Palm Springs Photo Festival

Palm Springs Photo Festival 2015

It's the end of Spring so that means that it's Palm Springs Photo Festival time again!  So much happened that my post is a little later than normal.  I worked with the incomparable Keith Carter this year, there was a wolf, lots of beautiful models, portfolio reviews, late night lectures and parties, and, it makes me emotional even to type this, the last talk given by Mary Ellen Mark. 

Mary Ellen gave a moving talk on Wednesday night of the festival.  She showed a greatest hits slideshow of her work which was powerful and moving.  I've been a huge fan for a long time, but this is only the second time I've gotten to see her speak in public.  The crowd gave her a well-deserved roaring standing ovation when she finished.  She was clearly ill, and her heroic efforts to continue to teach her workshop, speak on a panel, and then stay up to 10pm to give the late night evening presentation were truly admirable.  This was a woman who cared passionately about her craft and about the field of photography.  She was a trailblazer for women photographers and she will be missed. 

Onto a much lighter topic, the workshop with Keith!  Often times workshop instructors are great artists, but they're not great at teaching.  With Keith there was the magical combination of him being both an exquisite image maker AND an articulate teacher. He had many helpful creative exercises, showed work by interesting photographers that I had never heard of, and he had thoughtful insights about everyones work.  

We started the week with a little class time at the Korakia Pensione in the morning of day one. Then moved onto a mini shooting session at a hip private home in Palm Springs, followed by a critique of attendee work, and finally a quick trip to the thrift store to pick up props for the rest of the week.    

Day 2 we went to the spectacular Blue Ranch, an in-city horse ranch in the middle of Palm Springs. We had three lovely models, a couple of horses, and a wolf (!!!) to photograph and work with as subjects.  Although I was there to assist with the organizational part of the festival, with scenery like this I had to make some images of my own--especially since Canon loaned me a 5d Mark iii plus the AWESOME 85mm 1.2!  I want it!  It was very hard to give back that lens and I've been pining for it ever since. 

Day 3 we went out to Indian Canyon.  In all of my years going out to Palm Springs with the festival it was my first time at Indian Canyon. It's like this little oasis just a few miles out of town with groves of palms and a trickling stream running through it.  It was very cool and I will be back!  We had a big group this year (see below) but the last few years I've gotten very lucky with low maintenance attendees which makes my job so much easier!

The festival is a very intimate experience and there are workshops are going on all around the Korakia Hotel.  I got a sneak peek at Ian Ruhter's wet plate workshop in action using his massive camera. Such a cool process to watch!  Also, look at that focus on the 85 1.2, daaaaamn!

The week is filled with long, sometimes challenging days with little sleep and a fair amount of stressful moments. It's also probably my favorite week of the year.  That is in no small part thanks to the many great friends that I have because of the festival.  I am grateful every year they come back and we get to hang out in the desert together.  I get to see their careers grow and our bonds of friendship are renewed each spring.  It's a very special thing. 

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Until next year...

Palm Springs Photo Festival 2014

Another year, another Palm Springs Photo Festival!  I got back last Friday and I've just started to process all of the good things that came from my week in the desert.  This year I assisted fine art photographer Todd Hido in his workshop called "A Method Demystified."  I'm a big fan of his work and was excited to be chosen to assist his workshop.  We started the week with a meet and greet at the beautiful Korakia Hotel. Todd and his studio manager Jena met with the workshop attendees and we discussed the plan for the week.  The weather was great all week and we were fortunate to be able to sit out in the sunshine and chat. The first official day of the workshop was a time for Todd to discuss his work and process.  We brought in a model, the lovely Brooke Lynne, to give a demo on lighting and how to work with a model.  

*All photos shot with an iPhone.  I know, I know, I should have toted around the Canon, but my job this week was to assist and organize, not to shoot.  

Meet and greet at the Korakia Hotel.

Meet and greet at the Korakia Hotel.

Todd talking to the workshop attendees about his work on Day 1. 

Todd talking to the workshop attendees about his work on Day 1. 

Day two was where the rubber met the road.  We all (Todd Hido, 14 attendees, 3 models, 2 assistants) headed out to Bombay Beach in the Salton Sea.  It was very windy and hot, but not sweltering.  Each of the attendees got to work with each of the three models (Zoe, Ali, and Brooke) in the abandoned buildings that make-up about 50 percent of Bombay Beach.  The group made some fantastic images with the girls.  It was nice to see them experiment and grow in their ability to direct and stage the models.  

Day 2: Our vans at Bombay Beach in the Salton Sea. 

Day 2: Our vans at Bombay Beach in the Salton Sea. 

Scenes from the Salton Sea.  

Scenes from the Salton Sea.  

Stephanie and Zoe shooting at Bombay Beach.

Stephanie and Zoe shooting at Bombay Beach.

2013 vs. 2014 The Salton Sea is such a strange, ever-changing place.  The photo on the left was taken almost exactly a year before when I was assisting Roger Ballen's workshop out at the Sea.  The wind, the sun, the transient population all alter the landscape dramatically. 

2013 vs. 2014 The Salton Sea is such a strange, ever-changing place.  The photo on the left was taken almost exactly a year before when I was assisting Roger Ballen's workshop out at the Sea.  The wind, the sun, the transient population all alter the landscape dramatically. 

We spent about 4 hours at Bombay Beach shooting, and then we all headed over to the infamous Ski Inn to grab a cold beer and look at some work.  I can't recommend the Ski Inn enough.  The staff is really sweet, they have a great old-school jukebox, the beer is always cold, and it's basically your quintessential desert dive bar.  While we were there Todd showed some work that he had shot the previous day of Brooke, and then he did a mini-session with Zoe.  There was an old, beat-up piano next to a window that created a timeless scene.  The sun started to set and we headed back to the "beach" for a night shooting demo. 

Todd showing work to the group in the Ski Inn. 

Todd showing work to the group in the Ski Inn. 

Look for our PSPF dollar!

Look for our PSPF dollar!

Todd shooting Zoe in the bar.

Todd shooting Zoe in the bar.

Model shooting model.  Brooke is a great photographer and she had the opportunity to take a couple of snaps while we were out.  

Model shooting model.  Brooke is a great photographer and she had the opportunity to take a couple of snaps while we were out.  

Day three the group went out to Indio to the Western Sands Motel.  The Sands is an old motel that hasn't been renovated in decades.  It was the perfect place for us to work.  Each of the students got more time to shoot with the models and use hot lights if they wanted.  

Day 3 at the Western Sands Motel in Indio, CA. 

Day 3 at the Western Sands Motel in Indio, CA. 

Some of the guys shooting with Zoe by the pool.

Some of the guys shooting with Zoe by the pool.

Ali in the "vintage" motel. 

Ali in the "vintage" motel. 

Todd shooting with Brooke at the Western Sands Motel. 

Todd shooting with Brooke at the Western Sands Motel. 

The last day the attendees got to show the work they shot during the week to Todd and get feedback.  I must say that the images that they created were lovely.  I was very impressed. This was my sixth year working with the festival and this group was by far my easiest, most low-maintainance group. They made my job much easier than it could have been and I am very grateful for that!  

I got to see the magical Duane Michals speak, the weather was manageable, Todd was very cool, I got to see lots of old friends and make many new ones, overall it was another great year at the PSPF!    

A much needed cocktail after a night in the desert. 

A much needed cocktail after a night in the desert. 

PSPF 2013

Another great year in Palm Springs.  This year it was a bit later than usual and that means that it was HOT!   I was assisting the fantastic Roger Ballen and we spent a lot of time out in the desert shooting in abandoned towns around the Salton Sea. There were 16 attendees in the workshop, as well as myself, Roger, his assistant, Margurite, and another assistant, Heather who was also my roommate and savior throughout the week. We were a large group ambling around the desert in large white vans.   The 4 day class was called THE FINE ART OF PHOTOGRAPHY MASTER CLASS.  

If you're not familiar with Roger's work you should really check it out.  Dark, ambiguous, and a little creepy, he's made a name for himself with his black and white images, shot on film, and often controversial.  Here's a peek.

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All images property of Roger Ballen.

As always the week was inspiring, educational, and exhausting!  Here are some photos from the workshop.

To learn more about Roger Ballen check out https://www.artsy.net/artist/roger-ballen

 

 

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Palm Springs Photo Festival 2012

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 I love spring!  I get to plant my garden for the summer, my birthday happens, BBQs, sunshine, and the optimism that comes with new beginnings.  It's also the time that I go off the the desert for a week and emerse myself in photography at the Palm Springs Photo Festival.  This was my fourth year with the festival and I'm still trying to process all of the inspiration that I received while I was there.  This year I assisted master photographer Ralph Gibson with his workshop called "Finding Your Personal Vision."  Ralph is fantastic and infinitely quotable.  

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Here are some portraits I shot of him (he's got great hands and eyes) as well as some of my favorite Ralphisms...

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"The best sound in the world is the sound of a zoom lens being thrown into a swimming pool."

"A photograph is a decision to decide."

"In order to succeed you must have a point of departure."

"A great photograph is an unbroken string of good decisions."

We had a group of great models for the workshop and shot some nudes by the pool of the Korakia Pensione and at a beautiful city ranch in Palm Springs. 

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Our workshop was so interesting even Robert Maxwell couldn't help but swim over to watch Ralph critique an attendee's work. 

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I feel so fortunate to keep returning to the festival each year where I continue to meet more great people and get reinvigorated to go out and shoot.  

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