Thursday, 20 August 2015

POV | Bali's Foundry Photojournalism Workshop 2015

Presenting My Photo Essays on Balinese Ceremonies/Photo © Neal Jackson-All Rights Reserved
Because of reasons beyond my control, as well as having to be in Hanoi for a few days on my personal assignment, I barely made it to Foundry Photojournalism Workshop (FPW) this year. But I did, and I was -as always- pleased and privileged to have attended it.

The Bali event was my seventh workshop as a faculty member; having only missed the Sarajevo event out of the workshops held in Mexico City, Manali, Istanbul, Buenos Aires, Chiang Mai and La Antigua.

Firstly, let me reiterate what I've consistently said and wrote about FPW; enormous credit is owed to Eric Beecroft, the visionary behind the Foundry Workshops. He had the brilliant idea of creating these workshops some 8 years ago, and made it a reality despite enormous obstacles.

But it's also the unsung heroes of the Foundry's staff, its administrators and the local volunteers who consistently make them such wonderful successes. The Bali event's logistics, venue, intrustors' hotel, class location and other requirements were very well organized, and everything worked quite smoothly (at least from my perspective) but I am certain that there was a phenomenal amount of work going on behind the scenes.

Ubud's Betelnut Cafe. Venue for the Bali FPW. Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
I would be remiss if I did not mention the generous support given to FPW by Photo Wings, a nonprofit organization dedicated to utilizing the power of photography to further deep thinking, communication, and action.

Much to my regret, I was not able to attend all of FPW's final ceremony as I had to catch my night flight to Hong Kong and NYC, but I've experienced first hand how rewarding it was to rub shoulders with some of the best photographers/photojournalists in the business, to exchange ideas with enthusiastic participants, whether these were peers, or just starting their photography careers, or veterans, and talking about other styles of image-making.

To my delight, my class members quickly grasped the mechanics and software requirements of my Travel Documentary storytelling class, and produced commendable multimedia photo essays.

Portfolio Review with Hassanoor Hussain. Photo © Neal Jackson-All Rights Reserved
I was chuffed to present three short photo essays of Balinese ceremonies during one of the evening sessions at the Betelnut Cafe. Pulau Dewata: The Island of Gods was a collection of images made during my many trips to the island. My presentation's duration was roughly 15 minutes long.

As I wrote on a previous blog post, some students thought it ought to have been shown on the first night of the workshop, helping them to choose their self-assigned photo essays. I was the only instructor to show work directly relating to Bali. A sensible observation, but the timing choice of the presentation was not mine to make.

I thought some (as in not all) of the presentations by the remaining instructors, while interesting and containing compelling imagery, went on for far too long. Perhaps future FPWs will address this issue since many of the students are, at the end of the day, exhausted. Fifteen minutes for each instructor's presentation seems adequate, and instructors can always present their work at whatever length they want to their respective classes and others.

Another thought I have is to offer the students more access to all instructors. Every time I attend a FPW, I sense the same thing...a strong desire by all students to have one-on-one meetings with the members of the faculty. The portfolio reviews (as much as they are exhausting for the instructors) are one of such options. These often evolve into career and personal advice, and are universally appreciated by students. Perhaps instead of only one evening of portfolio reviews, FPW could offer two evenings of such one-on-one interfaces. After all, limiting the instructors presentations to a shorter duration may allow the time to incorporate this additional face-time. 

Till the next Foundry Photojournalism Workshop!!!