Articles by: Jillian Patrick

Sam Abell Image Critique

This past October National Geographic photographer Sam Abell returned to DCP for an afternoon of image critiques. Sam started his presentation by sharing some of his life’s work and explaining why these specific images meant the most to him. His biggest message was to take the photos that are most important to you. As he flipped through the slideshow he shared stories of his artistic search and intimately described some of the most difficult times in his photographic life.

After his presentation, Sam turned his insight towards the work of the students. Over the next hour and a half Sam critiqued two to three images of each of the 24 participants. Photos ranged from travel photography to geometric landscapes to intimate portraits. Sam’s comments included what he liked about each image and gave suggestions on how he may have photographed the situation differently to make the image stronger. He encouraged students to slow down and compose the image and then wait for the action to happen. He shared that the photos that work well are the ones where the subject’s head is above the horizon line and they have their own space and room to tell the story.

Whenever Sam is working with images he always wants the projector to be placed so his shadow can enter into the frame. There is something magical about watching him step into an image and use his hands to call out details, crop out something he finds distracting or point out some small change that would make the image more powerful. By entering into the photograph he can clearly communicate the concept he is wanting to illustrate.

Here are a few images of Sam critiquing photographs along with the students’ comments about the experience:

Sam Abell critiques Frank Richards’ Photo

Sam Abell critiquing Frank Richards' photo

“Sam has an uncanny ability to hone in on the essence of an image – commenting both on what makes an image work and how it might be improved. I do not normally shoot photojournalistic type images like Sam’s but have been able to easily apply the principles he teaches to my work. I like that he focuses on a few powerful concepts that can be easily grasped and when successfully applied have really improved my work.” – Frank Richards

 

Sam Abell critiques Tracy Allard’s Photo

Sam Abell critiquing Tracy Allard's photo

“I like that Sam sees value in many types of images; not just landscape, or portrait etc. I learn from every image that he critiques. He’s really made me think about what makes an image “mine”. I am still trying to find my voice and style but I think I’m getting closer the more that I’m exposed to.” – Tracy Allard

 

Sam Abell critiques Neil Resnik’s Photo

Sam Abell critiquing Neil Resnik's photo

“I was fascinated by his ability to look at a picture and point out things about the composition that I would never notice. For example he would point out the little spaces between subjects or the space at the top of a photo and how it made a difference in the photo. Sam’s critique of my work was very affirming. It was helpful to see my photos through the eyes of another with his skill.” – Neil Resnik

 

Sam Abell critiques Robert Moore’s Photo

Sam Abell critiquing Robert Moore's photo

“I enjoyed Sam talking about his own story, his own struggle trying to be “commercial” and yet be true to himself. Connecting his work images with his personal outlook on life was very touching.” – Robert Moore

Ed Kashi Near and Far Workshop

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Photojournalist Ed Kashi spent four days at DCP teaching his Near and Far Workshop where participants exercised their story telling muscles by photographing topics close to home. Ed is president of the VII Photo Agency and is best known for his long form photo essays which bring awareness and explore a situation or a problem. Some of his current work includes an in depth look at Chronic Kidney Disease in Central America in sugar cane workers. His work has been published in publications such as National Geographic, Time, Newsweek and The New York Times Magazine.

During the four days, students had the opportunity to develop an idea for a photo essay, shoot, edit and present a complete story. Projects ranged from an afternoon at a gun range, to preparation for a ballet performance to the life inside an apartment complex of Burmese immigrants. Ed provided guidance on how to approach each situation and taught how to develop a body of work that clearly communicates the story. During a group editing session led by Ed, each participant’s story was pieced together to form a cohesive, engaging photo essay.

Here’s what some of our students had to say about the workshop:

“I find myself falling to the rut of only taking meaningful pictures while on vacation. The concept that you don’t have to go far from home to capture great images was speaking directly to me.” – Tracy Allard

“I was forced to do a lot of fast work in order to get the pictures I needed. This experience game me the confidence to do future project down the road.” – Cristian Heredia

“Ed was very easy to talk to and relate with which made asking questions and seeking guidance easier. His critiques were direct which I like and made sense to me and made it easier for me to dissect my own work.” – Robert Moore

Here’s Tracy Allard’s finished photo essay “Home on the Range”:

“We were snowmobiling in the middle of nowhere”

A client of ours is with her husband in Longyearbyen, Norway. She’s there to shoot the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). We asked her to send back a photo of their trip so far and this is what we got yesterday. The “rig” mentioned at the end is the Noorderlicht, a ship frozen in the ice that has been converted to lodging.

“We were snowmobiling in the middle of nowhere and stopped at a frozen water fall and there was a man there taking video. Turns out he’s a German photographer making some movie/book. Anyway we pulled in and he had also just gotten there to shoot the frozen fall, but he left his battery back in the town. He had a brand new D 4 S, but he borrowed my body to get the shots as I had battery. Then he rode off in his snow mobile and told me that I’d get a free copy of his book! It was pretty cool, so that’s what the one photo is. The other is of our “rig”, the ship frozen in the ice”.

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A Nikon Royal Flush

Over the years, we have had almost every kind of DSLR walk through the DCP doors. We’ve seen combinations of Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Sony and Olympus during our classes and workshops. However, in our DSLR-1 class this past week, something happened that has never happened before. Out of 20 people we had 19 different models represented, including this almost perfect royal flush of Nikons.

D40, D60, D80, D3000, D3100, D3200, D3300, D5000, D5200, D5300, D7000 & D7100

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Humans of New York smashes fundraising goal

At the time that I have started writing this blog post, it is 3:36pm on January 28th and the Humans of New York Campaign has raised $953,000. Their goal was $100,000.

Humans of New York is a blog started by Brandon Stanton. The concept is simple. He meets people as he walks around New York City, takes their portrait and then asks them a few questions about their life. He then posts the portrait on his Facebook page with a short story about the individual.

Brandon posted the photo below on January 19th of Vidal:

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As any good photojournalist does, Brandon asked to meet Vidal’s principal at Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brooklyn. They decided to run a campaign to raise money to send each sixth grader in their school to visit Harvard. “I want every child who enters my school to know that they can go anywhere and that they will belong,” said Ms. Lopez. Their goal was $100,000 and with 8 days still left of the campaign, they have almost received 10 times the amount.

What started as a simple portrait has now collected almost $1 million in donations proving once again that images are powerful. They have the ability to expose and bring light to people and situations that would have never been seen otherwise. With the click of a shutter, the world met a young man living in a neighborhood with the highest crime rate in New York City. This isn’t your typical image of one of the roughest areas of New York City but that is where the power lies. Vidal is like any other middle schooler in the United States but he lives in an extreme environment. Through Vidal and Brandon’s brief connection through the camera, a school and a community has a chance to be forever changed.

Of course, Humans of New York has quite a following but it all started because Brandon picked up his camera and started taking pictures. This is a beautiful example of the importance of photography and how it can make a difference.

In the 30 minutes it took me to write and edit this post HONY has now raised $958,226. That’s over $5000 in 24 minutes.

To read more about the campaign and to donate, click here.

DCP’s first movie night

Last night was our first DCP Movie Night and it was a lot of fun. We ate some pizza, watched the excellent documentary Annie Leibovitz : Life Through a Lens, and then had a lively discussion about the movie, her work and how it related to our experiences as photographers. The documentary did a great job showing Annie’s importance as a portrait photographer. Her ability to connect with the subject and create compelling images continues to have her stand out as one of the best portrait photographers of our time.

Our new projector and sound system made this a real cinematic experience and we’re planning to do these every month or so. Our next one is Monday, January 26th where we will be screening the documentary War Photographer which follows James Nachtwey who is best known for his work in war torn countries.

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My Mom Learns About “The Photo Shop”

On my recent trip to Chicago, I posted a Facebook photo of my friend and me in front of the skyline. We have a dear, mutual friend by the name of Julie who is currently working on getting her masters in graphic design. As a joke, she reposted the photo on my wall with Kevin Bacon posing with us. A few minutes later I get a text from my mom asking me where I met Kevin Bacon. “Photoshop,” I replied.

Later that week I returned to Dallas and had dinner with my mom. “I didn’t realize Kevin Bacon was so short,” she said to me. Confused, I asked her why she would say that. “I was surprised that he is the same height as you and Brad. That picture of you guys at The Photo Shop is pretty great.”

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Our own Jillian makes it into the New Texas Talent show

Very rarely does a photograph of mine make it to print, let alone get displayed in a gallery. However, an image that I took of the singer, Lorde, made it into the New Texas Talent Show 2014 at the Craighead Green Gallery on Dragon Street.

I must confess. I absolutely love sneaking in my Canon AE-1 film camera into shows and snapping a few rolls of the performance. I live for the thrill of getting a camera with a detachable lens past security and then discreetly shooting the event. I headed over to Don’s Used Photo Equipment and debated between shooting in B&W or color. Todd looked at me and said, “Black and white is always classic.” Tri-X 400 it was!

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From the minute the show started I knew I was witnessing something special. At 17, Lorde knew how to command a stage, demand your attention and draw you into her world. I strained to see her through the packed venue but managed to find her around the heads and arms of the fans. The results of the night were a series of abstract images, slightly over exposed but strong and powerful with a point of view. My view.

 

The entire process of shooting, editing, submitting, framing and then displaying work was an incredibly rewarding experience. Peter helped me digitize my negative and print it for the show. This actually turned out to be harder than expected. I had my film processed at BWC and they had provided me with rough scans which I had turned in for the show. However, when Peter scanned the negative by shooting it with a Nikon D600 and a macro lens, there ended up being way more detail in the frame than what the initial scan had shown. Peter and I spent about 30 minutes recreating the rough scan from BWC. Those Lightroom sliders were all over the place!

The energy of gallery opening was tangible and my whole family showed up to support me. It felt satisfying seeing it hanging on the wall at the gallery, completely alive with the other pieces at the show. Peter stopped by as well and took a few shots of the event including this one of my uncle explaining to my grandfather what was happening in the photograph.

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Behind the Scenes of the Klyde-O-Scope

When Peter nonchalantly mentioned that he had an idea to create a giant kaleidoscope to bring to Klyde Warren Park, I could barely contain my excitement. A giant kaleidoscope???  What would that even look like? How would it work? The concept  captured my imagination and I had to make him follow through with it.

One trip to Home Depot, two mirrored doors and a pile of wood later, the Klyde-O-Scope was born.

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The Next Step: Working with Sam Abell

It’s been six months since the Sam Abell: Next Step workshop, but I can still hear Sam’s voice in my head repeating his mantra, “compose and wait.” I am the studio manager at DCP and I had the unique opportunity to learn from Sam both as a photography student and as a coordinator and I couldn’t be more thankful for the experience.

I have a suspicion that over the years Sam’s practice of composing and waiting has created a meditative energy around him. He lives in a flow and I could not help but be part of it while working with him. Even during the height of the stress of organizing the workshop, Sam stayed calm and kept me focused and grounded on the task at hand.

As we gathered in the studio on the first day, Sam steadily dissected each participant’s portfolio. He studied each photograph, meticulously pointing out what he liked about the image and what he might have done differently. It was eye-opening to hear how he would have composed the scene by slightly shifting to the right, or lining up with the window to give the subject more space and dignity. This was the whole concept of The Next Step. Refine. Take what you see and then edit out all of the unnecessary clutter. Then wait for the action.

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Over the next few days we took his lessons to heart. On our second day of shooting, we met on Jefferson Street in Oak Cliff and Sam challenged us to get behind the scenes. Our assignment was to shoot from the insider’s perspective. He meant this literally. Instead of shooting from the sidewalk, he wanted us to talk our way into one of the shops and get permission to photograph the inside of the stores. I was nervous. I glanced at the other participants and wondered if they felt the same anxiety. I then saw Jean, one of our quieter participants, take off across the street to an eye glass shop and knew that there was no reason to worry.

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The afternoon flew by and as the sun set the remaining photographers gathered on the sidewalk and exchanged stories. To my surprise, everyone had experienced success. Most shopkeepers had no problem opening their doors and letting us shoot. We had made an impression on Jefferson street and by the end of the day our group had become well known.

The week passed by quickly and I had the pleasure of watching Sam shoot several times. What I admired the most about him was his ability to connect to his subject almost instantly. He could walk up to a complete stranger and with one quick eye glance have their permission to take a photograph. I watched him pull up a chair next to the glass wall at a restaurant in Klyde Warren Park. He pressed his camera onto the glass and nodded to the waitstaff who were at a table inside rolling silverware. They obliged and after a few minutes forgot that he was taking photographs. After about 20 minutes, Sam stepped down off the chair and moved on. He mentioned repeatedly during the workshop that he did not get the shot he wanted.

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I later learned during his lecture at The Perot that this was a common occurrence for Sam. As we sat in the darkened theatre and listened to him recount how he took each image, I realized that his career was haunted by moments like the restaurant. For every truly amazing photograph he showed, there was an equally imperfect counterpart. Throughout the lecture, Sam shared his inner thoughts on each photograph revealing a life of determination, frustration and a passion for perfection.
Since the workshop, I have had the pleasure to stay in touch with many of the attendees. Earlier in the summer a few of us met up in downtown Fort Worth and put to use all of the skills Sam had taught us earlier this year.

I spent most of my time hopping from scene to scene, waiting for a few minutes and then moving on with an air of an exasperation, frustrated that what I hoped to capture hadn’t happened in the short time span I had allotted myself. This is why Sam is a master. He is a master of patience.

As I passed by a fountain I was intrigued by a little boy repeatedly running back and forth trying to chase the waterfall. Behind the fountain, a couple sat across from one another looking slightly bored – the perfect juxtaposition of childhood and adulthood. I raised my camera and patiently waited for the elements to align. Sam’s voice was in my head, “Compose. Wait.” Click.

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