Ryan Muirhead Workshop
May 16th, 2018
A one-day workshop for no more than 10 people. Time to get to know each other as people, thoughts and exercises on photography, film, prints, life and art. Not necessarily in that order.
About the workshop:
I am frequently asked to come to various locations to teach photography workshops. Like everything I do, or even think about doing, I quickly find myself wondering why? If I am constantly so unsure of what I am doing, and why I am doing, why would anyone want to pay to learn from me? Would I even have anything of value worth conveying? Would people get what they were expecting? Would the value of what they took away be fair for what they paid to be there?
These questions have usually been enough to prevent me from scheduling teaching engagements on my own. Until recently I have usually only agreed to speak in a conference type setting, or do group workshops with other photographers. In this format I suppose it feels safer to be able to get up and say exactly how I feel about things. The truth is generally messy and layered and not well suited to power point presentations. I have felt the freedom to share a lot of complicated truths about my work and why I am making it, knowing that there were other speakers and teachers to add value if what I was sharing was of no value or interest to an attendee.
Over the course of the past few years I have participated in many conferences, panels, blogs, interviews and podcasts. I’ve tried to be as honest as I can about who I am, what my work means to me, and why I continue to make it. Most of the answers I have discovered and share have uncomfortable roots and complicated implications. I started making art because I hated my life and lacked the tools to acknowledge or discuss it. I kept making art because it felt like the most honest and worthwhile thing I could do in a world I constantly feel out of place in. Over the course of many years of hard work the things I truly value in art have shifted and refined. Very few of the things I care about are tied to making money. For years I was embarrassed that all of my work was personal work, that all my income came from print sales and teaching engagements. Now I understand that not being hired to shoot is one of the main reasons my work looks like it does. That having to spend money each time I wanted to make work turned out to be an amazing tool to measure how much I really wanted to pursue what I was working on.
That I didn’t care much about making money, being popular or fitting into the current trends used to make me feel like I didn’t have much to offer in a solo teaching scenario. It’s true, I don’t care about those things but there are things that I care deeply about. I am passionate about art. Art became my religion when I lost the belief system of my youth. I am constantly in awe that there is a human activity where we take all of the things we are, and all of the things we feel, and work on making a physical object that hopefully will contain those emotions. That we then share that object and strangers can hold it and feel what we felt as well as how they feel about their lives. It’s a powerful act of connection. It’s alchemy. It’s the last surviving magic.
I’m hoping if you want to attend one of my workshops it’s because you have felt an emotional connection to my work. I want that connection and everything that went into creating it to be focus of our time together and work backwards from there. I want to bring you a physical print of your favorite image of mine and spend a day talking about and practicing the things that went into making it.
Often when I’m shooting I’ll jokingly ask myself “what would I do if I were me?” I’m asking myself that now about a one-day workshop. What would I want it to be.
I would want you to choose an image of mine that you want as a fine art print. I’ll add it to small portfolio of my work I’m making for each workshop attendee. We’ll talk about everything that went into making the image you chose and my work in general. Gear, light, metering, travel, interacting, editing, printing… everything. What comes out in the work is everything. The connection it produces with others is everything. The fact that now almost all of that connection is happening on a screen is tragic. I want to share my art with you in the most personal way I know how. I would want to make this the focus, not some extra thing I threw in to convince you to sign up. To me the workshop would be an in-person art exchange with as much time spent outside of the teacher/student dynamic as possible.
I would want to talk about all the things that influenced my work and made it personal to me. I would want to hear from you about the kind of work you want to make, and the obstacles you see in your way to making that. It will be an emotional rollercoaster, it always is.
I would want to talk about about gear and the complicated relationship with it photographers are thrust into. I would want to talk about film and how using cameras that had less and less features forced me to dig deeper and deeper to find what I wanted my work to be, and how I wanted to make it. I would want to talk about the things that go along with shooting film and seemed overwhelming to me at one point. How to meter for all different types of light and with all the different cameras I use. How to know what camera is the right one for the emotion I want to convey. How to work in color film, black and white film and polaroid film all at once. How to work with a lab to consistently get back images you are proud of and how to learn how you arrived at these results.
I would want to talk about light and how falling in love with it in any amount and shape led to the realization that I should be able to make “my work” under any circumstances. I want to use the light and space we have wherever we end up to make emotional images. I would also want to cover other types of light not available to us on the day, and how I have used them in the past.
I would want to bring a friend with me, someone I knew and trusted and do the best job I can of showing you some of how I work when I’m actually shooting. This is always the most inherently confusing part for me because nearly all the work you have seen me share in the past has been created under circumstances that are impossible at a workshop. Most of my work is created alone, just me and the subject. Ideally I have spent hours, days weeks or years getting to know them and understand the work we both want to make. I try and do everything possible to get away from a “photo shoot” and instead created a time period where we can experience something together and then make images as they arise. This is of course impossible to replicate at a workshop, with a group watching, on a deadline. What I can do is do my best. To speak honestly about what I value and how I work, and then do my best to make something that I love with a very short amount of time to do it, with a group of people watching. This is also why I want to take time to answer everything I can about the print you have chosen. To share as much information about how an image you love was created as I can.
I would want to spend spend some time getting to know each other as people and not as a teacher and students. Go out to eat dinner, see something in the city.. talk as people.
This is who I am and what I care about. This is what I would want to do, this is what I am going to do.
May 15 , 2018
Welcome Drinks (Location TBD) 7pm-9pm
I’ve always hated the awkward introduction phase of workshops. The saying your name, where you are from etc.. It takes 2 hours and feels so forced. Let’s get together like real friends do and eat and drink something the night before so we jump right into things the next day.
May 16, 2018
Workshop (Location TBD) 10am
Prints: Art you can hold it’s what’s important to me right now and that is what we will start with. I’m going to bring everyone a small handmade portfolio of some of the work that means the most to me. We will discuss everything that went into making them. Gear, technique, travel, film, metering, directing, editing, theory… all that. It seems like a much more personal way to teach about how and why I shoot than just going through a powerpoint presentation.
Shooting Film: I don’t expect you to shoot film but it is important to how I work and the images I make. I’ll have a short presentation about everything that goes into that for me. Films, cameras, meters, printers, papers, labs, traveling.. all that good stuff.
Lunch: Provided. The last time I taught in Vancouver I got a sandwich called the “Cheesus Crust”. It was a good day.
Live Shoot: I never have any ideas for photos. For a long time I let that hold me back from approaching people to work. To the best of my ability I’ll show you how I make the work I do by showing up, staying present, prioritizing the person over the photograph, and being willing to shoot in any location or lighting condition. Then we can all take photos of each other and whoever I’ve brought with me to shoot. Shooting is not the focus of this workshop, just an excuse to make something pretty with friends.
Q&A: There is absolutely nothing I do that is a secret. I’m willing to answer any questions about my work and why or how it was made.
Fun Stuff: I’ll have some giveaways and discounts from the companies I work with including Indie Film Lab, Wandrd and more.
After dinner and drinks: 5pm
I sincerely love the energy of interaction outside the boundaries of the workshop. Maybe it’s the loss of the teacher and student roles or the chance to keep sharing over food, but I know how much I value shared experience with attendees before and after the more structured portion of the workshop. After we wrap up the day I would love to go to dinner with whoever feels so inclined.
Seats are non-refundable but are transferable. Please contact me with any questions.