I have had the pleasure of working with Valerie Jardin on several occasions over the last year, guesting twice on her Street Focus podcast (more on that below), and also assisting her on one of her street photography workshops here in Vancouver. Throughout the process Valerie has come to be a good friend, and as a long time educator myself I have come to value the passion with which she teaches. With that in mind I thought I would take some time to write a brief review of the workshop I assisted her with in Vancouver.
During my twenty years of teaching I have found that there are two different types of educators: Those who passionately love to share knowledge and help their students grow, and those who are in it for the pay cheque. Thankfully the former group vastly outnumbers the latter in my opinion. Education, done properly, is not easy. It requires subject matter expertise, an understanding of how people learn, course and lesson plan development skills, communication skills, people skills, adaptability, problem solving, patience, and many, many other things. I think this is why pay cheque educators tend not to last that long: The amount of effort required to deliver a quality educational session will eventually tire most of them out.
In Valerie’s case I think her work speaks for itself: Her workshops often sell out in hours. Yes, hours… I watched it happen with one of her San Francisco workshops. Right now she has a workshop in Rome that is scheduled for April 2018 (about 19 months from now). It is already 1/2 full. She has Paris workshops scheduled right through until September 2017 that are already sold out. This just doesn’t happen if your product isn’t top notch, or if you don’t care about your teaching. It is clear to me as an educator that Valerie’s passion and commitment to her students are why her workshops sell out like this. With that said, let’s discuss the Vancouver workshop.
A lot of prep goes into a great educational offering, and in the case of Valerie’s Vancouver workshop this started with pre-course communication. Valerie sent out emails often and also created a Facebook group specifically for the 10 people registered for this workshop. Questions were answered quickly and efficiently, and I think everyone that attended was made to feel welcome.
The photo above was taken at the beginning of day one of the weekend workshop, and I think it really sums up the mood throughout the weekend. We laughed. A lot. Valerie begins her weekend workshops with a presentation on street photography that covers conceptual ideas about shooting street, a brief discussion on the legalities and ethics involved, and a lengthy discussion on compositional concepts and techniques to capture great images on the street. Each concept is illustrated with one or more of Valerie’s images, which provides the students with strong visual examples that highlight each concept being discussed. The presentation was interactive and discussion based, and there was a fun and positive mood in the room right from the first minute of the workshop.
Once the initial presentation was done the group had a short lunch and then walked to our first area to begin shooting on the streets. There are many things Valerie does well while teaching on the streets that are worth mentioning:
- Before the street shooting begins, each student receives a handout providing them with a list of the compositional techniques discussed earlier in the day. This “cheat sheet” is a great reference for the new street shooter.
- Valerie ensures that everyone has phone / text communication with her, and her with them, in case anyone gets lost. She also has the students pair off when they are out shooting. This provides them with a buddy to shoot with if they like, and also to ensure no one gets lost on their own.
- She sets firm times and locations for the groups to meet back up after shooting. This keeps everything running smoothly throughout the day.
- Each pair gets individual attention from Valerie during the shooting session. I was impressed with her ability to move through the groups, provide advice and answer questions.
- The education does not stop while in transit between shooting locations (we usually spent 1-2 hours in each location and then walked to our next spot). A good educator learns to seize the “teachable moment” and Valerie provided many impromptu lessons when the opportunity presented itself.
Day two of the weekend workshop started on the street, with another 3-4 hours of shooting as described above.
After we had a quick lunch, the students settled back into the classroom for the afternoon editing and critique session. As each student worked on editing and post processing their images, Valerie was available to offer advice. Once the editing and processing were complete, each student provided Valerie with 5 images which provided about 50 images or so for a group critique.
I am a firm believer that receiving well intentioned critique from your peers, and from educators, is one of the best ways you can grow as an artist. It is so easy to become emotionally attached to the art that we create. Hearing objective and constructive opinions on your work provides significant value and information that you can use to improve your practice. I think the students greatly benefitted from this final session in the weekend workshop; I know I did for sure.
Once the weekend was over the students returned back home (they had traveled in from all over the world). Over the next few weeks, however, images continued to be edited, uploaded, and discussed on the Facebook page that Valerie had created for this workshop. I think it is also safe to say that friendships were made… I know I continue to have conversations with many of the participants. I think this is one of my favourite things about the arts and about education: I view art as a collaborative process, and I greatly value the relationships I make through it.
For the last two years Valerie has also been the host of This Week in Photo’s Street Focus podcast:
This month, however, Valerie has launched her own podcast called “Hit the Streets with Valerie Jardin”. This new podcast will continue the work she did in the 104 episodes of the Street Focus podcast, but also provides the opportunity to expand the discussions and explore new directions. I am an avid listener of podcasts in the car, when I am out walking / running and when I am out shooting on the streets. I’m excited that I now have another one to listen to, and I look forward to seeing what Valerie does with it.
You can find more information on this new podcast on Valerie’s website here:
Episode one is now live, with a great discussion with Official Fuji X Photographer Bert Stephani.
Clearly from this post you can tell how much I value education and that I have enjoyed working with Valerie this year on her podcast and in this workshop. If you are interested in attending one of Valerie’s workshops please go to her site here:
And, of course, you can find out more about my own educational offerings at the following links:
- Online mentoring
- One on one and small group street photography workshops
- Street photography presentation
- Travel photography presentation
I hope you enjoyed this post and that you consider taking a photography related workshop soon (in whatever genre you enjoy shooting). The right workshop can accelerate your learning significantly and is totally worth it.
Now, it’s back to our New York series!
Until next time,