sense of discovery to the viewer. Their call to look a little deeper can easily fall on “deaf eyes”, but the opening is there to appreciate more than a viewer’s first presumptions. I find that Sean’s sensitive work –also wonderfully crafted– makes this easy.