clowns bubbles kids parc Barcelona

Barcelona workshop with Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb, March 2011

old hospital barcelona barri gotic

Old Hospital

Barcelona: Exploring Your Vision

With Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

26.03-02.04, 2011

The announcement in Aperture newsletter was burning my mind. Barcelona. Street photography. The price and requirement of the digital camera (which I did not have at the time) had a somewhat cooling effect. However, something was still lingering with the possibility and made me write another inquiry very past the deadline if there were any places still left. It was new year’s eve and it felt special to receive the following line as a reply: “We have two more spaces for Barcelona. Please be quick if you want to join in!” Thus, I made it as a belated present from myself for my 30st birthday and a New Year’s present.

January was spent consulting with friends and reading all sorts of reviews in order to find a decent yet affordable digital camera. It arrived in February and I had about month and a half to figure out how the digital world works… Sunday meetings with Nicolas Zea, Colombian photographer and cameraman, who found his refuge in Sweden, and other friends interested in photography, helped me to cover the basics of the digital photography. These meetings unintentionally grew into sort of a photo-club that was running for quite some time here in Umea. It was interesting to discuss there and see reaction of my Turkish friends on the Alex Webb’s book “Istanbul: City of a Hundred Names”. I also got “Violet Isle” by both Alex and Rebecca to acquaint myself with their work.

Before the workshop commences we were recommended to read a few books: G.Orwell “Homage to Catalonia”, R.Hughes “Barcelona” and I.Falcones “Cathedral of the Sea”. I managed to fully read only the last one. When ordering the book I had a gut feeling that it should be a church I stumbled upon on my first visit to Barcelona in November 2007. I remember that trip very vividly. What struck me then – how walkable the city is. How different in character are its districts, yet they fall together in amazing puzzle that is just made for exploration on foot. It was such a pleasure to walk aimlessly around, without any specific agenda.. Of course, I wanted to see Gaudi’s masterpieces and other known sites of Barcelona. But I just let my feet bring me places and I’d be happy to see whatever I would stumble upon. I was amazed by how intuitive the city is and how many things one can do in one day. In one of those wanderings I went inside a church and it engulfed me with its special atmosphere. I stayed inside for quite a while, just breathing it in, like a sponge. The church didn’t have any special look from the outside, but inside it would open up all its beauty and it felt very calming somehow. It was giving a serene feeling, and feeling of connectedness to that place. Couldn’t remember the name, but recognized it immediately once saw the images – Santa Maria del Mar. (Should scan photographs from that trip… it would be interesting to compare now..)

Our street photography workshop group was accommodated near this church in Barri Gòtic. First few days were reserved to get to know each other, our interests in photography and to get the feel of the city as well. Each participant was asked to bring 30-40 prints “of the work that you most care about”. I don’t know what others experienced, but I felt like I was stripped naked when it was my turn to show them…

The next five days were filled with shootings, morning reviews of the work done the previous day and evening were reserved for some social activities. It was an intensive workshop and it took me some time for everything to sink in, to digest.. Since I had no idea what to expect, I didn’t have any predefined expectations really, was just openly going with the flow. Altogether, it was a very enriching experience. A mixture of wonder, amusement, curiosity, frustration, anxiety, back pain, inability to understand, flow of moments or total emptiness, being lost, changes in inspiration, discovery, joy, sadness, lack of sleep, bewilderment, good company and gratitude. There were days full of excitement and moments that just screamed to be captured. There were very empty days, when everything seemed so dull..

Besides feedback on our daily shooting results, we covered many other aspects of photography world. We tried our best at editing and sequencing not only our own images, but also we had an opportunity to exercise with Alex’s slides on the light-tables. We had a few occasions to discuss the bookmaking process, the idea, the editing, the sequencing and the design of the final product. We saw the dummy of an already published book. We became part of the process of Rebecca’s work becoming a book – “My Dakota”. We also had a chance to see actual prints and get to know the decision making about the format and the size and other issues related to exhibiting own work.. Trent gave us an intro to the Light Room and made a handy tutorial as well.

The workshop was designed with a great taste. Both figuratively and literally. Besides the photography topics, we had a lecture on Barcelona, its history, artists, architecture and tips for places to go to photograph. There was an evening with the Spanish guitar music and an evening with tasting the local wines, cheeses and olive oil.. Every day we were continuously exploring the culinary world of Catalunya in different restaurants that Barcelona has to offer. A full immersion into the culture…

This gallery is the tangible result of the workshop (pictures were edited by Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb). Another tangibles appeared on my bookshelves following recommendations: Saul Leiter (am still hunting for his “Early Color” book), “Signs & Relics” and “Goings on about Town” by Sylvia Plachy, “Street Seen” and “The Contact Sheet”. Intangible results manifest themselves gradually and at times when I least expect them..

I feel that I was lucky to be part of all the processes during the workshop. And I am very grateful for it! The unforgettable “hop, hop!” of Anne Lise Flavik.. and other surprises of her very special organizational skills. Many useful and practical tips from Trent.

It was a real pleasure to be part of the group along with

Annette Soelter
Carolina Sanchez-Monge
Dahlia Verjee
Dilla Djalil-Daniel
Eddy Hermans
Gwen Cattaneo Adorno
Jon Ingmundsen
Lisa Gilby
Magnus Sundberg
Margreeth Vroom
Sandra Cattaneo Adorno
Sarah Dinnick
Tove Lauluten
Victor Rafel Gonzales
Willy Eger
Yngve Vogt

Hope we meet again!

Reflecting on it one year later I am amazed by the amount of energy Alex and Rebecca put into it. I still wonder how they actually do it – reviewing such an amount of images per day? What is their “box with coffee” that helps to clear the sight and move on to new set of perfumes? Some other open questions that I am wondering about – how does one keep a fresh eye, so to speak? How to let go the images that keep on flowing in the mind after a whole day of shooting? What makes one image work and another not work? It’s such a thin line always.. and quite subjective also…