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Oklahoma Arts Institute Workshops 2014

In 2011, I had the honor of teaching a workshop at the Oklahoma Arts Institute, a rigorous two week arts program for high school age students focusing on acting, creative writing, ballet, modern dance, orchestra, chorus, drawing and painting, photography, and film and video. The workshops take place at the beautiful Quartz Mountain Arts and Conference Center, a resort located in the Wichita Mountains of southwestern Oklahoma. I recently returned from teaching another summer session there, and once again had a fabulous time working with amazingly gifted young students.

Team Photo

We’re baaaaaaack! Team Photo was reunited as I joined up once again with Konrad Eek and Ben Long. Since meeting and working together for the first time back in 2011, we’ve kept up correspondence but rarely have the chance to see each other in person, so this was a great opportunity to reconnect. Ben was outnumbered by three “Con’s” this year as we were joined by newcomer Connor Choate (far right) joining in the fun.

The Lecture

During the first week, I presented my work with a slide show and lecture and loved the audience. Everyone was not only intrigued and receptive to my work, but they were warm and appreciative. This was one of those very special occasions when I am totally relaxed and feel like I am having a conversation with the audience.

The Students

were FANTASTIC. They were a brilliant class that were incredibly fun to teach and very eager to learn. They were all sweet, fun, and extremely enthusiastic. The two week workshop is intense, demanding a lot of hard work in a short period of time, and yet we still managed to have a blast through it all.

Student Work

I could not be more thrilled with the work the students produced in the short two week time we had together. I was, and still am, blown away by the caliber and quality of the images photographed by such a young group of photographers. The level on which the students were seeing went above and beyond my expectations, and they created some truly breathtaking and inspiring work. There was so much more than what I’m sharing here and it was difficult narrowing it down to these, but here are some images that really stood out:

Ben Davis

Charity Jack

Hayley Russell

Iasiah Pickens

Jacob Rabon IV

Carter Link

Jackson Fall

John Voth

Sarah Allen

Kayla Andrus

Kelsie Box

Kitkat Stotler

Landon Bahr

Lauren Tedford

Lucky Coffey

Carsyn Abrams

Molly Shanahan

Olivia Prichard

One thing that really impressed me was how quickly the students could let go of their “old” ways of seeing things and jump into a new approach. With so many of the workshops that I teach, the emphasis is on working intuitively, using photography to explore and discover new ways of looking. Just as it is with any creative process, it is so easy to fall into formulaic ways of seeing, photographing in ways we know will produce results which may be nice, but rarely exciting. The students at OSAI came into this workshop clearly knowing their way around a camera, and had already learned how to make images. What they learned through this workshop was the distinction between photographing based on the subject/event vs. photographing based on seeing/vision. They managed to let go of preconceived ideas of what works in an image, how you’re “supposed” to photograph certain subject matter, and instead photograph with a much more #dynamic approach. *wink*

After two weeks of challenging exercises, the final assignment was open – they could photograph whatever subject matter they chose – and one student griped that they no longer knew how to photograph their friends now that they had become so aware of working with edges, shapes, line and light. They could no longer settle for casual snapshots of their friends. It was a comment that signaled to me that they truly “got it”.

The Closing Show

Every year, the workshop ends with a show exhibiting the best of the work from throughout the course of the workshop. The show this year was exceptional, and truly displayed how far the students had come in such a short period of time. The images looked excellent and all of us could not be happier with everyone’s progress.

THANK YOU ALL for being so wonderful, so enthusiastic and so receptive, and for the incredible work you did! I am extremely proud of this group and excited to see where they go next…

Thanks, as always, to Team Photo – Konrad Eek, Ben Long, and Connor Choate! I will miss you guys, and until we teach again, be in touch!!

And of course, thank you once again to the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute for hosting such a great program and inviting me to be a part of it! It is always a pleasure and I am already eager for the next opportunity to be back in Oklahoma!

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