One of those Complicated Images

Day of the Dead

My first serious photography workshop, with a master photographer, was one year ago this weekend – Sam Abell‘s workshop at the Julia Dean Workshops. And this week, I attended his talk, a prelude, to this years workshop.

The workshop was called something like “Refining your Photographic Vision” but it could have been called almost anything. The workshop was Sam teaching us his system of photography. His system of compose and wait, macro and micro composition, composing from the back to the front. His system which he developed over the course of his career to make compelling documentary images worthy of the pages of National Geographic.

Only three days, 36 hours,  my first workshop, my first explosive step toward a goal of understanding what is means to be a photographer. What I take away now, a year later, is that Sam’s is a system for how to make complex, layered images that express a sense of place with nothing out of place.

He said in his talk this week that the 28mm lens was his favorite go-to lens, that working with a longer focal length was “too easy”. Indeed – making simple graphic images is one challenge, making complex layered images simple is challenge at another level completely.

This image is the kind of image I want to make, and I recognize that there are several unsuccessful items in this image. Until I can make a better one, this is the one I will display.

By the way, the first installment of The Sam Abell Library is available for preorder. It is unbelievably affordable at $50 for a 4-book set. There will be 4 sets total, release one per year. Here is what is says on Amazon:

Sam Abell (born 1945) is one of America’s most influential documentary photographers, celebrated in particular for his in-depth color photo-essays for National Geographic magazine. He has also made a considerable impact as a teacher and author. Abell’s career is now the subject of The Sam Abell Library, a new publication project from Radius inaugurated with this volume–the first in a series of four multi-volume sets. Each of these sets is themed around a particular genre: the photography of places; the photography of nature; the photography of the past; and the photography of ideas. Essays by Abell appear in all of the books. In Life and Still Life, Abell explores three different cultures: Newfoundland; Hagi, Japan; and Northern Australia. This first boxed set also includes a fourth book with an illustrated essay by writer and curator Leah Bendavid-Val examining Abell’s evolution as an artist.

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