Fit Pictures that Don't Quite.. .

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.

Published by

Wayne Upchurch

For years, as a “professional ogler” (a newspaper staff photographer), I simultaneously explored photography as craft/process/medium in its own right. The photojournalism work –credentials and mindset– got me into (and out of) places I would certainly never have had access to on my own. I was also practicing the discipline of getting a picture where there didn’t appear to be one and getting it Finished in a timely manner, to professional standards. I also learned to create imminently readable images despite poor reproduction in a small size. Though it took me several years to get this, the value of making photos that illustrated something already laid out in the story was suddenly Not Enough, and I began to make assignment pictures that added dimensions not already in the writing, or better Yet, raised questions so that the reader would go to the story for more answers. Having gained more than dreamt of, when starting out, I left to pursue my own personal photography, mounting exhibits along the way. I also worked with commercial photographer friends doing studio product photography, and making headshots for actors. Later, I also helmed a Public Radio “spacemusic” program, and acted in a Wilmington, NC drama company. I put the cameras away for a few years, to finish shedding the habit of self-limiting my identity as just “Photographer”, and can now pursue personal pleasure and expression through the freedom that digital imaging offers. Sharing photos on Flickr and participating locally in meetups and outings has renewed a passion for making new images and for sharing the process with others. For some time, I’ve found myself writing detailed comments on other people’s photos, as well as thoughts and pet ideas about photography, in general.

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