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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Love in a Parking Lot

My final day in LA was spent running a workshop with my friend and fellow loonie, Glynn Lavender. Glynn had organised this workshop with Mark Comon, a well known photo retailer and fellow photographer in Torrance, California. Mark is the owner of Paul's Photo - a well known photographic retail outlet. He himself runs a mean workshop and they are very popular. That being the case, we were honoured to have been invited to run one ourselves for his customers. For him, it was a matter of trust. And the gesture was certainly appreciated. It was our first workshop on foreign soil. But it won't be our last. Not by a long shot.
Now, I have to admit to being somewhat concerned when I was informed that the afternoon session of the workshop - the part where everyone actually takes photographs - was going to be run entirely in the parking lot at the back of Mark's store. Paul's Photo is one of those wonderful camera stores in which you can find anything and everything, but its parking lot is no Garden of Eden. However, I remembered that much of what we teach is the irrefutable truth that great photographs can be made anywhere, provided you understand light, perspective, composition and posing. Glynn and I are used to the rather diverse opportunities offered our customers at our usual venue in Melbourne - the Abbottsford Convent. A parking lot was going to provide a challenge to the very mantras we teach.
So, with a couple of slight thematic alterations to our morning lecture, we went ahead. Not that we had a choice! I mean, we had travelled to the United States to introduce the concept of our business to an American audience. No one said it was going to be easy. But I have to tell you, it sure was fun. Two Australian photographers addressing 14 American ones makes for an interesting morning. But all went well. Mark even brought out a couple of bottles of Fosters to make us feel more at home. Little did he know that Glynn and I are not big drinkers. Especially Fosters! But we sure did appreciate the gesture!
The afternoon light in the parking lot was harsh, but that was the very quality of light we needed to prove our point. Finding and utilising shadows, shade, overhead sunlight and reflected light gave our American friends a chance to see that even in their harsh Californian light, great photographs can be made if you know how. Our afternoon session was about the 'knowing how'. For many in attendance it was a complete revelation. Like so many other photographers we encounter in our workshops, location is their priority. Beautiful images can only be made if there are beautiful subjects in beautiful surroundings. Our LA workshop at Paul's Photo proved that to be an erroneous notion. Some of the most beautiful portraits our customers had ever taken were images established at the back door of Paul's Photo, the parking lot and against the wall of the shop next door. After this had been well and truly established, we went inside to the initial lecture area to work with some window light, once again proving that great photographs are available - everywhere. All in all, the workshop was a great success. So much so that we are invited back to run more of our Creative Photo Workshops. 

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The Life, Times and Images of photographer, Shelton Muller

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