So a few months ago one of my clients contacted me asking if I taught photo courses. His wife had bought a dSLR camera and since had kept it on “auto” and really wanted to learn how to ACTUALLY use it, not just let the camera dictate. What were all those buttons and why couldn’t she make the photo that she had in her head!?
I hadn’t taught photo classes before, just one or two hours in NYC giving tips to a group of moms on how to better photograph their kids, so I was intrigued to say the least. I had tons of ideas and pretty much immediately said YES! But was very upfront that it would be my first longer course.
I met my first student, Sophie, at the cafeoteque, one of the many delicious cafes in Paris, and we chatted for 2 hours about the basics: aperture, speed, ISO, color, what all those different buttons on her camera were and common situations that she would run into. It was A LOT of information but essential to give the base, each 1-2 hour session after that we would talk about all of these basics again. We used them to reinforce other concepts, both technical and creative. Each time we met we talked a bit and then shot together working on what we had learned that day. Little by little reinforcing the basics, learning the rules of photography and then breaking them, getting her vision from inside her head into the camera to make her photos.
It’s funny, there have been times in my life that I didn’t know ANYTHING about a subject, where every question is an honest question and probably would seem stupid to someone who knew even the tiniest bit about that subject. For so many people THIS is the enigma of photography. Have you ever heard of the story where the guy calls the geek squad (a computer help hotline) asking for help paying his bills online? The customer service agent tells him to write the name of the website in the box on the top of the screen in Firefox. The guy tells him that all he sees is a black screen. After a few minutes of back and forth questioning the service agent realizes that the guy hasn’t even turned the computer on or even plugged it in, he doesn’t know that he has to. It seems funny at this day an age to not know how to use certain technology and to me, where some things that are so second nature, like adjusting the aperture for more depth of field, there would be things that were absolutely unknown to others. It’d be like inviting me to the NY stock exchange and then telling me to direct the room. (Is that even a thing!? haha)
This is one of the things that really hit me when I started teaching, this whole new world opening up for somebody with new ideas and new ways to make them come to life. My client doesn’t want to become a photographer, she wants to document her daily life and travels they way that she sees and experiences them. She wants to look at photos from the first year of her son’s life and vividly remember and document them, and then some day, show her son.
As a photographer I strive every day to document and convey the love that people share, the happiness that little kids get when their dad walks in the room, the beauty that moms feel from the adoration of their children. These are things that you don’t see in the mirror, they are felt. My definition of art is something that makes me feel. Whether it be sadness or delight, yearning or loved. Everyone can make their own art, even if they are the only ones to see it that way. Even if their art is documenting the mess they see in their child’s room every day, or the coffee ring their wife leaves on the table. Those things bring memories rushing back with them, they make you feel.
After this wonderful experience of teaching my very own photo101 course, I’ve decided to officially offer it to private clients, both in French and in English.
I want you guys to be able to learn to make your own art. It always starts with the basics though so that’s what I’ll be teaching.
So, just remember, Step one:
Turn the camera on.