Last week, I had the incredible honor of returning to speak at the 26th annual Eddie Adams Workshop in Jeffersonville, NY. Eddie Adams was an incredible photographer, and although he was most well known to the general public as the Pulitzer-winning war photographer who took one of the most famous photographs of the Vietnam War, he was also a very successful commercial photographer, and had a long standing partnership with Parade magazine as their cover photographer for many years.
Twenty six years ago, with the help of his friends, all heavyweights in the photography world, he established the Eddie Adams Workshop, a tuition free workshop for the 100 best young photographers in the country at his farm on the edge of the Catskills in New York. The students were either college students, or professionals with less than two years of experience, and Eddie’s vision was to give them the chance of a lifetime: a weekend shooting and working with the best photographers and editors from the likes of Time, LIFE, National Geographic, etc. His hope was for he and his peers to pass along their collective knowledge and to help students fast forward their careers several years by introducing them to a who’s who of the industry.
I was fortunate enough to attend the 6th EAW in 1993. It was a formative experience for me, and it’s been incredible to watch my fellow students from that year grow and prosper in their careers. Among my classmates, were great photographers like Alex Garcia, Adrees Latif, Allison Smith, Chang Lee, Ami Vitale, Jay Janner, Chris Assaf, David Bergman, and the late Chris Hondros. I wrote a little remembrance of that 6th workshop on Chicago Tribune staff photographer and EAW 6 classmate Alex Garcia’s great photography blog.
Twenty years later, I was invited back last week to speak and show my work. It was an incredible honor, a very humbling experience, that left me nervous and intimidated. It was incredible to hang out with many photographers who I still look up to, hang out with many talented colleagues, and to get a glimpse of our future through the eyes of this year’s students. Eddie is gone now, but his wife Alyssa keeps inviting everyone back, opening her home to a cast of characters each year, and the great people at Nikon continue to generously fund this incredible experience. Over the years, it really has become a family. Some of the faculty, like the great SI editor and former Newsweek DOP Jimmy Colton, have been to virtually all the workshops, and many members of the black team (volunteers) come back year after year.
One of the things that Eddie did really well, and what really sets this workshop apart from all other photojournalism workshops and seminars, was the fact that he always wanted students to be exposed to all types of photography. Instead of it just being a love fest among hardcore photojournalists and newspaper photographers, Eddie liked to cross pollinate with different visual genres and get your mind working. When I was a student, we were exposed to Gordon Parks, Joyce Tenneson, and Pete Turner. Last week, we were treated to fine art photographer Robin Schwartz, Josh Weaver from Google, advertising and fine art genius Stephen Wilkes, legendary portrait photographer Gregory Heisler, and Marco Grob, a multi-talented guy who recently added video to his repertoire of elegant portraits and still life. You never know where your photography career will take you, and it’s great to see people communicating with photography in different ways.
Among my favorite memories from this year:
-Being back at the farm with my old Houston Post colleague and EAW 6 classmate Adrees Latif, now a Pulitzer winner at Reuters, who was working as a team leader.
-Seeing my good friends from Sports Illustrated: DOP Brad Smith, staff photographer Robert Beck, and former editor Jimmy Colton, who makes one helluva MC/Scout leader. I’m forever grateful for his kind words and encouragement, and for making this workshop less like a classroom seminar, and more like an intimate family gathering.
-Meeting some incredible photographers and editors for the first time: Mary Calvert, Maura Foley, Elizabeth Krist, Bruce Strong, Gerd Ludwig, Patrick Witty, as well as seeing some great old friends like Deanne Fitzmaurice, Tim Rasmussen, Nick Ut, and John White.
-Getting to break bread and share drinks with my ASMP colleagues Shawn Henry and Ed Mcdonald. Their generous invitation brought me back.
-Meeting Mirjam Evers in person. She did an incredible job of producing a huge and complicated event, and graciously handled being bombarded with questions from students (and instructors!). She is a class act.
-Watching the students trying to channel Gerd Ludwig’s scarf wearing prowess.
-Chatting with, and watching the presentation from one of my all time lighting idols, the great Gregory Heisler.
-Meeting some of the best photographers in our military, who volunteer to work on the black team: Super cool and talented people like Jeremy Lock, Bennie Davis, Annie Berlin Elis, Etta Smith, and former military photographers like Stacy Pearsall and Bob Houlihan.
-The emotional ceremony for fallen war photographers, which now includes my EAW 6 classmate Chris Hondros, who died in Libya.
-Seeing National Geographic photographer Jodi Cobb’s autobiographical show, which encompassed her incredible globe-trotting career.
-The contagious passion of Marco Grob and John White. I feel like I need to ramp it up after watching those two speak so passionately about the craft they love.
And my favorite part? Helping out with portfolio reviews until the wee hours at the 11:30 club, back at the hotel. I’m most inspired by seeing and hearing about what the latest class of EAW students are up to. It’s fascinating to think about what they’ll be able to accomplish in the next 20 years.
(Major thanks to Eugene Mopsik, Shawn Henry, and Ed McDonald for inviting me to attend on behalf of ASMP, and to Alyssa Adams, Mirjam Evers, and Mark Kettenhofen from Nikon for graciously continuing the fine tradition of the workshop. )