Photo Fest 2023

I’ve always found lighting intimidating, so I’m glad that both instructors at today’s sessions intimated that they’d felt the same way at the beginning too. Back in film school, talk of white balance and light metering would make my eyes roll right back into my skull while my heart did jumping jacks, but there would always be someone “more technical” on the crew that I could rely on to get a project done; just leave the writerly stuff to me.

I think part of the angst for me has always been the fear of just not getting it? Like, just not getting it at all. So I wouldn’t make the effort. It would suck to try and then find out that I irredeemably sucked, right? So I stayed in my “conceptual” and “creative” lane where it was safe and people liked me.

But here I am willingly trying to excavate all of that some two decades later while actively sucking, and it isn’t so bad. In fact, it feels good to be less afraid of learning again.

Swipe to see bad exposure, missed focus, and sync mistakes from one of today’s lighting for portraiture workshops at Glazer’s Photo Fest.


Photographers “transmit to others, by empathy, the significances of their visual world.” That’s how the catalogue from the 1967 International Exhibition of Photography puts this craft and I can’t think of anything sweeter. “By empathy.”

Is that what I feel when I look at a dappled or shimmering surface?

Do you feel for your visual world?


hat’s probably what I appreciated most from Michele Celentano’s workshop later in the afternoon: that infectious love of learning she exuded and infused into her teaching.

“Nothing I say here is new,” she said; “it’s just what someone taught me and I’ve interpreted for myself and want to teach forward.” That sentence lit a lightbulb (ha!) for me, to be honest. I hadn’t really thought of photography as an artisanal craft in that guild-like sense before, though I’d used the word many times. But that’s exactly what I encounter every time I talk to a photographer: someone happy to pass on what they’ve learned (or even have physically used) to keep the art alive.

In so many ways, photography is a bourgeois science and pastime, and yet, like with so much that’s keeping this planet from tearing itself to shreds, there is a subterranean web of solidarity that’s always there, even in the middle of a workshop on how to “stand out” and “grow your business.”


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