Mentoring at the Eddie Adams Workshop

October 11, 2007 | By Chris Hondros | News, Photography, Photojournalism

51324318.jpg
Harry Cabluck/AP via Getty Images

Seen in this handout photo, photographer Eddie Adams poses at the Republican (GOP) National Convention August, 1992 in Houston, Texas.

Filmmakers have their Cannes; policy wonks have Davos; opera buffs have Beureuth. American photojournalists have the Eddie Adams farmhouse, a simple dark wood shelter situated at the top of a verdant hill in tiny Jeffersonville, New York. It’s the site of “the Workshop“; more fully, it’s The Eddie Adams Workshop, a yearly retreat for the nation’s top photojournalists and students, started by the celebrated photographer twenty years ago. The 100 students who pass the competitive portfolio cut are split into ten teams of ten, and each team produces a visual essay in the course of four intense, sleepless days of shooting, editing and instruction. Pancho Bernasconi, Getty Images‘ managing editor for news and I were asked to lead one of these teams, along with Leah Latella, a young and talented editor at Newsweek magazine.

I was a student there myself, a long time ago, in the first few years of the workshop’s existence. I saw in the students’ faces now much of what I remembered from my own experiences: shyness, exuberance, amazement, and a good bit of fear. I chose to have my group illustrate the “Seven Ages of Man” speech from Shakespeare’s As You Like It–perhaps an esoteric choice, but Pancho was good enough to accept it without hesitation when I suggested it at a pre-workshop meeting.

Our students pursued the topic with gusto, ambling around through the rural byways, finding subjects that explore the concepts Shakespeare outlines in the soliloquy: infancy, childhood, careerhood, retirement, death. One of the seven ages is soldier, and as befits our times our students photographed several. One was a young man just back from Iraq, living his daily life now with a telling sense of isolation. Another was a “soldier of God,” a woman in a Christian biker group. Yet another was only present in memory: Pfc. Anthony Kaiser, born and raised in the next town over from Jeffersonville, who fell in combat in Anbar province just six months ago. Pancho and I sent student Brian Sokol and multimedia producer Bob Sasha out to visit the family, and together they produced a sublime piece of work, a narrative intercutting Anthony’s father recounting how his son was killed in action with the young man’s widow reminiscing about his life and personality. It’s an elegant three minutes that reminds us all anew about the enormous human consequences of our current wars.

Monday night, after the end of the workshop, after the presentations and awards, the students and faculty let loose in a big party in nearby hotel. There was much hugging and high-fiving among our group, lots of giddy exhaustion and justifiable pride. The whole experience was a privilege: not only to be able to meet a talented crop of young photographers, but also as a reminder of the precious window we as photographers are afforded into people’s most personal lives. It’s a lesson I learn and relearn, and one that never really loses its power, every time I’m reminded of it.

More posts by this author

Comments are closed.