Went to an incredible event today with noted photographer Art Wolfe. He came to Austin to hold his shiny new Photography as Art Seminar and I have to admit it was such a joy getting to see his work and getting to meet him in person. If you’re wondering, he’s just as nice and gracious in person as he is on his TV show, although we did not, as far as I know, have any snow monkeys in the vicinity. Primates aside, the seminar was filled with interesting facts and presented a wonderful way for photographers to approach their work: diving into the abstract as well as finding inspiration from the art world in order to craft more personal work. I have to say I ate it up, loved every minute, and it’s highly recommended if you are so-inclined. Really, if you are on the fence about this one, I’d encourage you to pull the trigger and go for it. It was worthwhile, entertaining, highly enjoyable and I came home with a lot of takeaways although now, in fairness, I do have more than my fair share of homework to do. Rats about that but, seriously, everything was top notch. He’s going to be shooting Astoria and other points later on this year and I was so inspired I might have to see if I can slip away and get on board one of his workshops. Oh how I would love to shoot with him as he’s a real artist beneath that snow monkey hunting exterior. (In case you’re wondering, no, actually, no snow monkeys were harmed in the marking of Travels to the Edge. I’m kidding about that bit.)
The day started out very odd for me. It’s really windy here today. When I say windy I mean like perhaps more windy than I have ever seen and it can get quite windy here. The event was held downtown at the Zach Theater area so I left early in the morning and blew in, quite literally, a bit early. In order to get downtown to Zach, I had to drive down Mopac, which is currently dug up and in sorry shape construction wise (We call it the Mopac-alypse.) As I was driving, one of the partitions that blocks off the construction almost blew into my car. Seriously. It was like one of those fence type things, held in place by two sandbags at the bottom. Two sandbags? And it still almost blew into me. I did say it was windy, yes? Phew! I had to swerve my car to avoid the blowing construction and I’m very happy there was little traffic sharing the road with me at that time. If that were not bad enough, I had to drive past the El Arroyo sign. It was so early in the morning, why, they were just putting up the letters on the sign and, yes, this time I did remember to actually look at the dang thing. Seriously, you read that correctly. They were just putting the letters up on the sign which means that, technically speaking, I was up before El Arroyo-o’clock. Dang. That’s early. Now you’ll have to check the sign online to see what eventually ended up getting posted (just like I have to.) I did, however, remember to actually look at it as I sped past, so, well, there’s that, right? (It was just a garbled bunch of letters when I sped past, honest.)
The seminar itself had Art Wolfe presenting us inspiration from the art world and comparing it to photography. If you are familiar with my series “Painters Every Photographer Should Know,” it’s similar to that only much more interesting to hear Art Wolfe tell it and present his incredible work. He’s been a professional photographer for over 40 years and was trained initially as a painter. It shows in his work and that was quite a joy to experience. He very sharing of what he knows and the techniques he uses so it was a real treat to see his work evolve and unfold before our very eyes, as he walked us through his process.
I won’t go into the details of the seminar, other than to share a few funnies from it. At one point, I think somebody in the crowd asked him how he controlled models. He jokingly said something along the lines of “with handcuffs and duct tape and…” We had a laugh at that while the questions continued. Somebody else asked him about his workflow and he revealed that he shoots about 2000 images a day. He eyes every frame before the end of the day and he confided in us that he labels some as keepers (or “favorites” I think he called them) and then he “deletes the rest.” There was a huge gasp coming from the crowd at this point and I was seriously looking for a fainting couch after he said this. I turned to the man sitting next to me and said, “he didn’t shock us with the handcuff business but, man, tell us you delete RAW files and we’re all gasping!” Yes, it’s true. If you want to shock a room full of photographers, just tell them you delete RAW files. I recommend smelling salts and a comfy chair at that point.
I find talking photography gear the most boring aspect of any presentation (this is not just limited to Art Wolfe, mind you. I just don’t find the gear bits to be all that interesting and, frankly, I can read the specs pages over at B&H photo if I really need to know) but I thought it a bit interesting that he pretty much shoots the same gear I do. He shoots a Canon 5DR (I have the 5DS) with a 24-70 macro lens on a tripod with a cable release. I am pretty close to him gear wise although obviously I still have a lot to learn in the making it art department. (I’m trying, really, I’m trying.) At the end of the seminar, he took lots of questions and posed for pictures, one of which you can see here. That’s me in case you forgot what I look like, posing with Art Wolfe. On a personal note, I must admit that, as a young girl I had several posters in my room. There was Shawn Cassidy (you remember him, yes?) and a whale tail image by Art Wolfe himself, so it was quite incredible getting to have my picture taken with him. Never in my lifetime did I ever think, when I put that poster on my wall, that I would one day get to meet and share his work in such a personal setting.
A very worthy day filled with lots of information. Now, it’s up to me to act upon this, which I can do by starting a new project and doing the “homework” of researching the artists and photographers presented. Hopefully, I’m up to the task, we shall see. In the meantime, if you get an opportunity to visit with Art Wolfe or even to check out his show on PBS (it’s called Travels to the Edge) I highly recommend it.
Until next time…