I had been taking notes throughout the Eddie Adams Workshop, but when Danny Wilcox Frazier spoke with such intense conviction and integrity about his subjects from “Driftless: Stories from Iowa,” I couldn’t consolidate the lessons into words. The passion in his voice and the gleam in his eyes conveyed more about his photography than any concise piece of advice I heard throughout the weekend. Speaking about his subjects, he told us that one day he arrived to their home, exhausted, and couldn’t do much besides sit and eat. He noticed they soon grew quiet and acted bothered. “Is everything ok?” asked Danny. They replied, with a disappointing look on their faces, “Are we just not interesting anymore? You’re not taking pictures of us.” Most of Danny’s speech felt as if he were telling stories about close friends that happened to be subjects, rather than about making pictures. Danny spends years on his projects, moving in with his subjects for weeks at a time, and he said, “my subjects tell me they know too much about me.”
Danny was my team leader (go Mint!) and I was lucky to experience more of his passion for photography and ability to connect with people throughout the workshop. He left team Mint with two pieces of advice as left to photograph on the first day: “Sense of place, sense of place, sense of place,” and “SLOW DOWN!”
With that in mind, that afternoon I spent more time engaging with my subjects–Richard and Mary Ann Dirie, owners of Dirie’s Dairy Farm–than I did thinking about pictures. When I was picked up at the end of the shoot I had forgotten that I was in rural New York, about to go back to Eddie Adams’ barn. I believe it was Danny’s advice on slowing down that translated to an afternoon of being fully present and engaged (an experience I’ve associated more in the past with “flow” in athletics). Here are my images from my story, “Stuck in Dairy” on Richard and Mary Ann Dirie, owners of a small dairy farm that is barely hanging on.
In such a short amount of time, it was certainly a challenge to be present with subjects and actually make pictures. Knowing that this is a something I will have to balance the rest of my career, I’d love to hear from other photojournalists: how do you balance the two?
The weekend was filled with an overwhelming amount of photographic inspiration. Here are a few more quotes and phrases that have stayed with me (by no means a comprehensive list!).
- “Good, better, best. Never let them rest until your good is better and your better is best.”
- PJ DNA: consistent pursuit of excellence
- “It takes the courage to see yourself as you are, courage to face the world with bravery”
- Integration of heart, mind, and eye.
- Recognition, Acceptance, Investigation, Non-permanence (RAIN)
- “Shoot what you can’t help but shoot”
- Think about where you aim your camera–it’s easier to point the camera down the Socioeconomic ladder than it is to point up
- “Comfort is for old people”
- Long-term relationships with subjects!
Danny Wilcox Frazier:
- “My subjects tell me they know too much about me”
- “We create our own destiny”
- What makes you different?
Also, a huge thank you to everyone who made the Eddie Adams Workshop XXX happen.