Streetphotography workshop with Martin U Waltz

I had the pleasure of doing a street photography workshop with Martin U Waltz, one of the better know street photographers in Germany and a fellow-resident of my homecity Berlin.

Actually the workshop was different from what I expected, but this was largely due to my own conditiondue to ilness and therefor Martin kindly suggested to do it another day. Quite challenging circumstances, but I was too determined (stubborn) to cancel and the light was extremely beautiful on the day of our meeting.

Portfolio review

Martin had a direct and open approach in reviewing my work, professionally preceded by a disclaimer that his opinion is just an opinion and should be seen as such. in the 20 images I had sent in for reviewing I had 10 images that I was quite happy with and 10 that didn’t make it through the self-curation-process. Because I honestly believe that you learn more from the bad ones than the good ones. The good ones you cherish, the bad ones you analyse to not make the same mistakes again and sharpen your photographic intuition.

Jean-Pierre Damen urban and street photography - L5021909.jpeg

The review process itself was a tiny bit painful, as it should be. Asking somebody for his straight opinion about your work is not the most comfortable thing to do. And I was happy to see that for the majority he picked the good ones and questioned the bad ones, except for an occasional precious darling picture, that you cherish like a child although you know it’s not equally appealing to other people that didn’t give birth to it. I wouldn't mind if he had been a bit tougher. If you want to grow as an artist you need to be challenged I think. Some even say to need to suffer but maybe we shouldn’t go THAT far :)

But I loved how it started a discussion about the importance of context. That in the era of instant instagram gratification pictures are too often judged by their instant, individual appeal, and too less by their context, by the true meaning or at least the artists’s intensions behind them. And that seeing some of my images made him initially doubt or at least question their expressive strength until he got a broader view on their context, and that it then all started to make sense. A beautiful compliment.
As an artist I prefer to be not a tune that you immediately hum along. I prefer to be a record that grows on you, that you can truly connect with and that you still like playing now and then.

Jean-Pierre Damen urban and street photography - L5021935.jpeg

A game of poker

What I liked most about Martin is his anecdotal strength. His power to illustrate his photographic knowledge with a strong real-life example. Once outside we at a certain point talked about the amount of luck you need to get a good shot. And that luck plays an important role, but that some people are more lucky than others. Simply by practising and enhancing their skills and training their intuition, just like with a game of poker (see my last blogpost). But apart from that also by actually chasing it and claiming it. He told me the example of an iconic picture in Morocco with three Islamic women in whites dresses that crossed three guys in black suits. When asking the photographer about the amount of luck involved to shoot such a coincidental scene the photographer said that he had followed the women for half an hour to find the right moment to shoot them. That is pure intuition, the lucky part was the three guys showing up in the same scene and the skill came with shooting the exact right moment.

Just before this anecdote there was this completely surreal moment where a woman with classic Parisian elegance and a astonishingly beautiful red hat (in scummy Friedrichshain!) was waiting behind us at the traffic signs. Martin spotted her just as she had her head slightly tilted towards the ground, leaving us with a view on her sunlit hat with from underneath a glance at her shadowed face and red lips. A classic shot if it had worked. Unfortunately it didn’t. But for me a proof that some people are more lucky than others, that they get presented with such a strong photographic scene just by stepping out the door :)

Posted in: workshops