Hello friends, neighbors, and fellow human beings. The cat is out of the bag. After a multi-year break, I’ve committed to teaching once again. And it’s going to be good. ALBANIA x2. But before I begin to explain the how, the why and the what let me retrace a bit of my teaching life and explain to you why I first needed a break and also why I decided to return to the educational pursuit.
Over the years I’ve taught at universities, colleges, schools, and workshop programs. I always loved teaching but realized very quickly the kind of time and energy required. Teaching, good teaching, is not for the faint of heart. Each student is a creative riddle, each with different needs and wants. Solving this riddle, for me, is a wonderful thing, and in fact, I get far more from helping you solve YOUR riddle than I do in solving my own.
Six years ago I got sick, really sick. You probably know the story, but for those of you who don’t know, I picked up a demented little bug called Lyme Disease and it nearly killed me. The idea of teaching just vanished, like my energy level and brain function. I suddenly found myself on reserve power, idling through life just to get by. But guess what? I’m back, finally. I feel good in both mind and spirit, and last year I ventured to Albania as a student and came out energized and ready for more.
My Albania trip was my first purely creative trip in years. Sure, I’d had dozens of creative work trips, all for Blurb, and some of what I was doing was right-brain but none of these trips were about me with nothing on my radar other than looking, learning and compiling. Albania was like a creative rebirth.
Before I left for Tirana I sat by myself and had a long think. I did my research on the country, a place nearly entirely erased from my knowledge base after being isolated from the world for forty years. I learned a lot, but more importantly, my research began to give me ideas about how I could creatively make sense of this “new” country. I made decisions about my equipment, my technique and my strategy for how I would begin to compile a cohesive essay AND a real-time publication that would encapsulate my story and my trip. (I shot the entire two weeks on one lens, a 50mm, which was liberating and all I needed.)
I chose magazine as my format and the double-exposure as my technique. I chose to fill in the gaps with stream of consciousness writing and overheard bits of conversation that could be used as knockout quotes. I will continue this exact recipe in 2020.
But why teach again and why Albania? First, I’m co-teaching with Elena Spiro who is of Albanian descent and is someone who has been traveling in and out of Albania since it reopened to the outside world in the early 1990s. Elena is an accomplished fine art photographer and someone who gave me a very different perspective on my work. I’ve spent my adult life around the documentary world, so a fine art take on my life was eye-opening and made me consider things I had simply overlooked or never considered.
Also, while I stopped teaching workshops all those years ago I didn’t stop teaching. My job at Blurb is just that. I teach the platform, I teach strategy and I teach ideas. Returning to the workshop format allows me to focus and to go more in-depth with a small number of students. Speaking of small numbers, this is another reason I like this program. The classes are small and the one-on-one time was high. Not only did I get to sit with Elena and talk images, editing, and sequencing, but I also got to have one-on-one time with other students.
Speaking of other students, everyone was unique in the sense that each person brought a specific creative knowledge. This was not a class about shutter speeds, gear or geekiness. This was about being creative in ANY way possible. Artists, writers, photographers, bookmakers, etc. Personally, I’m interested in imagery, writing, process, context, bookmaking and the freedom to simply do nothing else but be creative. We all live such hectic lives. Consequently, it can be ages between moments of freedom.
What about Albania itself? All I can say is that the country is changing at record speed. If you want to see the real Albania, go now. Remember, the country was off-limits for forty years. Now that things are open Albania is moving toward a new future at a record pace. I found the contrast between old and new entirely fascinating. The people were awesome, the food was awesome and the landscape was way beyond what I expected.
Our goal is to help students with their creative process but also help them edit, sequence and design a publication while having a cultural adventure they might not otherwise have. If this sounds interesting let me know. I don’t plan on doing any other teaching in 2020.