This ten day, intensive, one-on-one workshop brought film maker James Rhodes to Bangladesh to begin an in-depth project. James worked for many years in the entertainment industry and worked on several Oscar winning films including The Lord of The Rings and Crash before switching to documentary work.
The workshop was focused on capturing the plight and lives of Rohingya refugees, a Muslim ethnic group from western Burma. Thousands of Rohingya have fled Burma and ended up in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh. They have found themselves trapped in an impossible situation, unable to return home to Burma for fear of violence or death but unable to stay and work legally in Bangladesh. James wanted to document the lives of the Rohingya people in hopes of bringing light to their stories, which often go unheard.
The workshop began in Dhaka where Zoriah led James through the essentials of planning a story, making connections, dealing with government officials and logistics involved in shooting a difficult project in a remote location. Zoriah used his extensive experience with such issues to guide James in the process of not only planning a story but completely following through with it.
The workshop then moved to rural Bangladesh near the Burmese border. Here James was guided through subjects such as photographing people in difficult situations, working in refugee camps, visual storytelling and documentation and numerous other subjects. A translator needed to be hired in order to translate interviews for the video portion of James' documentary as well as a local driver. Each day new challenges were faced and overcome or at least worked around. A major part of photojournalism is being able to adapt to constantly changing situations and a great deal of the workshop content revolved around how to do this in each different situation.
James came away from the workshop with not only an excellent set of documentary images showing the plight of the Rohingya refugees but also enough video documentation to begin work on a feature length documentary on the subject. Going from someone who had not been outside of the borders of the United States to someone who has completed a large amount of documentary work on a difficult subject in only a matter of weeks was a true accomplishment and something James can be very proud of.
After the worst oil spill in the history of the United States, lives of humans and animals in the Gulf of Mexico were changed forever. Yet few photographers and photojournalists were there to document this human and environmental disaster.
This seven day workshopbrought Sage Lewis to Louisiana to embark on the difficult task of documenting a catastrophe that was difficult to gain access to. Zoriah coached Sage in everything that is required of a photographer when documenting in these difficult situations. From embarking on a story with few leads and very little solid information to finishing one week later with exceptional photo stories showing the severity of this spill, Zoriah and Sage produced images that have since been used around the world to illustrate this disaster.
Zoriah tought sage how to work with military and governmental officials in order to gain access to an oil spill that was off limits to many. They worked with the US Coast Guard and the Department of Fish and Wildlife on a daily basis, visiting locations such as a bird rescue and rehabilitation center, oil soaked marshlands and seas, local villages and peoples affected by the spill, releif operations, clean-up operations and environmental research being conducted by scientists.
Although this workshop proved to be more exhuasting than others, they were able to cover a massive amount of ground and subject matter, producing photo essays that showed sides to this disaster seen and captured by very few, including large publications and media outlets.
"I just completed my week-long workshop with Zoriah exploring the Gulf Coast Oil Spill. To give you a point of reference, I’m a father, husband, small business owner and (once upon a time) a cellist - that’s what I went to college for. I’m 38.
For the last several years I have been getting progressively more interested in my personal amateur photography. I have been taking pictures, off and on, since high school. My kid, Indiana, is currently 5. His presence in my life has made me want to be a better photographer. I feel that these years are very special for all of us in our family. They will happen once and then be gone. I would like to capture them to the best of my ability.
You should also know that I have had the good fortune of studying with some great teachers, in my music pursuits. I’ve studied with principal cellists from major orchestras. I’ve studied at some of the premier music academies. And I’ve also studied with one of the greatest cellists of our time... I know what a good teacher is.
I tell you all this because I believe my one week workshop with Zoriah will probably go down as one of the greatest learning moments in my life. I believe the depth and quality of my life has grown significantly by having this week experience with Zoriah.
When you participate in Zoriah’s photography workshop you are getting a complete immersion program in learning all the ins and outs of photojournalism. Zoriah would often tell me that each workshop he has done is very different from the next. I’m quite sure that’s true because Zoriah takes such great concern to understand your goals for the workshop. He is incredibly sensitive in making sure you get as much as you possibly can.
On top of being one of the great photojournalists he is also a great teacher. He would often ask me if I had any questions or how I felt the workshop was going. He wanted to make sure I was getting exactly what I wanted out of it. He was very patient and thoughtful of my particular learning style.
The effort he puts into these workshops is Herculean. In my case, he drove a minimum of 4 hours every day getting us in and out of where all the action was. We had to do this because this disaster was happening in several hard-to-get-to destinations. Zoriah put in a minimum of 12 hour days... with the last day requiring us to get up at 3:00am to catch a boat to photograph oil soaked marshlands for 7 hours and then driving 2 hours back to our hotel.. (I should say, he is also always pleasant to be around. He is kind and courteous every single minute.)
When you participate in Zoriah’s photography workshop you are getting a one-on-one, highly customized experience. He can, and has, worked with professional photographers as well as working with amateurs like me. I was concerned I might be getting in over my head. But he always made me feel comfortable.
Off the top of my head, some of the bigger things I got from the workshop were:
Gaining access to the military and officials in charge of a disaster.
Where and when to look for the best potential pictures.
How to go about getting a great picture.
Great editing techniques and secrets of the photojournalism trade.
A huge resource of videos and written material.
In my workshop I got to see very clearly reporters and journalists not doing the process well... and how a serious, hardened professional like Zoriah did things right. (It was literally shocking to see the mistakes other professionals were making as Zoriah effortlessly (or so it looked on the outside) glided through gaining access to the best stories and pictures to be had at my particular workshop.
After this workshop I feel like I have the tools to create pictures that look professional. And I also know how to chase down a story. I’m already planning my next photojournalism assignment. Zoriah also has a lot of experience and information on how to make this a career. This workshop would definitely be highly valuable for a person looking to get into the photojournalism profession. That didn’t happen to be the goal for my case.
If you want your pictures, and your photographic storytelling, to get significantly better incredibly quickly, please consider Zoriah’s photography workshop. I promise you will be so thankful you did. If you want to talk to me more about my experiences and thoughts on the workshop feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to talk to you about it.
Thanks Zoriah... for an experience of a lifetime!"
This ten day intensive workshop brought Luc Forsyth to Dhaka, Bangladesh to work on a story on child labor. Luc had experience working a writer and photographer for a small magazine in South Korea but was at a loss for how to proceed. Like many new and amateur photographers he was struggling with how to take his photography and his career to the next level.
Zoriah designed a challenging workshop for Luc. The took on the subject of child labor by visiting dozens of factories, sweat shops and other places where children from the age of six and up work long hours sometimes every day of the week. Zoriah coached Luc in how to search out his subject matter, approach and photograph them. He showed him how to build full length feature stories on heavy, journalistic subject matter and how to then market that material to photo agencies, editors and most importantly how to go about starting his own business.
Since his workshop and t the time this was written Luc has already worked in eight new countries producing a wide variety of powerful new photo stories and has built a professional portfolio that he is currently presenting to photo agencies in Canada, the United States and Europe.
Adelaide Lin received her MA in Visual Communications and later went on to study photography at SPEOS in Paris. With a deep understanding of art and the visual medium, Adelaide wanted to learn about photographing people in intimate and difficult situations. She knew that conflict photography and highly emotional subject matter were not for her, but wanted to learn how to approach stories with social significance on her own, so that she could pursue documentary photography for NGO's. Becauase of this we worked hard to build a workshop for Adelaide that would provide her with documentary subject matter yet also have an uplifting and positive message and outcome.
Adelaide's ten day intensive workshop focused on the lives and struggles of children living in the slums of Bangkok who study Mai Thai (kickboxing) in order to live a life away from gangs and drugs and with the potential for wealth and fame. The story exlored the living conditions in the slums, the childrens lives on the streets, the home lives of slum children, the kickboxing programs for slum children and the ex-fighters who devote their time to keeping the kids in the rings and off the streets.
Subjects covered during the workshop included: Gaining access to difficult subject matter, photographing people up close and personal, visual storytelling, staying safe photographing in potentially dangerous areas, producing photo stories for NGO's, building a photojournalism portfolio, editing (including archive management, building presets, advanced editing techniques such as black and white editing with HSL sliders, exporting for print/web etc.) technical skills in photography specific to photojournalism (how to capture the decisive moment, metering, shooting in low light etc.)
This five day workshop was focused solely on covering the aftermath of a major natural disaster, the Haitian Earthquake. Kasper Nybo, a workshop student with a background in graphic work and close family connections to the international aid community, sought the tools necessary to not only work in an extremely difficult situation but also produce high quality images geared for use by humanitarian aid organizations and NGO's.
Photographing the aftermath of disasters requires both skill and compassion. The ability to relate to your subjects, at least to some degree is essential. For that reason as well as reasons of safety (even seemingly solid and still standing structures are incredibly dangerous after earthquakes due to aftershocks and compromised structural integrity,) Zoriah and Kasper slept in tents. The stayed on the property of Hospice St Joseph which was used in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake as a shelter for the displaced and at the time of the workshop was being used as an outdoor medical clinic and school as well as housing half a dozen locals in make-shift, outdoor quarters. Along with their other projects Zoriah and Kasper photographed several stories for Hospice St Joseph to be used for raising awareness of those they care for as well as fundraising to help rebuild their main building
Kasper was interested in producing a story on the public health situation in Haiti, so the workshops focus was geared towards this. Good visual storytelling involves putting together many different yet related subjects to form a story that is dynamic, interesting for the viewer and gives an accurate portrayal of the situation. To do this the public health story was told on many levels. On the streets they captured images of poor sanitation, lack of adequate food and drinking water as well as stray animals which may carry disease. In the refugee camps they documented the terrible conditions people live in, the lack of mosquito nets which pose further risk of disease and many other subjects. In the hospitals they followed foreign medical staff providing aid as well as local doctors. They shot in the morgue, the neonatal ward, intake/triage, people injured in rubble and those suffering from disease. Each of their stories were donated to the International Medical Corps for use in fundraising and Zoriah's images have also been donated to and are being used by Medicins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders.)
In addition to the general public health situation, an intimate look into the life and struggles of the Haitian people after the earthquake was a necessary piece to the story. Zoriah and Kasper spent two days photographing a young girl whose mother had been killed in the quake and was now being cared for by a young member of her extended family. Living in terrible conditions with a lack of proper sanitation, access to clean water and proper food, the family struggles, especially with a new member.
This ten day intensive workshop brought photography student Anais Dodson to Haiti. The workshop was designed to fit Anais' needs with a focus on photographing people, documentary photography, editing and the marketing and business side of photojournalism.
The workshop began in Port au Prince where the first day was spent as if setting up for an editorial assignment: making local contacts, researching possible stories, setting up a local mobile phone and working on the logistics involved in shooting an assignment abroad. The second day was spent narrowing down story ideas and getting Anais comfortable with approaching and photographing perfect strangers.
The workshop then moved into the process of visual storytelling and how to begin shooting a photographic story. Zoriah and Anais had several story ideas at this point and went to a local prison to try to begin shooting a story on the large number of homeless, juvenile detainees in an overcrowded prison system. They later decided that day that the bureaucracy of acquiring government permission to shoot in the prisons would be too difficult to deal with and decided to pursue another story idea they had come up with.
Since Anais was not only interested in capturing good images and good stories but also making a living from doing so, they decided that capturing a multidimensional story in Haiti would be the most interesting and also the most marketable.
Zoriah and Anais decided to focus the workshop around a story on the social and environmental impact of charcoal use in Haiti. Only two percent of Haiti's trees remain, after years of cutting to supply the nation with charcoal. The solution is not easy as Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and much of its population lives in dire poverty without resources to cook with anything other than charcoal. to make matters worse, the deforested areas give way to soil erosion and disasters such as massive mudslides which plunge the country and its population into an even deeper state of poverty.
To examine this story in-depth, Zoriah and Anais photographed business such as restaurants and dry cleaners which rely on coal for energy. They also visited City Soleil, the largest slum in Haiti where residents rely on coal to cook their food. They photographed the docks where coal is unloaded from boats by laborers as well as a rural area where they photographed the process of charcoal being made. The final four days of the workshop were spent trekking into an extremely remote area to visit the last remaining forested area in Haiti, which is quickly being torn down to produce more charcoal. They photographed both those who rely on cutting down trees to survive and those who try to prevent them and spread awareness about the environmental impact of destroying the forest.
All of these elements came together to make a wonderful feature story that both Zoriah and Anais were proud of.
Xilia Faye, a professional photographer for five years, joined Zoriah in Ethiopia for a ten day intensive photojournalism workshop experience. Xilia was s interested in exploring the world of photojournalism and documentary photography while also experiencing a new culture.
The workshop was set up to focus both on shooting and editing. Xilia was interested in both social documentary photography focusing on the lives of the Ethiopian people as well as environmental photography so Zoriah tailored the workshop to her needs and goals.
The workshop began in Addis Ababa, the bustling capital city of Ethiopia. They hired a local driver and translator and set out to visit some of the more impoverished areas of the city. They spent time with several families in their homes in slum villages as well as on the streets photographing the residents daily activities. They also visited the main dumpsite outside of the city where they documented children working in the terrible conditions in order to survive. Zoriah and Xilia also spent some time in a small neighborhood which was slated for demolition in order for the government to offer the land up to commercial developers. There they captured residents in the few weeks before they wold be displaced from what many of them had called home for their entire lives.
The second half of the workshop was spent trekking to and photographing in the remote but incredibly unique and beautiful landscape of the Danakil Depression. Rarely photographed do to its remote location and problems with armed conflicts and kidnappings near the Eritrean border, the Danakil Depression looks like something out of a science fiction movie and produces stunning photographs. The salt flats that also find their home in the region provided Zoriah and Xilia with a photographic look into the lives of the salt transporter who walk four days straight in camel processions to bring salt to outlying villages.
Both Zoriah and Xilia shot several thousand images each covering a huge variety of subject matter from the lives and struggles of impoverished Ethiopians to the natural wonders of a incredibly divers country.
"I recently took a workshop with Zoriah in Uganda. My specific interests were in women’s and children’s issues and he did an excellent job of tailoring the workshop to compliment those interests. We spent 10 days making contacts, following different leads, and capturing the heart of several different issues that are prominent here in Kampala, Uganda.
He really shed some light on the world of international photojournalism. Not only did he do an excellent job of teaching me the key aspects of visual storytelling, he also showed me the reality of life as photojournalist; a career that from the outside would appear to be mainly quite glamorous. We photographed a lot of really tough material and it gave me a true sense of the patience and compassion needed when creating photographical stories about very sensitive issues. By conducting his workshops in a real world environment, I learned skills that I never would have in a classroom setting.
The experience of a one on one workshop with Zoriah was invaluable to my photographical development. In comparison to taking classes in a normal group setting, the workshop was specifically tailored to meet my needs. I walked away from his workshop with many skills for improving my own photography company, dramatically enhanced photo editing skills, and a really clear understanding of visual storytelling."
"The workshop was as educational as it was challenging, particularly in the face of a difficult environment for finding and shooting stories. It was exactly what I needed and clearly had a positive effect on the quality of my work in a short period of time. 100% recommended.
The workshop would include a review of each day’s shooting, lessons on camera technique, style, and what I’m calling “social engineering” (how to work with people to tell their stories). We also delved into philosophy, ethics, and respect: cornerstones of photojournalism.
I would absolutely recommend a workshop with Zoriah. The workshop was the most rewarding experience I’d had and justified not attending school. Fundamentally, I learned how to enter a country and be able to leave it with a story no matter what and I could not have learned how in a school. Given the situation, we drew on Zoriah’s experiences to cope and he had plenty. He was available 24/7 once in country, is a natural teacher, was focused on making me a better me rather than a Zoriah-clone, was vastly experienced, and a really nice guy to boot. I came away with more confidence in my ability to find a story, engage with subjects, shoot, and process. Overall, the quality of my work improved noticeably over the ten day workshop."
Dhaka, Bangladesh was home to this seven day workshop with student Earl Baumgardner. Earl entered the workhsop with several years of media experience covering disasters around the world including Hurricane Katrina, Jamaica and the Earthquake in Port au Prince, Haiti. Earl's goals were to further his work in the field of humanitarian photography and multi-media production.
The workshop began with an in-depth review of the images Earl captured the week before in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. Subjects such as visual storytelling, editing technique, organization were covered in depth. There was a focus on how to work with clients such as aid organizations, charities and other humanitarian groups and make that work a viable income. From approaching a new client to providing a quality final product for the organization that will help them with their goals and missions, all aspects of the business side of humanitarian photojournalism were covered.
The workshop was a mix of shooting in the field and editing, portfolio and website building and business practices. While shooting in the field Zoriah and Earl documented a make-shift village where homeless Bangladeshi's had been living for over 25 years. The photographed life in this streetside village from the young children to the most elderly residents.
In field shooting also focused on life in Old Dhaka and the workers wich make this industrial area a visually stimulating place to shoot. From hard labor to small shops and open-air markets, Earl and Zoriah captured a wide variety of images and completed many photographic exercises and "mini assignments" in order to further hone Earls skills shooting and working in the business of photojournalism.
"Zoriah has managed to find an original and artistic way to bring light to important issues. I have been following his work for years and he has continuously and consistently produced images that strike and inspire. Working along side Zoriah has been a truly memorable experience."
"As anyone knows, trying to break into the profession of photojournalism can be quite a mystery. You can spend hours in the classroom learning how to operate your camera and still know nothing about what it takes to develop a story and see that story though to the end. This was my reason for doing a workshop with Zoriah. To get that real life experience that I so needed. Zoriah's ability to understand what you want out of time with him is quite amazing. He was able to show me how he goes about meeting contacts, developing a story and working with people when language is a constant barrier. Every day we were out photographing so constantly being on the go meant I had many opportunities to watch him work.
Editing your images is also a big part of spending time with Zoriah. His ability to see quality in something that others might dismiss is amazing. To pick out a set of images that work well together and turn that into a story that captures the viewer's eye is a very important aspect to a photojournalist's work and he will spend plenty of time helping you hone this ability.
I would honestly say that my time with Zoriah was equal to many months in a formal photography school. I feel like my ability as a photographer and also my confidence have taken huge leaps during my time with him. Prior to this experience I was leery about going out on my own to work on a project in areas that might be considered less than safe but now I feel like I have the tools to work on these projects myself. "
"I don't know where the camera will take me from here - whether it will stay on the backburner as a hobby and I'll return to a desk job in Manhattan, or whether I'll push forward attempting to cut it as a photojournalist and full time photographer on the road. Either way, my workshop with Zoriah in Turkey was an incredibly rich experience that I know will stick with me.
We faced our fair share of challenges during our week of shooting refugees in the Kumkapi neighborhood of Istanbul. Uncooperative and unreliable subjects, bad weather, threatening locals. Despite these minor hurdles - or perhaps because of them - I got an honest look at the grind of a photojournalist and how to make the most of any situation. For me, the learnings in working with locals effectively and ethically, techniques in editing, shooting, and story-telling, and the general wisdom shared by Zoriah at every turn were invaluable.
Zoriah's work speaks for itself, but I'll add that he's a class act who doesn't try to mold students in his own image, and encourages finding and honing your own vision. It doesn't hurt that he's an all around rad guy with the kind of sense of humor that I suspect is important in this line of work. If you're reading this then you're probably seriously considering a workshop, so let me add my voice to the chorus of "just do it's""
"Weither you have just started photography or are a photography professional, you are reading this for one reason: you would like to take your photography to the next level.
Well, let me tell you my little story to make this decision easier for you:
I have always loved photography. Like many people I always had the habit of snapping pictures whenever I saw something nice such as landscapes, people, wildlife, still life or just about anything. Then one day you look back at all these photographs you have taken over the years and compare them with what you see in magazines and books and you think "jeez! I have a long way to go." And yes, it is a long way to go. It is tough, exhausting, stressful, worrying and seemingly impossible. You try to teach yourself as much as possible by reading, going to exhibitions, meeting professional photographers, etc.... You want it so bad, but you just don't know where to start and how to achieve what you want.
This was pretty much how I felt. My photography wasnt too bad but there was obviously a lot more work to be done. l had the basic skills. I knew how to handle a camera and take good photographs. But I did not know what it takes to make good photographs become great ones. How can I improve I editing? Do I want to make a living out of this? How do I get started? How do I sell myself? How do I approach photo agencies or talk to a photo editor?...... I had all these questions but didn't know who to ask.
The reason I'm telling you this is that, just like you, I wanted make my photography a lot better and take my work to a professional level. I had spent days and weeks and months looking at other photographers and then I found Zoriah's workshops online. I thought "what, that much money for a workshop???? That's crazy!!!!!" It took me weeks to decide and was not an easy decision to make.
Then I got to the workshop and I realised that what I was doing would save me years of research and trial and error. Of course I knew it would not actually find me a job and that Zoriah is not going to hold the camera for me (although he would have if i had asked him :) But what I got out of this workshop was priceless.
Any question you have will get answered. Zoriah will give you a tailor made experience and everything will be based on your needs. He won't teach you facts, he will fully explain things to you and make everything as easy as possible.
If you want to have a career, you've got to have to make decisions. He will reassure you and he will tell you everything you need to know. If he thinks some of your work is rubbish, he will tell you. If he thinks some of your work is great, he will also tell you. Throughout the workshop, it's about YOU. Your needs. Whatever question you have; ask him.
I don't regret a minute spent with Zoriah! He is a chameleon and he adapts himself very easily to every situation. He will give you his best...
Now it's your turn to take your decision but don't hesitate too long. Time is money!
If you have any questions on my experience with Zoriah and his workshop please feel free to contact me."
"Recent 2013 workshop, awaiting student testimonial"
"As someone who’s had some years of experience working as a freelance photojournalist, I’ve been confronted with some hurdles and walls more times than I could count. For someone who’s never travelled to a third world country on their own, excluding travel with NGO’s, the experience can be a very daunting one. You can’t help but think of all the horror stories and worst case scenarios.
Zoriah changed that. His workshop was the best investment I ever made towards the betterment of my photography skills and travel experience. Zoriah kept me safe and confident throughout the workshop. He’s taught me tips and tricks on how not to be taken advantage of and how to work in difficult situations. His incredible experience travelling as a photojournalist helped me gain insight on how to deal with situations and subjects in countries most people would find nerve raking.
Going into the workshop I could say I was pretty much a text book shooter and editor, Zoriah taught me not to limit myself with rules and I tried things in the workshop that I might not have tried before for fear of stepping over the boundaries of traditional shooting and editing. The results where nothing short of fantastic! Coming out of the workshop has made me feel ten times the photographer I was. I feel more confident now and seeing things in a manner that helps me tell stories instead of just snapping good photographs.
Zoriah is a great inspiration for me to become the photographer I have always wanted to be. He has achieved much at his young age that most experienced veterans in the field could not achieve in a lifetime. I would know.
What I have to say to Zoriah is: “Spread the light, keep swimming and be safe”
Thanks for everything!"
"I I recently returned from a 10 day intensive workshop with Zoriah Miller documenting the lives of impoverished children throughout Uganda.
My husband and I came across Zoriah after researching photographers that specialized in humanitarian photojournalism. The specific issues I wanted to document were focused on children and included babies suffering from AIDS, orphans and street children. I was willing to travel to just about anywhere but my heart was set on traveling to Uganda. After my initial review of Zoriah I was informed that he was in Uganda with another workshop student. After a couple of conversations with him I was booking my flight to Kampala.
Zoriah knew the importance of my work and the goals I set for myself and he made every effort to make certain these goals were met, both prior to my arrival and consistently throughout my stay in Uganda. International photojournalism was new to me and I did not know what to expect, but I arrived with open eyes and a willingness to shoot everything.
My workshop expectations were exceeded beyond anything I could have imagined. Zoriah spent hours with me discussing important aspects of visual story-telling and provided volumes of information, much more than I ever anticipated I would receive. He also reviewed and critiqued my work daily. Zoriah taught me to always be thinking about what’s important when photographing my subjects, to be prepared and to always think ahead in order to get what I wanted to capture.
I have been a participant with other workshops, however after experiencing a one-on-one photographic workshop with not only a respected and talented photographer but knowledgeable about humanitarian photojournalism. After seeing the amount of time he spent with me, his passion towards his students and work was very visible. My experience was worth more than any other workshop I had previously attended and was extremely valuable to me.
In addition to the volumes of information provided during the workshop, I am able to keep in contact with Zoriah and periodically ask questions about certain issues i come across on my career path. He has always responded, been kind and answered my questions. I believe my photography has dramatically improved."
"I decided on investing in a workshop with Zoriah because, aside from the fact that he carries a wealth of experience, knowledge and success, I greatly respect his sincerity and determination to make an impact not just as a photographer but as a storyteller, an artist and a humanitarian. I'm impressed with how he utilizes new web technologies successfully for his independent work. It enables him to reach people with stories that, as he reminds us, aren't necessarily the ones the commercial media care to tell. I decided clearly it will be far more valuable to take Zoriah's workshop than spend more money on equipment or travel. And I was right, he cleared up all the uncertainty I had in how, or even if to move forward, saved me money and stress with his practical approach to things, and in four days I improved my storytelling, editing skills, business sense and confidence level tenfold.
Our first conversation touched on a big issue for me. "How do I get close to people and take their photos without feeling like I'm exploiting or disrespecting them...I'm thinking of getting the 70-200 again (which I'd sold to move to Mexico City) but really don't want to walk around the streets here with a big lens either...I didn't think I should need it". Zoriah's response was simply, "I'll probably convince you you can save your money". Two days later I was walking around a slum area in Mexico City with my 17-55 finding myself invited into people's crumbling and crowded homes. In a short time I was visiting with an elderly woman in her borrowed little rooftop shack she calls home. Later I thought if I'd had the bigger lens I'd either never have used it, or I'd have missed out on getting close to this woman and having a conversation that gave me far more insight into life in that area then any zoom lens could. For me stories depend not on what I see or think but on what I learn from other people. It's their stories I want to tell, not mine. This experience reminded me that not only is it possible to get close without the big lens, it feels more respectful and it's more my style.
I also really appreciated Zoriah's confidence in my own abilities and artistic sense. He never tried to tell me exactly how to do something, just encouraged me to do what I believe in while sharing his thoughts and ideas for me. An annoying insecurity I had which he nicely put to rest was the fact that creativity and artistic expression were not something to shy away from in telling an honest story. I questioned and hesitated over that too much before and it held me back.
I took a pretty big personal risk when I decided to quit commercial work and go this new direction. I took the first step simply on the belief that it was right for me. It hasn't been easy and as inspired as I get, I feel equally discouraged at times. I know in my case spending the time learning on my own, and having first pushed myself though some tough emotions and first projects made Zoriah's workshop all the more meaningful and beneficial. It was a real world challenge that pushed me further both personally and professionally. I never believed this path I chose would be easy and Zoriah confirmed that it never will be, but he also confirmed for me how important it is to me to continue."