Documentary Approach Workshop | Personal Review

I had this big idea to write a final blog about the documentary approach workshop I took, an overview about what I learned, what I loved and how I was challenged. But… honestly… I just haven’t felt like it recently. It’s been hard to tie the words together, to talk about the feelings I experienced, to look back at the photos I took throughout August. And I have no idea why.

Burn out? It’s possible because there was a lot of practicing. Daily shooting was recommended and even though I couldn’t keep up with that, I tried my best. And I did three DITL challenges in one week to get the hang of it (and failed two other days). The overflowing of emotion that came with adopting this documentary approach was overwhelming alone — who knew that your why and your heart would be questioned repeatedly to help you break down your own barriers.

It was a lot. It was intense. And it was wonderful. I wanted to write a beautiful blog praising the patience, understanding and relentlessness of the teacher and assistants. Because they deserve it. I just… I just can’t find the words right now… my mind is blank.

So instead, I wanted to share with you some of the things that were said throughout the workshop that spoke to me — that hit me deep in the feels. That made me question why I even pick up a camera.

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Because documentary is a great big ball of techniques and moments and rule-breaking and moments that never quite panned out but what you got was still magic because it was recorded… it’s not any one of those things alone and it’s never all of those things together.

When you look at an image, how should you decide if it’s good or not? Well, you shouldn’t DECIDE. You should look and react. How does it make you feel? What does it say to you? Does it feel powerful?

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This much I know: if you feel uncomfortable, you’re doing it right. 

Because NORMAL is not represented in photography. There’s a lot of tendency to show upper class life and lower class life. There is a tendency to depict and fetishize ‘the other’, in both positive and negative ways, being both celebratory and critical. But everyone in between, in suburbs and homes that look the same and trips to Target and McDonalds? Unless it’s making a critical statement, no one ever photographs it.

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When you neglect to take pictures of your real life and your real memories because you don’t think those memories are going to look a certain way – you’re failing at fulfilling your why.

Today I’ve come to realize the biggest distraction in any image is the distraction of other people’s expectations. 

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Your why can be anything. It can be to shoot for stock. It can even be to impress other photographers. It CAN. There is nothing wrong with any of it. But you have to identify it, do some soul searching, and then focus whole heartedly on why you’re doing any of this in the first place.

I encourage you to visit the websites below – they belong to the instructor and teaching assistants in the documentary approach workshop and their work is spectacular.

Jessica Thomason   |   Lauren Mitchell   |   Felicia Chang   |   Heather Whitten

I’m enamored with how they capture everyday life and how they shoot whatever the hell they want without giving a damn what someone else thinks. And I thank them for all of the tough love, the constructive critiques, the continuous encouragement to push ourselves and the endless hours to spent over five weeks teaching us more about what they do so effortlessly. This workshop? Totally worth it.

To read more about the Documentary Approach Workshop:
Week 1: Intro & Daily Shooting

Week 2: Photo Essay
Week 3: DITL Mobile Challenge
Week 3: DITL Assignment
Week 4: Bye Week
Week 5: Final Assignment

wendipants - “Today I’ve come to realize the biggest distraction in any image is the distraction of other people’s expectations.”

Profound. And true of so much more than just photographs.