About Street Photography Workshops…

Don’t know if it is just me but it seems that there are loads of street photography workshops set up here and there lately. I am not sure there have been so many of such before, actually I doubt so.

OK, street photography is undeniably trendy today. But I find the idea of learning street photography through workshops somewhat weird.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the economic aspect of it. If some renowned and pro photographers can make decent bucks whilst having some fun then good for them. By the way I insist on “pro” because I am much more perplex when such (payable) workshops are organized by amateur photographers. I may be wrong with that (or too much conservative) but to me it is like they are eating someone else’s bread. Of course there are some gifted amateurs who know more about SP than many pros, but a workshop is not only about showing your skill (that is self-promotion and ego-building). The way I see it is more about sharing experiences on multiple aspects – not to speak about preparing the workshop itself. I don’t know if I can learn much about the on-the-field practice of street photography from – say – Nick Turpin. But I would probably learn a lot about things such as gear, post-processing, printing, editing etc… all sorts of things that require an experience that I believe professionals (who care for their reputation) have over simple amateurs. In other words the experience of participating to such workshops is more likely to be successful and fruitful with professionals rather than amateurs, for multiple reasons. Unless…

… unless you are after something else. Actually I feel that the interest for such SP workshops has probably more to do with networking, or the idea of “community” rather than about street photography itself. To me street photography is basically a solitary practice, or better said an highly idiosyncratic process. You might learn from other artists body of work (of course), but when it comes to evolve in public space with your camera it is really something personal. By the way a large part of the interest of it resides precisely into that – as opposed to waiting for somebody to teach you how to become a street photographer – if that makes any sense.

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7 thoughts on “About Street Photography Workshops…

  1. Here is an exercise we should try. Anytime we see promotions for a paid workshop by an amateur, do a background check and see if they have a blog. When you find it, see how many ways it is monetized. From my point of view, the whole idea of running a paid workshop with three-four years experience just stinks of the Pro Blogging culture. The whole idea that you don’t really need to be an expert in a field, just so long as you can come across as knowing more than your readers you can turn that hobby into $$$.

    I can’t imagine actually taking a Street Photo workshop for any reason other than to network. Like you said, very solitary act. I’ve tried doing photo walks in the past-the pack mentality just doesn’t jive with me in photography.

    • I agree….

      Did a quick google search and that seems worst than I have imagined. I even saw a $199 (!) workshop to learn how to shoot from the hip (!!) and they introduce their stuff by mentioning HCB, Winogrand and co.

      • HCB and Winogrand, The kings of hip shooting!

        My favorite workshop was the one were a guy was just going to talk about the joys of using an M6TTL while showing you his work from it. Then at the end there was a hands on period where you could learn how to use it. Least that one was only about $25.

  2. For a while now, I’ve been toying with the idea of running a workshop. I even have a syllabus ready to go. Aside from all of the things you mentioned that are worth learning, like ” gear, post-processing, printing, editing,” for example, other things such as the genre’s history and how to approach street photography are other useful and valid topics. A way of working (i.e., masking as Michael David Murphy calls it) is another useful topic as well as clearing up any confusion around laws, ethics and etiquette.

    Additionally, getting started with street photography for many is due to a lack of confidence. Some are worried about mean glares, or getting yelled at, or even worse, punched. While rare, most beginners, and especially those who have never tried street photography, are quite simply: need a push in the right direction. Even with numerous websites and videos giving instruction, some people want to be taught by a real person. If that were not the case, why would people go to school? Why would they pay tens of thousands of dollars for university degrees?

    Of course, this is where you are exactly correct: instructors should have something proven to offer and usually it is pros who have years and years of hands on experience. They’ve devoted themselves to this. And while few of us have degrees in photography or let alone street photography, a portfolio and a standing in the community is worth something whereas the number of twitter followers is not, alone, an adequate indicator of quality.

    Nevertheless, I think a good instructor can help get novices over that barrier to show them that mostly, street photography, is fun.

    • Thanks John, I appreciate your reply.

      I don’t deny the idea of SP workshop to be beneficial. And I agree that being taught by a true person (as opposed to learning from on-line ressources) is great. And there are many interesting aspects to be covered. My point is: I am perplex (to say the least) about the competence of some of the people out there who set up SP workshops, especially now that SP has become somewhat trendy. I think we agree on that, just as you say: “instructors should have something proven to offer and usually it is pros who have years and years of hands on experience. They’ve devoted themselves to this”. In other words instructors should have some sort of credentials, not necessarily academic credentials, but an experience, craft, body of work etc… that is a clue of a commitment towards photography well beyond the average-Joe-street-shooter can argue through a flickr stream backed up with a video of him flash-shooting people on the street.

      I would add that – obviously – the fact you are good at something does not necessarily make you a good instructor. And I believe it is especially the case with SP, which is (to me) a very idiosyncratic practice. Furthermore it is important for people leading such workshops to have some planning of what they want to do. It’s not all improvised stuffs / hitting the street / “follow me and watch me in action”. I may caricature to some extent but I suspect many SP workshops are like that. It takes time and dedication to set-up a WS that is profitable to participants – as opposed to some sort of ego-boosting activity.

      • I agree 100%, Jacques. Credentials and a knowledge and ability to teach are vital. Without naming names, there are some people out there who should not be getting money for this. Too young, too inexperienced and and a portfolio that is too new and too thin. On that note: a local photography school was offer a street course. I learned from a student that the teacher not only did not enjoy street but she didn’t even practice it. I found another offering in Vancouver where students were suggested to bring a macro lens to the class. Macro! I mean, maybe there was some really awesome close-up photography being practiced but I’d say, unlikely. This is why I’m waiting. While I believe I could offer a valuable course, I’m pausing for a moment before I can be sure to benefit students by offering a seriously well thought out and useful curriculum.

      • I guess that is the problem with all that background noise. Not only you have to figure out how to offer a valuable content but also make sure it is perceived as such by potential students. Anyway good luck for your venture with workshop John, I am confident you’ll do it well.

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