1. What is your class about?
I teach many but all of them are related to photography, one of my favorites is documentary photography. I like it because it's not easy to get inside the world of another person or to take pictures of the candidness of life and maybe because I am a photojournalist and that has always been my favorite kind of photography. So many things get uncovered and learned during the course of the 10 week class, probably as much about yourself as your subject. Transformations happen and it's an amazing process.
One of my favorite quotes is:
"While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see." -Dorothea Lange.
Documentary photography teaches us to ditch our preconceived ideas about a subject and really look and watch and observer.
2. What is the most important thing you want students to take away from your class?
The ability to generate ideas and think for themselves and then go out and execute. Experience has taught me that students learn best by doing---then seeing what they did wrong and learning how to correct the mistakes. Failure and mistakes (also known as "experience") are always the best and fastest ways to learn anything as far as I know. So, go out and fail---that's how you succeed.3. What is one of your favorite assignments to give? Please share a few pieces of the best work your students have done for this assignment.
One was Sandra Arenas documentary of the life of Milo Bell. A hip 92-year-old who hangs out by the pool at The Standard among other spots. He's kind of an icon on Miami Beach. Through the process of taking his pictures, she found out he is kind of lonely and so eventually this loneliness showed up visually in the pictures. Why do you like this work? I like it because it's visual story telling at it's best. We uncover something about the subject and about ourselves when we look into someone else's life. I also love that they are all shot in available light because it sets a mood of the sunny life in South Beach and yet the shadowy lonely side of being 92 in what is basically seen as a young person's world. Everyone is South Beach has a big concern about looking good and staying fit and young. So it's a bit of a juxtaposition to be that age living in South Beach towards the end of your life.
Mary Beth Koeth did a very interesting story about the Raven, a man who has run 8 miles every day on Miami Beach for almost 40 years now. The story began being about the running, but it ended up being about everything that keeps the man running and maybe uncovered what it is he is running from. Mary Beth has a great gift for approaching people and just gaining access really quickly and so she was able to dig deep into this character's life and she took a lot of time with him. She really devoted a lot of time to telling his story---and she did it very well. You saw the progression of her skill set along the way and the pictures just got better and better.
Paula Vasone also did a pretty amazing piece about a tattoo artist. And again the story began because the tattoo parlor looked interesting but as she kept going back, she found out it was also a church on Sundays, so obviously, it made for great visual story telling and she did an amazing job with it. I think that generally we love stories, we grow up having them read to us at early age (most of us) so telling a story through pictures is a bit of a challenge because you have to have your reader understand it even though they were not there, without using words. It's a valuable tool to have as a photographer.
4. What do you like about teaching?
I like watching the progression. It's a bit like planting seeds and watching them grow. I like that when one teaches, two learn. I think the best teachers tell you where to look but not what to see. I also like the challenge that not all students learn in the same way---so it's great to find the keys to unlocking the formulas to have everyone learn--- it's always different.