Sunday, October 10, 2010

The road to transformation

Like many young photographers I often look to the veterans of our craft, seeking advice, candid feedback, and new inspiration.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of exploring an incredible collection of images that truly spoke to me as a photojournalist.

As I scrolled through the beautifully engaging imagery, I knew immediately that this photographer was someone whom I could only hope to be lucky enough to learn from one day.

That photographer was Ami Vitale.

A few weeks ago, as I geared up for my second year on Black Team, I decided to take a peek at the ever-impressive list mentors and presenters on tap for the 23rd Annual Eddie Adams Barnstorm.

As I scanned through the extensive list of photography legends from all eras, I stared in disbelief at my computer screen.

Ami Vitale was on that list.

Upon arriving to the Farm, I was assigned to the transportation team.

Typically, working as a driver for the workshop entails picking up VIP’s in Manhattan and driving them to Jeffersonville, NY, for the workshop.

This year, however, was a little different.

I didn’t have any runs to the city scheduled on the 2nd day of the workshop, which freed me up for an incredible opportunity I could only have dreamed of.

Vitale’s team of students was short on vehicles and needed help in order to get to the different locations for their photo shoots… and I was the gal for the job!

I then spent the rest of the day, rolling through the picturesque, country hills of upstate New York in my white, rented mini-van with Vitale riding shotgun.

It was truly a surreal experience and an invaluable opportunity to build a relationship with an award-winning photographer who I had admired for years.

This unforgettable day in my young photography career is just one example of the spirit of this incredible workshop and doors it can open for eager, young shooters.

People who have never experienced magic of the Eddie Adams Workshop may think that the students are the only people affected by the workshop each year.

I can confidently say, from first-hand experience, that for the past two years that I have had the privilege to work at this amazing workshop, my path as a photojournalist has been forever transformed.

Speakers and a photography panel

David Griffin, executive editor for E-publishing at National Geographic, Michelle McNally, assisting managing editor at the New York Times, Santiago Lyons, director of photography at the Associated Press and MaryAnne Golon, photography editor and freelance media consultant are conducted a panel in the barn tonight about the influence of the digital age in the medium of our passion; photography.

Having such ‘heavies’, as we call them, in a room for the sole purpose of helping 100 students further their passions along with their skill level is what this workshop is all about.

Golan asked the panel what the students really need in order to make it in this industry, and McNally answered first.

“Foremost, photography, but just being a journalist and getting to the essence of the story. You have to be a journalist first and foremost. You have to be a storyteller.”

The students sit listening intently to the panelists as they hash out the topics like the appropriate use of video and multimedia, photography ethics and the introduction of the iPad, immersed in the topics that are at the forefront of the industry.

Up next, presentations by magazine portrait photographer Henry Leutwyler and award winning contemporary environmental portrait photographer Jeff Riedel...

The House

The bulk of this Eddie Adams Workshop takes place in the barn of the 64-acre farm, but if EAW had a heart it would be the red floored kitchen of the farmhouse where Eddie would entertain his close friends and guest speakers. Eddie’s extended workshop family continues to meet in the cozy room to laugh and trade memories. As people are adopted into the family, they’re welcomed as if they’ve always sat at the photo covered table.

The photos on that table represent 23 years of hard working, hard playing volunteers who come up for one weekend in October to give 100 students the experience of a lifetime.

As Pulitzer Prize winning photographers like Nick Ut and Michael Williamson come through the door, Najat and Roxy Naba are ready to serve Lebanese Labne and fresh mint snacks they made from scratch, and if timed right, you might get to taste Nick’s specially brewed Vietnamese coffee.

Photography is the one commonality between each person who comes through the door, and while other topics are brought up, the conversation always returns to Eddie’s passion; photography.

“This place was meant to be full of people,” said Alyssa Adams, executive producer of the Eddie Adams Workshop.

Alyssa reflects, in stark contrast to the rest of the year when the residence is an ordinary farmhouse in the Catskills, “It’s quiet, the pond is very serene, you feel like you’re floating on top of the world when you’re here. In the summer the farm feels like it’s waiting for the workshop.”

But during this cold week in October, the bonfire blazes, Bruiser the Boxer eagerly waits for scraps to fall and the community of photographers gathers in the heart of the home to continue Eddie’s tradition.

“This place was meant to be full of people,” said Alyssa Adams, executive producer of the Eddie Adams Workshop.

Alyssa reflects, in stark contrast to the rest of the year when the residence is an ordinary farmhouse in the Catskills, “It’s quiet, the pond is very serene, you feel like you’re floating on top of the world when you’re here. In the summer the farm feels like it’s waiting for the workshop.”

But during this cold week in October, the bonfire blazes, Bruiser the Boxer eagerly waits for scraps to fall and the community of photographers gathers in the heart of EAW to continue Eddie’s tradition and will for years to come.

The photos keep coming in....

The workshop is in full swing with inspiring presentations being given in the main hall and images beginning to fill the screens downstairs. Saturday brought the first opportunity for the students to go out and shoot. Fanning out through Sullivan County and the surrounding area, students spent the majority of Saturday afternoon photographing a wide variety of subjects and scenes that challenged their abilities and comfort levels.
Upon returning to the farm, a flurry of activity started downstairs as CF and SD cards were ingested so that the first edit could take place. As each team's digital technician ingested the images, editors began to sort through the thousands of photos to provide feedback so that the students could go out first thing on Sunday morning. When the final tally came in at the end of the night, the students had shot over 670 GB photos on the first day, not including the 100's of gigabytes of audio, video and photos that the multimedia team was processing upstairs. The workshop has come a long way from EAW 1 when the students were handed about 20 rolls of film, and there was a finite number of frames that a student could shoot.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


As the school busses came around the bend, a resonating yell was hollered, “Bus..!” People ran into position alongside the gravel road. Greeters clapped and yelled welcome with music blaring, building anticipation for the students and in the air you could feel the excitement.

The students of the 23rd Barnstorm, having traveled from all parts of the globe are here to attend the Eddie Adams Workshop, located in the picturesque countryside of the Catskills, and village of Jeffersonville, NY., were all treated to a rock stars welcome by faculty and guests of the genuinely prestigious, highly intense and most respected photojournalism workshop program in the world.

100 of the world’s most aspiring students of photography were in awe of what they never anticipated, striding up the hill into the sun, staring into the silhouetted crowd of cheering people, this family of professionals had been there waiting for them, and now welcomed them as they had never been welcomed before.

Walking around the grounds of the farm, Louisa Marie Summer, a photographer from Munich, Germany living in New York had this to say about her first experience with the workshop. “I screamed first and I’m very happy. I don’t have any expectations and I’ll take whatever I can. I like photojournalism and portraiture and long-term projects. I really want to work with people and maybe do something for the human rights issue. If I’m lucky I’ll meet some of the right people who will support me and believe in my work. Asked of her expectations in what she’ll learn she said, “I would like to get a little bit more self confident that I can do it. You can also learn from the photographers who are here from Black Team or are here just helping. They have a lifetime of experience.”

Another student with glazed eyes had this to say about her welcome experience, “I felt a little bit overwhelmed but it was okay,” said Adrienne Grunwald from New York, a young woman in transition and heading to Brazil after the workshop to pursue a long-term project on professional female soccer players. Asked about what she expects to get out of the next few days she said, “a bigger community than what I already have, some advice and hopefully some contacts along the way and some good photos. I want to be able to live off of my photography.

The students broke off into their respective teams to meet with their leaders who’ll be eyeing them throughout the process with guidance, tough love and mentorship as they grow and learn in a very short period of time.

Freelance photographer Frederic Dupoux of Haiti was doing some post-production processing when he found out that he was accepted into the program. “I was way over excited and I called my parents, my friends and everybody to tell them that I got in. It was incredible. It still is, to be here right now.”

The rest of their first day was spent on getting to know one another, their team and their leader’s expectations. Later they feasted on a great porch dinner by Al’s kitchen staff and served by Black Team members. The evening was capped by introductions from some of the nations most prestigious photographers, editors and educators, leading the students to what promises to be an extended weekend of learning that they’ll never forget.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The calm before the Barnstorm

In anticipation of the arrival of 100 young shooters hand-picked for Barn Storm XXIII, more than 45 members of Black Team left the comfort of their daily lives throughout the country and headed to the gentle rolling hills of Jeffersonville, NY, to volunteer countless labor-intensive hours on the grounds of the Eddie Adams Farm, ensuring the 2010 workshop will be a unforgettable experience for the students.

While preparation for the workshop is a year-round effort by many, the real hands-on ‘dirty’ work is done by the close-knit support staff, known as the Black Team, in the days, hours, and minutes before a big yellow school bus filled with the eager photography students slowly rolls up to the gravel driveway on Friday, officially starting of the 23rd annual Eddie Adams Workshop.

Most members of Black Team donned rubber boots and plastic slickers in the early days of prep work, in order to work through several chilly days of steady rain that turned the lush lawn of the farm into a soggy, muddy swamp.

“With the weather in the Catskills it’s always a challenge and this year was no exception,” said Mark Kettenhofen, the Black Team Leader for the past 12 years and a Professional Market Technical Representative for Nikon. “We had constant rain for almost the whole week prior to the workshop which delayed much of the work that needed to be done, however, Black Team stepped up like they always do.”

On Wednesday, the hard-working crew awoke to the slow rise of the warm sun, drying out the farm grounds and the waterlogged team. The break in the weather incited a flurry of activity throughout the property in a collaborative effort to finish dozens of chores and seemingly barely enough time to complete all the tasks ahead.

Today the farm is really taking shape and the platform for this transformative workshop has emerged. Freshly cut grass clippings were raked into infinite piles and hauled away, hay bales, potted flowers and pumpkins adorn the gravel driveway, the barn walls are lined with large-scale, framed photos from preceding workshops, and team leaders huddle in their work spaces, finalizing plans for the students’ photo shoots.

And as the Black Team continues to wrap up last minute details around the farm, they reflect upon their motivation for all of their hard work… 'We’re here for a hundred reasons, and they arrive this afternoon.'

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Remembrance of Fallen Friends

The song was “His Eye is On the Sparrow,” sung beneath the birch and fir trees at the Eddie Adams Farm by Leah Latella. The occasion Sunday afternoon was the annual ceremony remembering six photojournalists killed in Vietnam, their names inscribed into a gray slate table, their friends and colleagues among the crowd gathered together on the grass. “These were our eyes,” said Ray Harrell, presiding over the gathering as a Native American ritual, his gray hair in long braids. “You are our eyes.”

He recalled the pictures of Vietnamese “Boat People” that Adams made in the final days of the conflict, which drew worldwide attention to the desperate refugee crisis: “He brought the boat people to America. If his eyes had not been there, they would have been lost.”

Then there was silence, and Nick Ut stepped forward and placed a sunflower on the stone table for his brother, AP photographer Huynh Thanh My. Sarah Burrows left one for her grandfather, Life magazine’s Larry Burrows. Others were placed for Henri Huet, Michael Laurent and Kent Potter. Also remembered were more recent losses: Sandy Colton, veteran of Stars and Stripes and the AP; and Workshop founder Eddie Adams, gone since 2004.

Eddie’s son, August Adams, wore his father’s iconic black fedora and stepped forward (accompanied by half-sister Susan) to place it beside the flowers. A black balloon was released into the air for Adams, a red one for Colton, followed by scores of yellow balloons in honor of the fallen photojournalists.

As ever, it was a profoundly affecting moment among the crowd of photojournalists, friends and family, and a dramatic illustration of what can be at stake in this profession. Many tears were shed around the stone. The annual ceremony had not yet been established when Getty conflict photographer John Moore was a Barnstorm student in 1990, but as a former longtime member of AP, he was moved Sunday by the remembrance in 2009.

“When you’re a student, you have no way of knowing how you will react when confronted with all the horrible things you will see in conflicts. It’s all just theoretical,” Moore said afterwards. “I really do have a strong emotional feeling for all of my AP colleagues, even though it was another war a long time ago. Having covered a lot of conflict the last few years, I feel a certain kinship with them.”

Steve Appleford