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.
this. is. awesome. really stoked to see you want to teach again. the more time i spend in moscow, the more i am beginning to enjoy that part of the world. it’s truly a fascinating place. i recommend you pick up some books by svetlana alexievich. i’ve read ‘secondhand time’ and i just started ‘chernobyl’. my other recommendation is masha gessen’s ‘the future is history’.
wish i could join you on this. it’d be a fascinating trip.
I’m already getting excited but trying NOT to get excited. These classes are work but so worth it. And I get to make a picture or two along the way.
How exciting for you! I could feel your enthusiasm, humility and determination. I feel inspired by your rebirth experience in Albania and I think it has done wonders for you. I’m not a photographer by any means, other than point and shoot on my iPhone, but I love visiting another country and telling its story through the lens of the camera.
One day it would be amazing to learn from you in person!
iPhone is fine. Pen and paper. Pencil. Crayon. Or even just mental snapshots. Exploration, regardless of how small or large, is so worthwhile.
This sounds amazing! Hopefully one day in the future you will hold a workshop in Japan!!
Are you planning on releasing that magazine to the world or is it just personal?
I would LOVE to teach in Japan. I’ve been thinking a lot about when I can get over there actually. Magazine was just for me, at least at this point. I don’t even know where my copy is….
I’m glad I read past the first paragraph because I was immediately typing BULLSHIT in my head. Left teaching? Ha! No way. I think your comments fields show that you’re a natural teacher. Editing, sequencing, shooting in depth, etc. I dropped the BULLSHIT call when you let up and acknowledged that you’ve been teaching in a different way. This workshop sounds amazing, and my first instinct was to sign up. But I know that what I need to be focused on is here, in the US, in 2020. I can’t remember ever thinking there’s been a more pivotal time (ugh, cringe, the word pivotal, cliché) in our history. I hope there’s a 2021 class…I’ll be there. Man I want to go to the DM Albania workshop.
Yes, this is quite a time to be here, and documenting the mess. Albania is my only overseas trip for 2020. My main goal is, like you, to be here documenting life in the US.
PS – I shouldn’t have used the colorful language! Feel free to delete my comment. I don’t want to upset any of your audience.
use anything you want! Doesn’t’ bother me.
It is super awesome to see you teaching workshops again! I wish I was going, I can highly recommend going on a Milnor Workshop, I learned so much by our weeks together in Peru back in 2011 (sweet lord has it been that long).
(And I did not get killed by a jumping spider in the Amazon, also a bonus!)
AND, you got your first taste of the “blood of the Gods,” INCA COLA. And you learned how to torture wildlife at night in the jungle with a flashlight. And you learned how to sleep through Machu Picchu. Life changing!
All 3 of those things are on my Top 3 of Best Things I have Done in Life.
Also can I add Life Changers for me such as: slept through birds eating mud at 4am in the Amazon, drank Pisco straight out of the bottle on a boat in the Amazon, re-enacted Star Wars on a boat in the Amazon.
The wheels really came off the boat in the Amazon ! Good times!
“re-enacted Star Wars on a boat in the Amazon.”
that i would have loved to have seen. my imagination is pretty good but something tells me that what i see in my head doesn’t come anywhere close…
I think it is one of those things that SHALL never be repeated 😀
Flemming knows every single line in every scene so he can redo any scene by himself, with a strange Danish/Australian accent.
The Amazon was our Heart of Darkness moment. We almost went feral.