It only happened once, in 1989, the Professional Photographers of Ontario in co-operation with Sheridan College joining forces and offering professional development for professional photographers. In hind sight I’m glad I took full advantage of it.
The first week was spent studying “Wedding Photography – Advanced” under the masterful David Ziser. https://tinyurl.com/y8ngbbpp
The second weeks course was “Portraiture – Advanced” and involved spending a week with Jay Stock. You can see some of Jay’s fine art on his website https://tinyurl.com/y95guns8 but at the moment I can’t find a link to any of his portraits other than the cover to his book “Inspirational Impressionistic Images” in “Gallery 5 on his website.
Now I’m glad I took the two courses, but have to admit that at the end of the two weeks I wasn’t so sure it was a good idea. Although they were two completely different subjects, one’s weddings and the other is portraits, Tibor Horvath told me “wedding photography is just portraiture on the gallop.” I was inspired by the work of David and his careful planning, posing, and making sure every little detail was in place, and then I met Jay. They couldn’t have been more different; it was like mixing fire and ice.
Jay’s approach centred on capturing the real personality and emotion in the subject. Yet it had to have all the qualities of a fine art portrait or painting. It was Mr. Stock that taught me if photography is art you had better study art and understand what makes it. He was a fan of the impressionistic age and Rueben, Degas, Monet and others.
Stock’s philosophy was to minimize the equipment so that it would not interfere with observing, interacting and relating to the subject. Instead of intricate posing instruction there were subtle directions followed by “does that feel natural”.
Taking a little from both
At the end of the two weeks my head was spinning as I asked over and over which way was best. No answers came. Yet over the years the exposure I had to these two iconic photographers gradually shaped my own style in a blend of both.
- features the importance of lighting and how it creates a mood and directs the viewers attention,
- carefully places the subject in an natural situation to take advantage of the lines, textures and colours that are present,
- and allows the subject to be themselves and let their character shine.
Taking a little from two great and important people I am able to direct in a way that allows a subject to express their individuality and then how to gently refine that look to make a more positive statement.
I am grateful for the exposure to two great and important people and the influence both had on shaping and forming my own unique style of photography.
John Mitchell captures his subjects at their emotional high point. It’s part art and part science. His technical mastery is unrivalled. The heart and passion John pours into his photography knows no bounds.