Other Free Encyclopedias » Online Encyclopedia » Encyclopedia - Featured Articles » Contributed Topics from P-T » Photographic Workshops: A Changing Educational Practice - The Modern Workshop, Beginnings of modernist workshop: late 1930s to early 1950s

Current Trends and Future Directions

workshops photography media workshop

With further proliferation, the “circuit” of workshops that existed in 1982 has grown into an “intercircuit” of workshops in a manner similar perhaps to networks aggregating themselves to become an Internet. Not only are there myriad workshops to choose from, but many types, formats, aesthetics, styles, genres, and payment plans. Certainly the field has become commodified, but more telling, the workshop has become globalized, often figuring as gateways to other worlds, landscapes, and global cultures. The combination of recreation and travel with workshops is not new, but it has been amplified to a level that distinguishes our current period.

Like planning for a trip, there are a number of published guides to cope with the number of options and arrive at a decision point. In the early 1990s, there were guides in print such as Jeff Cason’s The Photo Gallery & Workshop Handbook (1991) and ShawGuides’ The Guide to Photography Workshops & Schools (1994). The former lists over 200 workshops, seminars, and photo-tours arranged by category and by geographic index. The ShawGuide lists over 400 workshops and tours. But these listings are small compared to the current online edition that, according to the banner headline, is “A Free, Online Directory from ShawGuides with 536 Sponsors of 2655 Upcoming Photography, Film & New Media Workshops Worldwide!” The Guide to Photography, Film & New Media Workshops is one tab among other related zones such as Art & Craft Workshops, Career Cooking & Wine Schools, Cultural Travel, Golf Schools & Camps, Writers Conferences & Workshops, and Language Vacations. A few of the leading workshops on the home page include the Venice School of Photography, Exposure36 Photography, American Photo/Popular Photography Mentor Series, Sand Diego Photo Safari, Horizon Photography Workshops, White Mountain Photography Workshops, and Branson Reynold Photographic Adventures. Like many travel opportunities in global culture, the global workshop offers an educational encounter and an ephemeral sense of place in a placeless world. Here the classic, modernist workshop’s commitment to participation and presence has become taunted by an ironic play of distance and proximity.

How the workshop in photography will adapt to future developments in technology and media is an open question. It is unclear if distance education systems will ever be a suitable vehicle for workshops in the classic sense. The gangly figure of a “distance education workshop” is almost a tautology in terms given that presence, not absence, defines the internal logic of workshops. Face-to-face communication and situated expression drives workshops whether it is in the “authentic” terms of modernism or the “simulated” experiences of postmodernism. Interestingly, back in the early 1960s, White held out the possibility of distance workshops with an experiment he conducted by exchanging photographs and audio-taped commentary through the mail. But, for White, the recorded voice supplied the necessary signifier of presence, and even with that reassurance, he never sustained the experiment. Apparently, new media communications will frame the continuing possibilities of the workshop as content, but they can never fully reproduce the workshop form.

The possibilities of new media as the subject-matter of workshops are equally questionable. Short courses and educational training classes for new media gravitate toward the “demo,” or demonstrations of technical procedures, tours of the software package’s interface, and the organization of a series of tasks. For example, digital photography is taught in terms of the delineation of “work flow” or the relationship of the activities in a project from start to finish. Demos as staged events require preplanning and are contrary to the classic manner of workshops that incorporate planning only as an immediate prelude to work sessions and group interaction. Even so, perhaps workshops can overcome these barriers and introduce more depth and two-way dialog into the process of learning and thinking about new media and digital photography. Perhaps with the use of computer technology becoming increasingly second nature, the time is right for workshops to engage the emerging media of our time in a more unshackled, progressive fashion. Workshops have proved to be an adaptable and robust educational vehicle and will continue to do so as long as individuals are ready to turn a passing encounter with photography into a life-long passion.

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