Sara Lando: The Language of Photography (Pt. 2)

Part two; here we go.

Sara, prepping for the Sunday workshop.

Sara, prepping for the Sunday workshop.

Sunday: Beyond the Portrait

This was the workshop that I was most excited about. I love Sara's portraiture work and the concepts she comes up with. What fascinated me more though was how she approached this workshop. Most workshops that I have seen is some guy/girl photographing a person and then the attendees ask some questions and then everyone goes home.

Sara's workshop is a little different. She turns it on it's head. Again, it was divided into two parts. For the first session she spoke about her work and showed examples, from head shots to candid portraits, commercial portraits to reportage. She talked about "photography as a language" - what are you trying to say? Who are you talking to?  She spoke about light. Natural light, artificial and mixed. Lens choices and the difference focal length makes. Checklists, subjects, location, planning, gear etc. You get the idea, right? Moving along. Then she had two models who came in for the day that she photographed to show how she goes to work and her thought process during the shoot. She had doll heads and lace and dresses and I wondered what happens in her mind :) What did she have in store? Well, to find out you will have to go to her blog, coz I am certain it will be showing up there very soon.

Screen grab from Sara's twitter feed. This is Gigi. One of the models that Sara photographed on the day and Caleb's cousin.

Screen grab from Sara's twitter feed. This is Gigi. One of the models that Sara photographed on the day and Caleb's cousin.

The second session she turned the tables. Now the attendees would have to shoot the two models. A model picked a name from a hat and then that person came up and picked a random word - which would be the "theme" for the photo - and then picked another name which would be their partner for the shoot. That way everyone got paired up with someone else and their own word and they also assisted each other on the shoot. Each participant had 30 minutes with the model and then they would switch roles. After that they would leave the studio and the next team would come in to shoot and the teams outside also had to turn their cameras on each other and shoot portraits of their "team mate".

This made for a pretty interesting day and it was quite high pressure and I was happy not to be in that position myself, but it's definitely something I would like to try in the future.

After all the commotion it was time for critiques and Sara went through each person's photo as they explained the process and thought behind their shots. She was very attentive and gave great feedback on the work presented and I think every single person who attended came out of there having learnt something.

After the Saturday workshop I had expressed to Zack that I REALLY wanted to shoot a portrait of Sara, but I had NO f**king idea what I'd be getting myself into. He had the same idea and we decided that we would both do it on the coming Tuesday. We were both given an hour and a half and we weren't allowed to be at each other's shoot. Shit! Way to go man! So I had 2 days ahead of sleepless nights and worrying about what the hell I was going to do. How would I photograph Sara? How would I break the mold and use what I had learned? And to top it off? After my shoot with her, she was going to photograph me? Really? What the hell did I get myself into?

My final shot of Sara.. I wanted to pay homage to one of Sara's favorite photographers; Paulo Roversi. So I incorporated some " creepy " shadows in the background. I also just thought it fit well with her personality. Under the surface there's this mystique about her.

My final shot of Sara.. I wanted to pay homage to one of Sara's favorite photographers; Paulo Roversi. So I incorporated some "creepy" shadows in the background. I also just thought it fit well with her personality. Under the surface there's this mystique about her.

I tried the above portrait in both black & white and color, but ultimately the play between warm/cool of the color image won me over.

I tried the above portrait in both black & white and color, but ultimately the play between warm/cool of the color image won me over.

Here is the before and after image so you can get an idea of where I started and where I ended up.

Here is the before and after image so you can get an idea of where I started and where I ended up.

This wasn't my only idea for a photo though. This was my "safe" shot and I was terrified through it all. I babbled and I didn't make eye contact and I paced about, moving lights, scrims, flags, but never really connecting with Sara as a subject and boy did she let me know it afterward? ;) Haha.. But you know what? I wanted that. I needed to hear what I was doing wrong apart from the obvious stuff that I would kick myself for later. It's nice to hear nice things about your work, but that isn't going to make you grow. You need to hear about your mistakes, so that you can learn to fix them and I appreciated Sara's critique. (Something that I did learn though was the garment she was wearing around her neck for my photo used to be her grandmothers from the 40's, so that piece of clothing is 70 years old and I love hearing these stories and making that little connection and that's why I've fallen in love with portrait photography).

For my second shot I wanted to do something more conceptual. Something more hands-on and "messy". Using what I had learned at the workshops.

This is not the final image. I still want to bring it into the physical world and "destroy" it. Make it something other than what it is here. This by the way, completely happened by accident, coz I was not happy with where the image was going. Looking at this here. I am much happier than I was the day before. I remember sitting at the end of the day going; "what the hell am I doing?" and then the next day this happened :)

This is not the final image. I still want to bring it into the physical world and "destroy" it. Make it something other than what it is here. This by the way, completely happened by accident, coz I was not happy with where the image was going. Looking at this here. I am much happier than I was the day before. I remember sitting at the end of the day going; "what the hell am I doing?" and then the next day this happened :)

The before and after of my more conceptual shot. No idea what it might end up as, but for now this is what I've created and I like that it's kinda "uncomfortable". That's  EXACTLY  the idea.

The before and after of my more conceptual shot. No idea what it might end up as, but for now this is what I've created and I like that it's kinda "uncomfortable". That's EXACTLY the idea.

Afterward, Sara got her hands - and some paint - on me and erm... a weird piece of clothing, but you will have to go to her blog to see that :P

Another screen grab from Sara's twitter account. That's my first selfie with someone famous ;)

Another screen grab from Sara's twitter account. That's my first selfie with someone famous ;)

You can go check out the DEDPXL blog for my and Zack's shootout and who "won". For me it was an honor to photograph Sara and be shot by her and to shoot against Zack. I admire and respect them both a ton and it was a helluva learning curve, but I am so glad to have been a part of it.

Thanks for reading

Sara Lando: The Language of Photography (Pt. 1)

I've met some pretty interesting individuals over the past couple months, but I think Sara - and her husband Alessandro - might be my favorite (not to take anything away from anyone else I've met though, you are all fantastic human beings).

One of my rejected shots from my shoot with Sara Lando. More on that later, so stay tuned :) In some ways I wish I had used this image in my and Zack's shoot out to throw people off a little more.

One of my rejected shots from my shoot with Sara Lando. More on that later, so stay tuned :) In some ways I wish I had used this image in my and Zack's shoot out to throw people off a little more.

Alessandro is Sara's husband. He's a very quiet dude, but we had some good conversations. He's a trail runner, but not little wussy backyard trails - he runs mountains. He is also an awesome graphic and web designer. Check out his work  here .

Alessandro is Sara's husband. He's a very quiet dude, but we had some good conversations. He's a trail runner, but not little wussy backyard trails - he runs mountains. He is also an awesome graphic and web designer. Check out his work here.

Sara has this very "subtle" way of cracking open your skull and peering inside and trying to pull something out of you. (Wait! Did I say subtle? I meant the opposite of that). It's fascinating and I think I understand why she is so infectious to be around and why people seem to gravitate toward her. She forces you to stretch your limits - or at least what you think your limits are - and she instantly broke my brain after we got to talking.

She posed some interesting questions to me and made me reassess the way I want to approach my work and better myself and I encourage anyone even remotely interested in photography to start following her work. Go to her workshops if at all possible and stretch your brain and thought process. It will be a very rewarding experience and I hope to retain as much as possible from what I learnt from her short time here in Atlanta.

Now, I could go on about both workshops she held in Atlanta, but then we'll be here for a week, so I just want to touch on some things I learnt on the Saturday and Sunday respectively and from a little short piece we shot about her process. (Note: So after I started writing about the Saturday class I realized that there was no way I could do this in one post).

Saturday: Mixed Media

Sara explains photography as a language. In the beginning when you start speaking, you suck at it. You are making sounds, gestures, noises et cetera. Eventually that sound becomes a word and later the word becomes; two, three words and you can form short sentences. Then eventually you can have conversations and create dialogue.

The same goes for photography. When you start out; your work is shit, but over time and with practice and patience, it gets better (or less shit if that's what you wanna go for). Just because you get better though doesn't mean you don't still produce shit. You just learn not to show it :)

She went on to show some of her past shoots. How she has progressed over the past 10 years and I thought that was great. We all need to show where we began. Be open about it. Learn from it and have others learn from it. Then she delved into some commissioned work for clients and how she approaches that. From checklists, to moodboards and gear, lighting and assistants. In between all that, random assignments would pop up, that you need to go shoot. In part two of that she took some of her prints she had brought along and proceeded to "destroy" them.

Sara, performing a seance or just part of her mixed media process?

Sara, performing a seance or just part of her mixed media process?

Here is a short excerpt from the little video Zack and I shot of Sara.

I am not attached to the things I do. I am fine with just erasing or throwing things in the garbage. It just takes up space and I am never gonna see that again coz it embarrasses me and I am never gonna do anything with it. I don’t think keeping something that’s almost there is worth anything. It has value in an educational perspective. Looking back and realizing you’ve improved is great, but I think 90% of the stuff just has to go.

I thought this was a pretty refreshing approach. Sometimes we are way too attached to the things we create. It's precious and we keep it close to the chest and there is nothing wrong with it, but step away from that. Experiment. Burn your work. Go print that photo you made and paint on it, scratch it, throw hot coffee on it, cut it up. I promise you, it's "safe" on your harddrive. Try something new. Do something physical to it and document that with your camera - thus creating a whole new picture, physically and digitally -  and at the end you'll have this whole process and you might have created something refreshing or perhaps not, but I guarantee you'll have had fun :)

Part two coming up tomorrow and it involves a shootout between me and Zack Arias? ;) Oh shit!!

Thanks for reading