This love affair with photography started gradually, crept up on me, then escalated into a full scale passion. My dad planted the seed, he had a dark room in our basement in Minot, North Dakota and St. Paul and took family photos and home movies. When I started the marcytilton.com online fabric store back in 2004 with a few bolts of fabric and a handful of silk screens, my camera was a tiny Pentax Optio point and shoot which I loved, and I've been upgrading equipment and skills ever since. Now I am obsessed!
All the photographs on the marcytilton.com website are done by me and I want to get better at it. I spend almost as much time in my small photo studio as I do sewing and designing, loving and getting lost in it all. Last summer I was in LA buying fabric for the website, stopped by the Leica store to check out a new camera, and my world opened up. (My sewing machine is a Bernina, and I have the same kind of love for Leica cameras). While deciding on the camera, I wandered upstairs to the gallery, where there was an exhibition of work called French Kiss: A Love Letter to Paris by Peter Turnley, an American photojournalist and photographer, who has lived in Paris for 30 years. At the time I did not really know about street photography, but something inside clicked and cracked open. Bought a camera, went home, googled in Peter Turnley, discovered that he offers workshops in Paris, and that the May '15 workshop started the day after our Paris tour ended. Seemed like perfect synchronicity, so I enrolled.
From June through October I used the new camera and loved it. Then I dropped it and it went off for repair. Heartsick, I went back to a smaller point & shoot, but kept photographing and started haunting photography websites, forums and blogs.
On a plane headed to Minnesota at Christmas, I watched the movie Finding Vivian Maier and something else clicked. I felt a strong visceral reaction to the story and to her work. Later last winter I went to dinner with a photographer friend who teased me, 'Marcy, why don't you just get the one you really want?'......referring to the camera of my dreams. I started thinking 'why not? which lead to more research. First the workshop, then another camera upgrade....eeek! Katherine and close friends got tired of my nattering about it. In March I went back to LA on another fabric buying trip, visited the Leica store and got the camera. Photography is mostly a man's world, and I am grateful to the advice and feedback I got on forums and blogs while making this decision. I lucked out in meeting Sussan at the Leica store who coached me with infinite patience, going back and forth about which model and lenses. The camera is digital, but all the settings are manual....a steep learning curve.
When the camera arrived, I was afraid to touch it. More good online advice: carry the camera everywhere, turned on and ready to go. I started doing just that. Read the manual, spent hours online searching for information. Found local coaches who could give me feedback and the technical info I needed. Thanks to David Winston and David Vanderlip for their help. A good thing nobody told me that it is not a great idea to go into a workshop with a new camera and new editing system. Beginner mind helps.
Being a 'stuff' person, I had to figure out my gear. walking around Paris A small across the body bag, (the GROOM La Petite), worn under my jacket with $$ and credit cards and a GROOM backpack kept hands free for the camera which is always around my neck and never leaves my sight. We dubbed it 'the baby', I'd only leave it in good hands when necessary.
The WorkshopI loved this Peter Turnley workshop! It was a pleasure to be in front of the desk in stead of behind it and I learned so much. Some simple things (lose the lens cap), some more complex (the mix of a challenge and a pleasure). A pleasure to be in good company with others who share this passion. Exhilarating to be out in the streets of Paris seeing and experiencing in a new way. Sometimes challenging (the new camera is a fixed lens, so must get close to people), talking to people (my French got better), watching the light, learning about framing (don't cut off the feet!)....most of all, the discovery of how much fun this is.
While Peter has worked as a photojournalist all over the world in dozens of wars and struggles, he shares his love of Paris, and, that in spite of the challenges and difficulties of the world, the life and beauty of this city is a daily reminder of how beautiful life can be. A cut-loose instructor, Peter shared his expertise and philosophy, and cut us loose in the city with a list of possible places to explore and shoot.
|The workshop took place in Peter Turnley's apartment in the Marais.|
The class ran for a week, starting Sunday afternoon, finishing mid-day on Saturday. We met at Peter's Marais apartment in the mornings for class discussion, viewing our work from the previous day, seeing work by Peter and other photographers and filmmakers, then would go out on our own in the afternoon and evening to shoot. Back at the hotel, I'd download the day's shoot, edit and put the best shots on a jump drive to take to show the next day. Evenings included group dinners and times when we'd go out and about together or solo. The final meeting included a showing of each person's portfolio of prior work. A bit apprehensive about this, I showed photos of my garments, was surprised in a good way at the support and feedback from a group whose opinions I value.
|A privilege to have a presentation by Voya Mitrovic, master printer, 'greatest of the great' according to Peter, click on the link to learn more. Voya printed for Henri Cartier Bresson and Josef Koudelka brought prints from his personal collection. The photo he shows here is by Peter Turnley, on the right, and is the very one that brought me to this workshop....I recognized the street even though the shot was taken 20 years ago.|
|We visited another friend of Peter, John Morris, vibrant in his '90's, an esteemed photo editor and important figure in photography. Over a lifetime that spanned 7 US presidents, he worked for LIFE magazine, Paris Magnum, was responsible for the photo coverage of D-Day and was the photo editor at the New York Times responsible for the contemporary use and look of photographs in the NYT. today He presented a visual retrospective that included work by some of the world's great photographers.|
Random Paris Shots
Each photo becomes a moment of connection, a pause, a memory. Street photography uses a fixed lens, no zoom, so you have to get up close to people and be quick. Framing and timing are crucial. Different than a snapshot, the best shots evoke a mood, tell a story, reveal a person's inner self. I used a 35mm lens throughout, fiddled and fumbled with the settings, lost many shots to the learning curve. Behind the lens in a place I love brings a special joy, a quiet calm, a way to see.
A good way to talk to the owners
With special thanks to Katherine who tolerates being photographed, waiting while I lag behind and holds 'the baby' for me. While I was in the photography workshop, she took drawing and painting classes. My best friend and travel companion extraordinaire!
|This experience stretched my creative limits and left me wanting more. In love with this creative process, I return to Paris in the fall and am thrilled to be enrolled in Peter Turnley's workshop in Cuba over New Year's. Meanwhile I continue to shoot every day, fabrics for the website, friends, garments, work in process, dogs, daily life and where I live.|
Click to see the student gallery from the May Paris workshop.