Marc Prüst
Mar 31, 2016 · 3 min read

The ‘Why’ of the Northern Lights Masterclass

The idea for the program was born at a small photo festival, around a table in the spring sun, gently criticizing the exhibitions we had just seen, under the enjoyment of cool beer. It seemed clear to those around that small table that photographers struggled to build strong long term projects with esthetically strong photographs. Somehow either the concept of the project, or the visual strength suffered.

Surely this was not because photographers today are less talented, or less educated than they were 20 years ago, but clearly the situation for professional photographers has dramatically changed in the last few decades. One of the changes, which has not received much attention, is that the professional support system that was in place for photographers no longer exists. Photo agencies had experienced creatives: art directors and editors who could help and support the photographers in their roster to identify, research, and build projects. Magazines too had enough people, time, and money to spare an extra few hours discussing with a photographer to push him or her to go that extra mile.

But now, and we talking 7 years ago when we had this particular conversation at the festival, photographers were on their own, and had to figure things out by themselves. Since then, the situation has not improved. On the contrary: the market is constantly evolving, and whereas at that particular point photographers could make a decent living by working for magazines and other traditional clients for documentary photography, today in 2016 even that last bit of security seems to have vanished.

But, back to that cool beer in the (for the time of year surprisingly) warm sun. We figured we had to respond to this apparent challenge for photographers and we came up, literally written down on the back of a beer coaster, with a plan. A master class that would truly go beyond a meet a greet with a famous photographer, or the enjoyment of a 2 day photo excursion. Long-term, several sessions, immersive, beauty, back to the value of the individual photograph, industry professionals. Those were the terms that we were talking about, and which led, eventually to the setup of a then unique program.

Now in its sixth edition, the program has evolved while adapting to the changing circumstances that photographers have to deal with. When we started, we aimed at creating the right business connections, and teaching the skills to convince the traditional clients of documentary photography. Now, the program is geared towards initiating, building, and financing personal long-term projects. It is our vision that the market is no longer a traditional Business to Business model as it used to be, but has not evolved to a Business to Consumer market in which photographers are able to connect with their own audience and support base, directly.

The fundamentals of the program still stand: the importance of the individual image, a long-term immersive program, run by industry professionals, without forgetting the beauty of the photograph, but geared more and more towards empowering the participants to build their own ideas into financially viable long-term projects that can have a lasting impact.

If you are ready for the next step in your career as a documentary photographer, please join our Masterclass. In three 3-day-sessions you will learn everything on: photography as a visual language, long term project planning, editing and writing of project proposals and publishing and exhibiting a finished project. You can start in May, October or January. The next session is about editing and writing project proposals and will take place from May 27th until May 29th. As we work in small groups, places are limited, but there is still some room to join.

For more information and application, please visit www.northernlightsmasterclass.com or contact me directly: marc@marcprust.com.

For more information and application, please visit www.northernlightsmasterclass.com or contact me directly: marc@marcprust.com.

Marc Prüst

Written by

freelance photography consultant and curator - specialist in visual storytelling, artistic director NUKU photo festival Ghana