February 4, 2015

She Discovered the Photographer in Her in Santa Fe

When Ellen Cantor first arrived on the Santa Fe Workshops campus in 2002, she had no idea her life was about to change forever. Before that fateful day, she had occasionally photographed while on vacation but had never pursued a photographic education. Then, she decided that 2002 was the year she would take the plunge. She signed up for a workshop with Joyce Tenneson, and a whole new career and creative life blossomed.

Black Beauty, © Ellen Cantor
"In that week, I learned I could be a photographer," Ellen recalls, “I stayed on campus and it was photography, 24/7. I was sharing photography with other people, seeing other people’s work, eating together, and talking about photography. I loved the camaraderie.”

From there, the floodgates opened. Ellen continued to take workshops, improving her technique and exploring her creative vision. She enjoyed coming to Santa Fe Workshops each year because, “The  location lends itself to a very creative, spiritual experience.” She adds, “I found the instructors very encouraging for whatever level or type of work someone is doing.”

They Told Me I Had Spiders in My Spine
© Ellen Cantor
Before long, Ellen was exhibiting her work in galleries and winning awards for her photography. Things really came together with one of her first studio series, Unorthodox Anatomy. “I found a new voice, one that is who I really am,” she says. She is now a successful professional fine-art photographer, exhibiting in solo and group shows around the world, from California to Delaware, and even Korea.

She credits Santa Fe Workshops with helping her to find her creative voice and giving her the tools to pursue her photography. She adds, “I hope that others will be inspired by my story, and by Santa Fe Workshops. Try to give yourself the gift of going away for a week, photographing as much as you can, and living the photographic life.”

Ellen Cantor’s photographs can currently be seen in Marvelous Things: The Art of Still Life at PhotoPlace Gallery in Middlebury, VT; The Art of Our Consumption at Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles, MO; and Beyond Words: Contemporary Book Art at Foothills Art Centre in St.Charles, MO. Her website is www.ellencantorphotography.com.

Start a new chapter in your life; sign up for a Santa Fe Photographic Workshop today!

February 3, 2015

Reid Callanan's Latest Cuba Trip: NBC News, Brian Williams, and Alicia Alonzo

Our fearless leader Reid Callanan recently returned from his first trip to Cuba in 2015. With all the recent news regarding the changes in U.S.–Cuba relations, the timing couldn’t have been better. Here, he shares some highlights of his epic journey:

Let me start at a good place: the beginning of the journey to Havana.

The morning of Wednesday, January 21, we flew to Havana on our normal charter flight. I should have known something was up due to the buzz of excitement at the airport. I sensed it, but wasn’t sure why. I got our groups checked in, through security, and to our departure gate with ease. Everything just flowed.

Once at our American Airlines gate some answers were revealed. I quickly found out we were being joined on our flight to Havana by the NBC Nightly News team including the tech crew (of course dressed in casual black attire) and news anchors Brian Williams and Andrea Mitchell.  Now I am not a nightly news kind of guy so I wouldn’t haven’t recognized these two, but Arthur Meyerson and many of our travelers did.  Brian was hiding behind aviator sunglasses and Andea was very, very busy tapping on her Blackberry. The main reason NBC was on the plane was because Roberta Jacobson was too. She is the Assistant Secretary of State and was leading the U.S. delegation in talks with their Cuban counterparts that week in Havana. Roberta is the highest-ranking US government official to step foot on Cuban soil in four decades. I am a bit surprised she was on a commercial flight. She didn’t seek me out for any diplomatic advice and I kept a low profile. I moved to the back of the plane and pulled my cap down low. Phew!  Close call. I did knowingly nod at Brian, Andrea and Roberta as I passed them in their first class seats. They smiled back. 

We touched down on Cuban soil 40 minutes later and the customary round of applause rose from the rank and file in steerage. Ten minutes before I departed the plane, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State stepped on Cuban soil – a truly historic event.  View the news clip: Brian Williams Reports from Cuba

That evening Brian Williams began the nightly news, with the Havana skyline on the Malecon behind him, by saying “Good evening from Havana, Cuba.”  

The next day proved to be even more unforgettable, as I had the opportunity to meet the third most famous person in Cuba after Fidel and Raul Castro – Alicia Alonzo, the world-renowned prima ballerina assoluta. Back in November, I had met with Pedro Simon (husband of Alicia) to talk about our groups visiting and photographing the dancers of the National Ballet of Cuba (Ballet Nacional de Cuba). This in itself would be a major coup because no one is granted access to Cuba’s most famous ballet company’s closed practices. Apparently the ballet company had some needs: photos and pointe shoes.  The photos are easy, but the pointe shoes proved to be a bigger challenge. In trade for access I agreed to provide a dozen pointe shoes. They placed their order of various sizes and degrees of wooded pointe hardness, and I went to work finding the shoes in the U.S. Of course, they wanted the best shoes made. So, after countless hours talking to ballet supply companies around the U.S., the order was assembled, shipped to me in Santa Fe, and packed to go with me to Cuba.

Soon before I arrived in Havana I was informed Alicia Alonzo wanted to receive me and accept our gift. At 94 years old and totally blind she is still the director of the National Ballet Company she stared in 1960 with $200,000 from Fidel. Thursday morning I gathering the shoes and a bottle of perfume I bought at the duty-free shop at the Miami airport and headed off with Kip and Jorge to meet Alicia – the Queen of Cuba, so to speak. We sped over in Jorge’s 30-year-old Russian Lada with no seat belts nor directional signals (I had to help out by throwing my arm out the window at the appropriate time to signal a directional change). We made it safely! After some standing around and high-level negotiations between Jorge and Alicia’s minions, we were ushered into her inner sanctum. At 94, I didn’t have high expectations of a lively woman. I was wrong!

She was standing behind her desk, between her husband and her main ballet instructor as we entered and looked steady and beautiful. I was introduced and we talked together for 20 minutes. We conversed in English, which she is fluent in because of her many years living and dancing in NYC, while Jorge translated our dialogue into Spanish for the rest of the room. It was as if she and I had this secret conversation and the rest of those assembled had to wait for Jorge to tell them about it. She was charming, witty, sharp minded, and gracious. I gave her the ballet shoes and she had her instructor open the boxes and hand her the shoes to feel. Her immediate reaction was that the shoes were too hard and her dancers would not be able to use them. 

My face must have gone pale, my knees went soft, and I was ready for the “queen” to say, “off with their heads.” The instructor raced to the rescue and said, with a wink to me, that the shoes were indeed too hard for Alicia (one of the greatest prima ballerinas the world has ever seen), but the current dancers in the company would love them. Then I mentioned I had brought gel toe cushions for the pointe shoes. Alicia said she never used these and wondered what they were. I unwrapped a couple and put them in her hands. She fondled them for a few seconds, a big smile came across her face, and she said, “Perfect, now the shoes won’t be so hard. If only I had these 70 years ago I would still have toes that work.” My life was saved.

Then another drama unfolded that I was privy to and a player in. Apparently, Jorge was trying to arrange for a group of our photographers to get to photograph a practice session the next morning but was being rebuffed by one of Alicia’s minions, her PR Director. Jorge asked me to intercede and see what I could do. I
told Alicia that I would really love to see a practice and meet some of her dancers but I was leaving Monday for the States and was there any chance I could come tomorrow?  She quickly said, “You are always welcome here.” And I responded that I would love to bring some of our students with me. She said, “Of course.” This time it was the knees of her minion that went soft. The queen had spoken. We were in for the Ballet Nacional de Cuba practice session the next day. As things started to wrap up, I told Alicia (my new best friend) I had a personal gift for her and gave her the bottle of perfume. She was touched and held the box tenderly. I said, “I hope it smells good.”  She burst out with a loud laugh that startled the folks in the room and said, “I hope so too!” With that we were off. 

Once we got to the sidewalk outside the building Jorge burst into his own laughter and said, “That was amazing. Did you see the look on the PR guy’s face when Alicia said yes to tomorrow? He was crestfallen.” There were slaps on each other’s backs and congrats all around as Kip, Jorge and I sped away in the Lada.

The next morning we reaped the spoils of my command performance with Alicia as we photographed the young dancers of the National Ballet. I accompanied our group and we arrived just before 9am. Alicia was nowhere to be found (as expected), but we were greeted with open arms by the converted minions. We were told we could photograph the women in the downstairs studio and the men in the upstairs space, know to the dance community across Cuba as the “Blue Room.” We were warned not to enter the studios and get in the way of the dancers, but to make our pictures from the entryways or from the balconies above the Blue Room.  

Once we got ourselves in place, the practice started with the dancers warming up. Within minutes the dance instructors overrode the minions and waved our group into the studio and motioned for us to go where we wanted on the floor. SCORE!! For the next 90 minutes we had the run of two dance studios. After a few minutes the dancers forgot we were there. Our photographers had found Nirvana. 

It was obvious from the very start that these dancers are at the top of the heap, a cut above anything else in Cuba and perhaps the world. This was, after all, the National Ballet of Cuba and the level of dancers proved it. AMAZING!!  
So, my latest Cuban adventure was one for the ages …

If you’d like to have a Cuban adventure of your own, don’t miss our newly added Cuba Programs in April, with Keith Carter, Zack Arias and Joe Baraban. Read more about our upcoming Cuba Programs here.

December 1, 2014

Top Cyber Monday Deals for Photographers

If you’re anything like us, you love the holiday season for its seasonal cheer, time with family, snowy hikes and yummy food. But amid all the festivities, there are money-saving deals to be had. Get a jump on your holiday shopping and you'll be back to sipping your tea by the roaring fire in no time.  

Today being Cyber Monday there are thousands of sales and discounts, so Will Van Beckum, Digital Lab Manager and instructor here at The Workshops, hand picked some of the best ones for photographers. Here's his roundup of the very best Cyber Monday photo gear deals: 

Let's start with the most important… cameras!  

  • Go anywhere, shoot anything, with this prosumer level super zoomtastic deal on a Nikon D7100. Get the Nikon D7100 with 18-140mm lens plus accessories (other deals also available) for $1,196 at Amazon.
  • Just getting started with digital photography?  You can’t do better for your money than the Nikon D3300. Score a Nikon D3300 with 18-55mm lens (other deals also available) for $496.95 at Amazon.
  • Need a pocket camera that doesn't weigh you down to take with you on your holiday travels? Nikon Coolpix A compact camera is on sale for $500 at B&H.
  • Get a go anywhere, do anything lens from Sigma! Sigma 18-250mm lens for Nikon, Sony, Canon or Pentax cameras, $250 on Ebay.
  • Action nut? Want to see what all the hype behind drone photography is about? There are GoPro and Drone deals out there too! Once you've got your gear, keep your eyes peeled on our summer schedule for a drone photography workshop! 
    • GoPro Hero4 Silver with 32GB memory Card and $50 Amazon Gift Card for $400 on Amazon
    • DJI Phantom 2 V2.0 Quadcopter Drone for GoPro Cameras,  $639 on Amazon.

And now, the always-essential accessories!  

  • Bags for any occasion, photo and non-photo, too! Timbuk2 bags up to 80% off at Timbuktu.
  • If you’re like us, your computer is all out of USB ports. Here's the perfect opportunity to expand your ports! Aukey 7-port USB 3.0 Hub for $40 on Amazon.
  • This one’s special! We all need more storage for our precious photos. Now you can get Lightroom bundled with your Seagate hard drive, all for less than Lightroom normally costs! Seagate 5TB Hard Drive plus Adobe Lightroom 5, $145 on Ebay.
  • Flash drives and SD cards have prices slashed for today's sale event at Amazon.  If there’s one thing we can’t have enough of, it’s storage! 
  • Computer holding back your creative process? Here are two deals for desktop computers, from the robust MacPro to the sleek MacMini. Either way, the savings are huge.  
    • Mac Pro Desktop Computer (3.5 GHz Intel Xeon E5 6-Core 16GB RAM 256GB Solid State Hard Drive for $3,499 at B&H.
    • Mac Mini Desktop Computer (1.4 GHz Intel Core i5 Dual-Core Haswell 4GB Ram 500GB Hard Drive for $449.00 at B&H.
  • And finally, because as photographers we are obsessed with lighting, the Philips Hue Lightbulb Set lets you control your household lights from your smartphone. Set the perfect holiday color scheme with this deal on LED lightbulbs. Philips Hue Starter Kit for $200 at Best Buy.

November 6, 2014

WATER Contest Winners & Jurors Share Their Experiences

As the theme of our 25th Anniversary photo contest, WATER was a chance for 904 photographers from 26 countries—including Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Columbia, Egypt, France, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom—to submit 3,791 images representing what WATER means to them.

Jurors Céline Cousteau, Sarah Leen, Elizabeth Opalenik, and Daniel Miller reviewed this body of inspiring interpretations and chose a Grand Prize image for each of the four categories (Landscape, Documentary, Abstract, and Portrait) and 46 Honorable Mentions. We spoke to the four winners and the jurors to get a behind-the-scenes look at what went into making and choosing the winning images.

Doron Talmi, Herzliya, Israel: Landscape Grand Prize, Windows of Water
1. Where did you make this image? How did it happen?
The image was captured in Venice, at a vaporetto (water bus) station on San Michele island. While visiting Venice for a week I had been using these buses quite extensively, and their multiple layers, split screens, reflections and compositions, with and without passengers, attracted me. On this particular case the light was soft, and there were no other passengers there, giving me the opportunity “to do it right.”

2. What does the photo mean to you?
First and foremost it is a memoir from a wonderful week in Venice. Secondly, I think the absence of people reflects San Michele, which is a cemetery island.

3. What made you want to enter it in the WATER photo contest?
I felt that the windows' effects makes it appear as if there are several different bodies of water, though it is all the same sea, and I thought it would be more interesting to present this one sea in a varying manner.

Jeff Schultz, Anchorage, Alaska: Documentary Grand Prize, Cracks and Dogs
1. Where did you make this image? How did it happen?
I made this image during the 2008 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, as part of my coverage as the official photographer of the race—a volunteer position.

This is an aerial photo taken from a fixed-wing Cessna 180 airplane. My volunteer pilot, Danny Davidson, was helping me on my quest to document the race and find some interesting photos. We were flying in a 25-knot headwind as we passed over Farewell Lake, and I could see that the wind
had swept the ice free of snow. The deep green color was spectacular and pressure cracks made a wondrous spider web. I loved the pattern and could only hope that a dog team would be nearby enough that we could photograph it. Now 3 full days into the race, the mushers could be spread out by many, many miles. On the far side of the lake, in a clearing, we easily spotted a team, but the shot was just okay. I wanted to wait for a musher out on the lake. The plan was to drop to 300 feet, put the musher nearly straight beneath me, and have Danny fly as slowly as he could. Danny suggested we
approach the musher head-on, into the wind; otherwise, we’d blast by the team like a rocket.

The ride was pretty bumpy, so I wanted the fastest shutter speed for a sharp photo. I cranked the ISO to 800 and shot at f/4, with a shutter speed of 1/8000th  of  a second, and put the motor drive on high for five frames per second. When I look at this photo, I am thankful for my experienced pilot. He’s the one who timed a 90-mph airplane with an 8-mph dog team, calculating the wind resistance, and working the tail rudder, the yoke, and throttle... all this from the other side of the plane, where he couldn’t even see the team. I credit Danny for making this shot happen.

2. What does the photo mean to you?
I've been photographing the Iditarod each year since 1981. To me this photo is the very best I've made of the race, so to me it means a lot. It shows just how unique and spectacular the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is.

3. What made you want to enter it in the WATER photo contest?
Ice is simply another state of water, and the way the ice changes from liquid to solid shows well in the image. I think it's a unique look at water and we in Alaska deal with it regularly.  

4. How does it feel to win?  
It feels just GREAT. I'm happy to know an image that I like, is liked by others.

Rania Razek, McLean, Virginia: Abstract Grand Prize, Reflections
1. Tell me a little about your image. Where did you make this image? How did it happen?
My image is of raindrops and I focused on its infinite reflections of the image within. The title "Reflections," is exactly what it displays. It is a reflection of tree that is larger out of focus in the background. The image was taken during late winter in Mclean, VA. It soon became a series of images, but this by itself was the most powerful. It happened by chance amongst other times that successful images come about. I waited in my car for the rain to subside. I looked up at the sunroof and saw how the raindrops were coming down with the trees in the far background I grabbed my camera and began to shoot non-stop.

2. What does the photo mean to you?
It means a great deal to me. Most images that mean something to me the unplanned images. Sometimes, I plan certain shots or locations to take the right image, and end up not get what I was hoping for. I then take a different angle and switch perspectives to see a more mesmerizing shot that grabs my attention. I cross my fingers and pray that I managed to capture its essence. When displaying my photographic work, specifically abstract photos in exhibitions, I like to hear viewers' comments. Some have commented of how it must have been done on photoshop and are surprised that its not. If such an abstract image, "Reflections," leaves audiences wondering how it was created or what it was, then I have done my job. It leaves me with a great sense of pure gratification. My wishes are to create more.

3. What made you want to enter it in the WATER photo contest?
It just seemed to fit perfectly to the Abstract theme of "Water."

4. How does it feel to win?
I'm ecstatic, who wouldn't be? I wish all the participants the same wonderful feeling. It is a great honor to be selected as the grand prize winner from such a distinguished establishment. The Santa Fe Photographic Workshops always have such inspirational and engaging programs. I learned a lot in the past and hope to continue to do so.

Portrait Grand Prize: Ron Henderson, Dallas, Texas, Trunk Show
1. Where did you make this image? How did it happen?
This photo was taken in a wonderfully primitive looking landscape called Vazquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, California. (For Star Trek fans, it was the backdrop for the famous fight scene between Captain Kirk and the alien lizard dude.) We were actually filming on location and in between takes I noticed the elephant sucking up water and playfully spraying it into the air. I framed the action with the rather surreal rocky background to give the image an even more whimsical feel.  

2. What does the photo mean to you?
I've always loved the camera's ability to freeze a moment in time and in a fraction of a second tell a story that's often more provocative or captivating than what's happening in real time. To me, this was a great example of that.

3. What made you want to enter it in the WATER photo contest?
A.  I pulled all my photos with water.
B.  I tossed all the ones that made me say "meh."
C.  The elephant made the cut.
*I also liked the idea of entering an animal in the portrait category since they can often be just as expressive and as interesting a subject as humans.

4. How does it feel to win?
Like a cold blast of water in the face. Very exciting.


Juror comments:

Céline Cousteau
1. What was the experience of jurying the contest like?
No matter how many times I end up on the jury for one event or another, it is always tough to compare a variety of talent because you can see the effort behind so many of the images. With so many photos to compare, the WATER contest was like a puzzle but in the end, my instinct led me straight to my choices.

2. How did you choose and evaluate the entries, considering the theme was WATER?
What intrigued me the most was how water was interpreted and integrated in the image as opposed to being the focus of the image. Though the quality of the photo certainly part of my criteria, what won me over was more the originality of the intention and the story I could imagine that led to the image.

3. What was your favorite part of participating?
It was wonderful to discover so many people’s visions through their images - it truly made me want to get out and shoot more!

4. Is there anything else you'd like to add or share with the entrants and winners?
Contests are a place to share, learn and grow, and though there is a winner, it would be great if the ultimate goal would be to feel a sense of community with others who share a passion and have gone through this story with you. And though there is a winner in the end, it was just one jury that determined this- there are many more life opportunities to share your work and ‘win'.

Also please provide a link to your website(s) so we can include that information as well.

Elizabeth Opalenik
1. What was the experience of jurying the contest like?
It is always a pleasure to see so much interesting work on one subject, but because the work was strong, it was also difficult to make choices.

2. How did you choose and evaluate the entries, considering the theme was WATER?
I found myself revisiting each theme within the water genre and selecting images that were alive or asked me to look harder. The "right" images are always subjective but always jump and stay with you.

3. What was your favorite part of participating?
 If I could work in only one genre personally, it would be water and has been for 35 years, so for me this was a visual smorgasbord of ideas and solutions. A joy to see so much creativity within a theme.

4. Is there anything else you'd like to add or share with the entrants and winners?
To the winners, bravo for your elegant way of seeing.  To all the entrants, thank you for sharing your unique vision of the world. You are all winners for letting your creative spirits soar.

Also please provide a link to your website(s) so we can include that information as well.


Daniel Miller
1. What was the experience of jurying the contest like?
It's always good to look at new work and artists I haven't seen.

2. How did you choose and evaluate the entries, considering the theme was WATER?
I was looking for more conceptual pieces surrounding the idea of water.

3. What was your favorite part of participating?
Working with Santa Fe Workshops' really talented team.


*Juror Sarah Leen was unavailable but her comments will be added later.

October 7, 2014

Staff Picks: Scenic Spots near Santa Fe

Autumn has arrived and the leaves have begun to change. The light has turned as golden as the leaves, the weather is gorgeous, and it's the perfect time for some nature photography. In addition to the very popular Aspen Vista and Santa Fe Ski Basin, there are tons of lesser-known spots with beautiful views and smaller crowds. We were curious what our staff of Santa Fe residents had to say, so we rounded up their favorite scenic locations, and came up with places that will wow photographers and non-photographers alike. Now let's get out there and make some images!

Reid Callanan, Director
For me, it's Black Mesa. Coming from a geology background, I really appreciate the geologic features that make up the mesa, and I know is a spiritual land form for Native American peoples, so there's a spiritual aspect to it as well. With the combination of the beauty of the formation and the spiritual nature I get chills every time I pass it.

© Carrie McCarthy

Carrie McCarthy, Marketing Creative Director
The Abiquiu area, because of the diversity of the landscape. You can watch Abiquiu Lake turn a zillion different colors, there's Red Rocks, Plaza Blanca, the farmlands, and cottonwoods lining the banks of the Chama River—Abiquiu is a smorgasbord for the eyes and the camera!

© Melyssa Holik

Melyssa Holik, Marketing Assistant
It's a little difficult to get to, but the view from Deception Peak is pretty amazing. The entire hike up is pretty, with wildflower meadows and mountain vistas, then the actual peak is above the tree line, so it's 360 degrees of beautiful. It's totally worth the hike. 

Renie Haiduk, DIrector of Operations
My yard, because it's full of natural wildflowers and I can see the mountains from every angle. It's private so I can photograph in my pajamas. Oh, and there's a railroad trestle too. It's freakin' gorgeous!! 

© Brandon Johnson
Brandon Johnson, Operations Assistant
The Pecos Wilderness! It's a very different ecosystem than Santa Fe, but it's still close by. There's more water and you can get up into the big pines.

Will Van Beckum, Digital Lab Manager
There's spot off of the Nordic Trail where my fiancé Maddie and I go every year for her birthday. It's what I proposed last year, so now instead of birthday rock it's engagement rock! There's a great view from up there.

Abigail Moore, Digital Lab Assistant
The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in Taos is a stunning overlook with great view of the mountains.

Mignon Ohmura, Administration Assistant
I would say my favorite spot is probably Ghost Ranch, definitely. I like the diverse colors of the rock, the earth, the greenery, and the sky.

Cindy Ryker, Administration  Assistant
My mind automatically goes to Tent Rocks. I know it's a popular destination, but it's so different and unusual. Yep, I have to say Tent Rocks.

© Anne Fuller
Anne Fuller, Administration Manager
El Rancho de las Golondrinas is New Mexico's only living history museum. It has beautiful vistas and is historically significant to the area.

Suey Surprise, Administration  Assistant
Cross of the Martyrs has great panoramic views, plus it's close to downtown.

Jay Reisinger, Finance Assistant
My apartment. It's my sanctuary. I love going home there, I love the surroundings, I love the environment, and the quiet. Other than that, I really like The Workshops campus. Looking out the window of my office is probably the best view I've ever had.

Sharon Bain, Director of Finance
Heading out of Cochiti, on the way to Bandelier. It's a narrow road with tons of switchbacks, so you need a four-wheeler. Once you're there, it's 360 degrees of views: Santa Fe Ski Basin trails, the Jemez, Sandia and Ortiz Mountains ... everything. It's just spectacular.

Many of the favorites mentioned by our staff are also locations we visit for workshops. Join us, and let us know what your favorite Northern New Mexico scenic location is! For upcoming workshops, visit www.santafeworkshops.com.

September 23, 2014

Eduardo Rubiano: Working (and Playing) in Santa Fe

Each season, Santa Fe Photographic Workshops is privileged to meet talented photographers, enthusiastic new instructors, and thoughtful artists from all over the world. We welcome these folks to our community of friends. One of our newest community members is instructor Eduardo Rubiano, who overflows these qualities. He and his wife, Mira, recently decided to make Santa Fe their home. We talked to Eduardo about the decision to relocate to New Mexico, how he got involved with The Workshops, and his upcoming workshop, Nikon D800: Getting the Most from Your Camera, November 10-13.

Eduardo, what brought a world-traveling photographer and National Geographic Picture Editor like yourself to Santa Fe?

In 2007, I left my job as a picture editor for National Geographic, then spent the next seven years living and travelling in different countries, because that’s what I wanted to do with my career. I wanted to be able to work from different locations, publish with different clients, grow my portfolio and expand my network of professionals in the industry. But recently my wife and I decided it was time to slow down a little bit and find something more permanent. We wanted to be less nomadic so, for logistical reasons and for family, we started searching for a small U.S. city. We wanted someplace that would give us access to art and other things that we like in our personal lives, like nature. We also wanated a place that was different for both of us. Neither of us had lived in the Southwest before, so Santa Fe definitely qualified. When we saw the city and we tried it on, it was just amazing. We felt completely embraced. We found Santa Fe had all the elements that we need and want. Here we are, one year later, and absolutely “YES!” this was the right choice. It’s a great place to work out of, I’ve been able to become associated with The Workshops and Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and I’ve been meeting lots of other photographers who are based here. That’s what brought us here: just wanting to be in a place that would allow us to work AND play the way we want.

Well, Santa Fe is certainly happy to have you! How did you get involved with Santa Fe Photographic Workshops?

I already knew about The Workshops because people know about The Workshops in the industry. We drove into town last October, and on day two I drove up to the campus and walked into the Admin office, and simply said, “Hi! I am Eduardo, I am a photographer, I just moved here yesterday and I want to be your friend.” I knew I wanted to at least get to know The Workshops as part of my community of photography. I didn’t expect to develop such a good, constructive relationship so quickly. Within a couple of weeks, I met with Reid, the director, introduced myself to him and showed him some of my work. We established a really good rapport from the beginning. Then I told him that moving here was a long-term thing and I expressed my desire to collaborate with The Workshops. To make a long story short, a couple of months later, when they were starting to put together the seasonal staff for Spring 2014, I applied for a job as a course coordinator. I felt if I really want to teach here, I should know how it works from the ground up. That was a smart decision because it gave me insight into the behind-the-scenes aspects. As a result, now I’m teaching more and more regularly. Santa Fe is so much about slowing down, grounding yourself, and going with the flow. It’s about manifesting what you want but not forcing it, so Santa Fe’s pace has also been part of the experience.

You said you walked in and introduced yourself? 

Yep, I just thought, "You know, people respond to friendliness." And I think from all those years changing and moving so much, my wife and I learned to approach people in a way that is not aggressive, but with a lot of initiative and we open the doors to friendship.

Speaking of opening doors, can you tell us about your teaching style and what you like about teaching?

Teaching is not something I envisioned doing early on in my career. I didn’t discard it as a possibility, but it’s not something I thought I would be doing at this point. However, through some workshops I used to do on my own in between assignments, I discovered that I like it. I especially like sharing my approach to the creative process. And, as a result, my style is a lot more personal than perhaps other instructors. I try to design my courses and my teaching so that every participant has a truly personalized experience. I do that by always including exercises that encourage each person to go inward and try to reconnect with the motivation behind their imagemaking. Then—having reconnected with that intention—we can move forward as a group but also as individuals who are very much in touch with our personal reasons for doing this work. I always include that at the very beginning of my workshops, and I tell my participants that they can expect this kind of thing. The feedback I’ve gotten is that even though we’re in a group, it almost feels like a private workshop, like a one-on-one. To summarize, my style is about embarking on a personal exploration of why are we doing this and then looking into the technicalities of the actual craft.

How does your style fit into the Nikon D800 workshop you’re teaching in November?

To me, it’s a big challenge because it’s a very technical workshop by nature. But I feel that it is a challenge for me to grow as an instructor, and as a photographer. I want to see how I can make the workshop a technical class, yet give it a creative feel. Even though it’s kind of contradictory to the title of the workshop, I want people to kind of forget about the tool a little bit and show them how to use the tool to really manifest what they want to create. From a technical standpoint we’ll going to go through menus and settings, and get familiarized with the machine. But then I am really going to work hard to get people to identify ONLY the aspects of the machine that they truly need for what each one of them wants to accomplish. We’ll focus on those parts becoming second nature, and, hopefully, forget about the machine after a while.

The D800 in particular is a pretty sophisticated tool. So it could apply to almost anyone’s needs, correct?

It will. The D800 is very versatile, so it will apply to a lot of different approaches to photography, to different kinds of photography, and different kinds of individuals. It’s an extraordinary machine. It has some features that are technologically cutting-edge—the digital image sensor is one of the flattest objects humans have ever created. Those are some of the things we’ll be discussing.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Yes! An unexpected bonus of going through an experience at Santa Fe Photographic Workshops is what you learn from other people. Because other participants usually bring very interesting perspectives, questions (and sometimes answers!) that other participants may not have had a chance to explore. But also I feel that participants are often empowered beyond improving their images, by helping other people achieve their goals. I think it is a really nice interactive dynamic and if we can, again, forget a little bit about the actual camera, then we can really focus on making the images. I think that’s what people really enjoy doing at the end. That’s what I enjoy.

Join Eduardo this November, and get to know this wonderful friend of The Workshops in person:

November 10–13, 2014
Nikon D800: Getting The Most from Your Camera
with Eduardo Rubiano

September 18, 2014

Jock Sturges Interview with Jonathan Blaustein

Jock Sturges Interview

 - August 21, 2013

This interview is from last year, but since Jock is teaching his popular The Portrait and the Nude workshop with us October 19 - October 24, 2014 in San Miguel, we think now is the perfect time to share this! The interview originally appeared on aphotoeditor.com. To see the original post, visit their website here.

Jonathan Blaustein: How did you come to photography as a method of expression?
Jock Sturges: It’s an important question, because the answer sets the groundwork for my whole life’s work. At age eight, I was sent away to summer camp. And, from eight on, I was in boarding schools or summer camp right until I joined the Navy in 1966.
That’s pretty young to be away from home. These were all boys boarding schools and all boys camps. I had as well four brothers, all of whom were similarly sent away. No sisters.
So, as circumstance dictated it was in these schools and camps where I was obliged to find what family I could – amongst the other boys. And right from the beginning I had an appetite for beauty. Due to a chain of circumstances that involved several broken arms, I wasn’t allowed to do sports for several years, and ended up swiping a camera from one of my roommates who had in turn swiped it from his dad. I was eventually able to make prints from the work I was doing. My roommate’s mother came up for a visit and saw some of the prints of her son on the wall and took them down and kept them. 
JB: (laughing.) For real?
JS: But she paid me for them!
JB: OK. 
JS: What was then a small fortune.
JB: How old were you?
JS: I was about eleven at that point.
JB: You sold your first work at eleven? I haven’t heard that before.
JS: Right away, I discovered that many of my friends’ parents suffered from guilt for having sent their children away to school so young, so, as it happened, there was a nice market there for me. Some of my friends in turn figured out that they were a kind of cash register, and wanted a cut of course 
JB: I sold lanyards. I had a friend making them, and I was basically the middle man, selling lanyards around the lunchroom in what was probably seventh grade. I think you have me beat, for an early understanding of capitalism. 
JS: The capitalism was a side affect for me. It was certainly very much enjoyed, because we had no spending money. But really I was keeping the images of my friends because at the end of the school year, or the end of summer, many kids would disappear. You’d never see them again. Their parents would be transferred to Europe, or wherever.
It was a way of keeping family. And beauty was also a big part of that for me. Boys can be very beautiful, and I was drawn to it, right from the beginning. Long before that, when I was five, my parents moved into a house in Providence that belonged to my great uncle Howard Sturges – a legendary bon-vivant who was Cole Porter’s partner for much of his life. Anyway, there was a big set of US Camera Annuals, in the bookshelves of that house, which I just loved. There, inexplicably, I fell in love with Grace Kelly because of two images of her swimming in Lake Como. I had a massive crush on her. I was five or six.
I don’t have any particular explanation for why that aesthetic appetite exists in Homo Sapiens, even in young children, but there it is. 
JB: I was going to ask if you were coming from the North East. Was your family part of the cultural tradition of boarding school? 
JS: In fairness to him, my father had been sent away at the same age himself. It was just how it was done. The English pattern. My family came from money, but several generations before them. I like to describe them as camped in the ashes of a great fortune. 
So I grew up with the trappings of privilege, but almost none of the economic leverage. The good schools, etc, were actually paid for by a relation. I came out of that, making photographs all the time, but mostly just of the other boys, because that’s who I was around. It wasn’t until after four years in the military, where I was a Russian interpreter living in Japan for three years, that I found myself finally in a context that included women.
This was Marlboro College in southern Vermont. It was very small, 200 students, and I arrived right at the height of the sexual revolution. The school’s only rule was, whatever you’re doing, just please close your door. 
That was paradise for me. I was finally in the context of women, and finally really happy socially because the truth was, I’d never much liked talking about cars and…
JB: Sports? 
JS: About cars and sports. Exactly. The conversation with women was instantly more interesting to me than any conversations I’d had before. The critic, AD Coleman, has since described me as having a strong feminine aspect, and I really appreciated that clear perception of who I am. It realys fit with my own sense of self.
From that point on, I only really photographed girls and women.
JB: But your first experience, based upon your age, and the age group of the kids with whom you were billeted, was in photographing young boys.
JS: Very much so.  My cofrères.
JB: Is that something you think people are familiar with?
JS: It’s been in an interview here or there, but it’s kind of the bedrock of where it all comes from.
JB: At what point in your evolution as a photographer did you start working with nudes?
JS: Not for a long time. When I was at Marlboro, in Vermont, I did some. But the work then was really fueled more by hormones than intelligence. I was 22 or 23 years old, and new to the game of sex and relationships. Making pictures of naked women struck me as an enjoyable endeavor. But it left me feeling hollow, somehow dishonest, so I stopped pretty quickly
Then in 1973 I took a feminist workshop in Minneapolis/St Paul as part of a larger workshop I was doing on alternative education. It changed my life significantly, because, for the first time, I started to really appreciate the problem with objectification in nude photography — and how much of traditional photography of women was hard on them as a group. Abrasive, even.
I came away from that deciding I didn’t want to make photographs like that, and I actually stopped doing nudes for almost ten years. But then, almost accidentally, I stumbled upon the fact that making portraits of people over a long period of time transitioned the work from being about the body to being about relationship. In the same time frame I found myself in a counter-culture context in California where nudity was commonplace and shame absent. This was an epiphany for me!
This encounter with people who had no complex about simply being naked combined with my experience with feminism in the early 70′s and set me on a completely different path from where I started. Very happily so, because, since then, I have not photographed a great many people, but I have photographed the people I do photograph a great many times.
JB: So what led to photographing younger girls was that starting earlier enabled you to potentially open up a lengthy, multi-decade process?
JS: That’s exactly right. In fact, as time went on, I got more and more interested in even starting with pregnancies, when possible — starting as early as possible so that I felt like, when I’d been photographing for a number of years, that I really knew something. 
Now, I’m photographing a third generation. You begin to have something on the order of a significant understanding of who a person is when you’ve known her parents, and then their parents before that, most of their lives.
The first two Aperture books did me a real disservice, in that respect. Michael Hoffman refused to allow me to edit them chronologically, as I wanted to. I had edited my first book, “The Last Day of Summer,” with a great editor from Aperture, and we had worked it out together as a chronology to our mutual satisfaction. With each of the models depicted, you’d see them getting older image by image, and that painted the picture of a relationship.
That didn’t suit Hoffman at all. He wanted to edit it graphically, so he ditched our chronology as not interesting, and basically did it as an exercise in graphics. His mantra was, “You don’t know anything about making books. I do. Shut up.”
JB: Had you gotten your way, it sounds like you would have created something within the realm of what Nicholas Nixon did with “The Brown Sisters,” which, of course, drew him massive acclaim.
JS: Exactly right. I’d been doing lifetime studies for a long time at that point. I wanted people to understand that it wasn’t just pictures of pretty girls, it was a long-term relationship with a huge amount of respect as the engine, and that the project was open-ended and continuing.
All my subsequent books with Scalo and Steidl, etc, and, after Hoffman was gone, even with Aperture were in fact edited chronologically.

Fanny; Montalivet, France, 1990

Fanny; Montalivet, France, 1996

Fanny; Montalivet, France, 2011
JB: It seems like a great opportunity to talk a bit about the way your vision of your own process, your motivations and intellectual curiosity, have led you in one direction. Clearly, the elephant in the room here is the way an audience, critics, and other people have responded to what you’re doing.
It’s not edgy here to say your work is among the more controversial that’s come around in the last three or four decades. 
Can we start with the way you react to other peoples’ reactions? What’s it like for you, when you feel your own actions are coming from one place, and other people are responding from such a massively different set of assumptions?
JS: The Aperture book set off a certain amount of reaction that was conservative, as you depict. I think, if it had been edited chronologically, that wouldn’t have necessarily been the case, as much as it turned out to be. Subsequently, most of those critical voices have gradually been stilled, by seeing the chronologically edited books, and the long, long timespans.
And then came the Aperture book, with Misty Dawn which described a quarter of a century of her life. That kind of calmed people down. It became impossible not to realize that there had to be a profound level of trust between a model, who was letting herself be photographed for that many years, and who then entered her own child into the process. There’s no harm being done there. Just the opposite, in fact.
In fact, the work is reifying, and re-enforcing in a very positive way for the models. Simply put, the people whom I photograph love both the process and the work. People who are too conservative to appreciate that, frankly, just don’t interest me that much. I’m fine with how the work is made. I know that it’s a great joy for me to make it, and it’s a huge pleasure for the models to be in it.
Finally there are only two entities that I answer to: myself, and the models. What the rest of the world makes of it is, frankly, just not that interesting or relevant for me.
JB: Context is key. It’s hard to have any kind of art conversation in the 21st Century without bringing it up. 
I’ll speak plainly here. I saw one print, decontextualized on the wall at Aperture a couple of years ago. I hadn’t been face-to-face with the work before, and it threw me. I had a very powerful, negative, visceral reaction to it. And I wrote that as well.
It was just one print, a slice pulled out of the narrative that you’re describing. I have to say, I think it did you a disservice in that regard.
JS: We’re not there to protect the work and make sure that doesn’t happen. 
To advance my notion of it, the most important thing in my work is an absence: the absence of shame. The people that I photograph are basically living a lifestyle without clothes because that’s the lifestyle they choose. They’re not taking their clothes off for me. They live that way.
That’s one of the things I discovered at Marlboro, was that getting people to take their clothes off for you is something that’s been done rather too much. It’s essentially artificial; kind of understandably hormone induced. 
I have this visual curiosity, and became fascinated, later in the 70′s, when I finally started on the body of work that I’m doing now, by the reality that I encountered in the counter-culture in Northern California. Dress or undress was dictated only by weather – not social convention. A new world.
There I found the nude, per say, as something that was organic to the being of the people. They were completely unashamed of themselves. Coming from the East Coast, an absence of shame was a little startling, because I was raised on it. 
That absence, even in an individual picture, can be breathtaking for people who’ve been raised in a context where it doesn’t exist. Where the body is hidden, and where nudity is routinely conflated with sexuality. That’s really not my problem, and it’s not the model’s problem. It’s the viewer’s problem.
JB: That’s why the work creates such powerful conversations, and can so easily end up in the political crosshairs. Given the times, and the decades we’re talking about, did you ever find yourself in a room, sharing a conversation with Robert Mapplethorpe or Andres Serrano? 
JS: No. I never met either of those two artists. I wish I had done, and I would have been intrigued to speak with them.
My roll as a test case, as it were, was not a role that I enjoyed or embraced in any way. I wish that it had never happened. But, culturally, it was more or less inevitable. The fact that I was unaware of that, and hadn’t thought to predict it, is evidence, once again, as AD Coleman points out, of my naiveté.
As we record this interview, you’re in New Mexico and I am in France in a naturist resort with a summer population of 29,000 people on the Atlantic Coast. There are many other such resorts up and down this coast and elsewhere in Europe. I’ve been coming here for thirty years. Nudity means nothing to anybody here. People come here to exist wearing whatever they want. When the weather is cool, people wear something. If women have their period, they usually wear bottoms. People wear whatever’s relevant or nothing – as they please.
Children, especially, are rarely clothed here, because they enjoy so much not having clothes on. If you exist in that context for a while, it gives you an artificial notion of what’s reasonable behavior as regards the rest of the world. This is such a comfortable place to be. 
JB: It’s great to learn more about the roots of your process, especially as one who was so offended by the work out of context.
Given that we’ve been talking about nudity, that seems like a good segue to discuss yourupcoming workshop with the Santa Fe Workshops. It’s called “The Portrait and the Nude.” 
How long have you been teaching? 
JS: Pretty much my whole life. I’m kind of a natural teacher, if I can say that without sounding self-aggrandizing. It’s probably the thing I do best in life. I love it.
It is an abiding sadness for me that, given the political take on my work, probably no major University would dare hire me. But I’m brought in as a lecturer from time to time and I love doing it. I particularly like looking at people’s work, and then trying to help them figure out how to do it better. 
JB: What do you think are the advantages of working in small groups? What is it like for you as an instructor, and what do you think your students tend to get out of the environment?
JS: Every student is a different person, and it’s my job as a teacher to try to figure out who they are, and then turn the key in their lock to help them be better. Help them manifest themselves in the work. 
In a small group, I have time to spend with individuals, to try to get my head around who they are, what skill set they have, and what skills they could use to go further. Sometimes, that’s a manner of looking at what equipment they’re using, and then figuring out if they’re frustrating themselves unnecessarily by using equipment that’s not appropriate for what they need and want to do. You’d be surprised by how often that is the case.
Other times, it’s talking about the larger philosophies that are behind making pictures; understanding them, and how they relate to what they might have been born to do. I’m not much fond of art schools, where people are often taught to think in parallel as it were — where political cant has a large place, and political correctness often holds sway. This can result in students manifesting popular schools of thought as opposed to the individuals they were born to be.
My assistants during the summer come from The Norsk Fotofagskole in Trondeheim, Norway. Five years ago I had occasion during the Nordic Light Foto Festival to review the school’s entire student body’s work during one long day. No student had work that was anything like anybody else’s! Every student was doing completely original work and all of it was extremely well-made. That’s a terrific photographic education.
That’s my ideal. I’m trying to help the students be individuals. I don’t want them to be me by any stretch of the imagination. I give a gentle hard time to those people who think they’re flattering me by resembling me.
JB: A gentle hard time? I haven’t sorted that out yet. I’m more accustomed to a hard hard time. 
JS: I really believe in blowing on sparks and encouraging people. Figuring out what it is that they do well, complimenting them for it, making them feel good about themselves, and then getting in a little medicine by saying, “And you could do this even better if…” I never want to do anything but encourage students.
JB: In something like this, where the purpose of the workshop touches so closely on your own process, do you ever encourage students to photograph people with clothes on? Does it always stick to the nude? 
JS: Absolutely. What I like best to do, if it’s a two day workshop, the first day we’ll shoot kids who are dressed. Working with young people obliges the students to be decent people, because kids won’t pose for them if they’re not. 
Kids simply won’t accept a person who’s being mean to them, or being officious, bossy, or pushy. You’ll get nothing from them, under those circumstances.
Then, for the second day, we transition to the figure, which a lot of people come to study. I still emphasize, of course, that you need to be treating this person as a person, not a model. It’s vastly better if you accept from them what they have to give, and not tell them what to do. The set of ideas we have when we instruct a model to pose is tiny, compared to what people do naturally.
There is far more beauty in the awkward grace of a natural position than there is in any sort of Neo-Greco-Roman pose. If I never saw another one, it would be too soon. I’m sick to death of all the arms behind the head and everything. No thank you!
For a five day workshop we do two or three days of younger models followed by the days of figure models. I let the group decide on the balance of what they want to do.
JB: What about San Miguel de Allende, where the workshop is taking place? Have you been there before?
JS: I’ve taught there I think as much as a half a dozen times. It’s a terrific location. My first workshop there was a real eye-opener, and was actually my first time in Mexico. San Miguel is at altitude, and has enormous charm. As a photographer, it is a paradise of brilliant locations and amazing light.
The model population is surprising too, because they’re not the kind of over-tired, worn-out models that I sometimes associate with workshops. They tend to be relatively new to it, and quite beautiful. They’re interesting people, and the workshop students become enamored of them. They develop a relationship and of course that for me is the holy grail.
JB: I’ve been through that part of Mexico. It’s lovely. There are some cool, smaller cities around there, like Guanajuato and Queretaro. Do you get out of San Miguel at all? Are there outdoor shoots?
JS: They’re all outdoor shoots, and we go all over. We go to people’s ranches. We spend a day up at an abandoned silver mine, which is a bit higher. It’s a long trip up there, but it’s a stunning location.
We definitely get into the real Mexico doing this. It’s as rich a workshop experience as anyone could ever hope to have. At the end of the week, we are all pretty beat, because we do so much. Tired but happy.
The Santa Fe Workshops does a great final evening, where everyone’s work is seen. There are slide projections. It’s a terrific experience for people. It’s my favorite workshop that I’ve taught. 
JB: That’s great to hear. I’m glad we got a chance to talk about it, as the Santa Fe Workshops are sponsoring this interview series. We all know each other here in New Mexico, and I’m a big fan of how they promote education and creative practice.
Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on right now?
JS: This evening I’m shooting Flore, whom I have known for more than 25 years. With her kids. So I’m doing a mother and daughter portrait there. 
At a greater distance I am leaving for China in a few weeks where I have a series of museum openings of my work to attend. I then come back to Europe to print a new book of 25 years in the life of my goddaughter, Fanny, with Steidl. And then I get to finally fly home.
JB: What’s the light quality like on the Atlantic Coast this time of year?
JS: The light quality is staggering. The first time I walked onto this beach, 30 years ago, I suddenly understood the Impressionists in a new way. The light here is stupefying. It has a lot of moisture in it, and in the evening, it fluoresces. Things are lit from all directions when you’re on the beach. 
Shadows have an enormous amount of information in them. The highlights are soft, with beautiful, beautiful scale. The light saturations here are just so richly appealing. 
JB: Do you get to travel around and hit the museums, or do you mostly stick to your beach?
JS: I tend to be doing just one thing. I’m either with my family here, or I’m shooting. I’m also in Europe a lot during the winter. That’s when I hit museums and shows, because I’m omnivorous. I’m much more influenced by paint, in fact, than I am by photography.
I love ingesting new art. It’s one of the reasons why I love teaching so much because I see things I would never have thought to do myself. I hope that I’m learning permanently.
JB: I try to use this platform to encourage people to go look at work as much as possible. I find, anecdotally, when you talk to photographers, they often say they’re too busy. But I believe, without good input, there’s very little chance of great output.
JS: I couldn’t agree more. You are what you eat. Period.
Occasionally, I’ll teach someone over the age of 60, and they’re often a lot harder to teach. Very often, they’ve made up their minds, and they’re not taking on new ideas. Because I am 66 now, I’m terrified of that ossification.
I’m always trying to push myself, and at least once every couple of days, I’ll make a picture that breaks some or even all of the personal rules I have for making pictures. I don’t want to live in a cage of my own habit and practice. Often those experiments fail – but not always. The only truly bad picture one can take is the one that one does not take at all. We learn from all the rest.
Join Jock Sturges at his upcoming workshop, The Portrait and The Nude, in San Miguel de Allende, October 19-24, 2014.