New York firefighters help Justin Gaertner sit on the yellow footprints at Parris Island, S.C., in September 2011. When recruits arrive at Parris Island for boot camp, they jump off a bus and line up in a formation on these footprints. It’s the beginning of their journey. Justin made a trip to Parris Island with a group of New York Firefighters who delivered a piece of the World Trade towers for their museum. He hadn’t been to Parris Island since 2007, when he was a recruit straight out of high school. Credit: Kathleen Flynn, TID contributor.

The Photography Workshop Where Making Photographs is Secondary

The Image, Deconstructed focuses on the ideas behind image-making. Put your cameras down, your thinking caps on, and come and join us.

From photo gear to lighting set-ups, there’s no shortage of websites, trade magazines and online forums that offer technical tips to improve your photography. In the physical world, workshops and shooting exercises provide practical guidance. I’ve improved my skill-set at photography workshops and I think they’re a valuable part of learning the medium but too often they prioritize “the how” before “the why” of photography — they seek to perfect the doing and the operational. The Image, Deconstructed Workshop is interested in the thinking and the behavioral.

We joke that The Image, Deconstructed (TID) Workshop is a non-photo photography workshop. Our exercises are geared more toward awareness and communication than they are a photograph’s execution. We think that TID is different and we think it is needed. Let me explain why.

Credit: Preston Gannaway, TID contributor

It Takes Two To Build Community

The Image, Deconstructed began as a conversation. A few years back, I was passing through Washington, D.C., and Logan Mock-Bunting let me crash on his couch. As we caught up on each others lives and careers, our conversation turned to a recent shoot. We both noted how predictive behavior influenced how we approached our photography. We had both been thinking about this for a while. We both realized there was rich territory to be explored.

Have you heard of “advanced seeing” employed by athletes? Skilled sportspersons can know, or intuit, action before it occurs and it enables them to better position themselves for opportunity. Logan and I think photographers can do something similar.

What predictive patterns do photojournalists use? How do they move? What do they observe? How are images made, or not, as a result? What small decisions are photographers constantly making?

The more I recognize behavioral patterns within myself, within others and within social systems, the more confident and competent I feel as a visual communicator.

It occurred to Logan and I that many photographers have learned and internalized behaviors that are key to their output and to their success as visual communicators. We wanted to quiz photographers about these subtle, silent and in-built behaviors.

Credit: Lisa Krantz, TID contributor
Credit: Lisa Krantz, TID contributor

When a Blog Becomes a Gathering

TID’s web presence began in 2010 as a series of interviews. As one-off conversations published regularly it operated pretty much as a blog ... or a magazine … or both. Now, it’s nearly 200 interviews deep. All contibutions are volunteered. We hope it’s a lasting resource by the community, for the community.

Early on, it became clear we were all contributing to something larger than ourselves. Logan and I suspected that photographers stood before a room deconstructing the mental approaches behind their works would make for an energizing workshop.

Attendees at the 2013 TID Workshop.

If the first iteration in 2013 was an experiment, the second in 2014 was where we found more ground. We managed to snag photographers Chris Capozziello, Jahi Chikwendiu, Peter DiCampo, Sara Lewkowicz, Ruddy Roye, Emily Schiffer, Grant Slater and others as our faculty.

TID’s primary goal is to provide collective insight to the psychology of photojournalism.

My Motives

Early in my career, I saw and appreciated photographers’ presentations of work, but I was left wondering how they were able to make the images. I was more interested in hearing what they were processing, mentally.

By questioning seasoned photographers’ movements and thought patterns, I hoped to better map my own work, life and approach. Back then, I wanted the entire time allotted for Q&A to myself. The TID Workshop is a space, now, for myself and other attendees to get the answers we seek!

Credit: Kathleen Flynn, TID contributor.
Credit: Kathleen Flynn, TID contributor.

A Lil’ Help From Our Friends

We are lucky; we know people who’ve made great strides in the industry and who want to commune around similar discussions. This year’s faculty include photographers Preston Gannaway, Zun Lee, Kate Medley and Jared Soares, video journalist A.J. Chavar, photo editors Ariel Zambelich and Nicole Fruge, media manager Kathleen Paice Froio, and Syracuse University’s Multimedia Photography and Design Department Chair Bruce Strong. We also have Associated Press photographer Jacquelyn Martin and AARP Director of Photography Michael Wichita available for portfolio reviews.

These experts can help participants navigate the shifting landscape of the industry. The workshop provides participants with tangible strategies and tools that can be put into practice when they return home.

One exercise that I’m fond of helps us realize that everyone has a secret, or something that they carry with them — it is likely something they don’t share with many others. I consider this often when I’m nervous or wary; it helps me see others in a different light that allows me to feel more connected. It helps me become familiar with them quickly.

In the exercise, we want people to approach others they would not normally talk to, and respectfully ask if they’d share something that they don’t normally discuss. We then ask attendees to photograph the subject very close and to build an immediate intimacy. This is part of a larger mapping of behavior that TID wants to help people use.

Teasing Out The Unsaid

Often, the cornerstone to an interview or to our conversations at the TID Workshop is a contact sheet. They put images into a context made not of text in a caption, but into a context made of sequential images. There’s a lot to be discovered in them.

Frequently, photographers haven’t spoken aloud about their process until we return to their contact sheets as a group. It’s revealing for all.

Contact sheets help you see not just how the moment was crystallized, but helps you understand the thought process, small changes and movement toward the preferred, or selected, shot.

We want the TID Workshop attendees to have the same access to the mind-space of photographers as that which we try to deliver on the website. We want attendees access to the psychology of the practitioner during those most beautiful and intense moments of their career.

I always wanted TID to be the type of workshop that my younger self would have attended — open, welcoming, and nurturing to its core. I wanted to target communication ideas that have been so influential in my career; ideas that helped transform me from a very average photographer to one that is more astutely aware of myself, others and social systems.

Group shot of last years attendees. Instructors at the 2014 TID Workshop included photographers Chris Capozziello, Jahi Chikwendiu, Peter DiCampo, Matt Eich, Rich Glickstein, Sara Lewkowicz, Ruddy Roye, Emily Schiffer, Grant Slater, and Scott Strazzante, producer Eric Maierson, AAROP DoP Michael Wichita, photo editor Mike Davis and Facebook’s photographer liaison Teru Kuwayama.

I wanted a space without ego. Our faculty has included Pulitzer Prize winners alongside subjects from our own photographs. We want to see as many sides, and encounter as many perspectives, as we can from within the systems of image production.

I think we’ve achieved these things. Hard-work and honesty will keep us hitting the sweet notes. I never take for granted that Logan, our partners and I have only enjoyed this ride because of our community’s buy-in, generosity and willing vulnerability.

The Pitch

We want you to better understand your own communication. We’ve got the best in the business to help you. We want to examine the central question — why are you doing what you’re doing? It’s a question that is simple to ask, but harder to answer than many realize. We want to help you in your pursuit of this answer, and we really hope you’ll join us.

The Image, Deconstructed Workshop runs April 10–12, so sign-up soon!

It takes place at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC.

Follow TID on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and at the TID website

Credit: Zun Lee, TID contributor

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