As you’ve probably already heard from anyone whose been before, the Eddie Adams workshop is a life changing experience. That’s not an exaggeration. The people you meet there are people that you’ll know for the rest of your life, and the experiences you have there will be memories you treasure for a long, long time. To be a part of it is a badge of honor that no one can ever take from you.
Iv’e always wanted to write a blog post about what i learned at Eddie Adams, but for now I want to share what advice I can offer from putting together a portfolio to how you can make the most of the experience. Some of this advice may be obvious, but I hope there will be something useful to you.
Iv’e attached my submitted portfolio and cover letter as a reference for anyone whose interested.
Cover Letter: EAWApplication
Apply. Even if you don’t think you’ll get in.
I was 18 and had been seriously persuing photojournalism for a little more than a year when I first applied to Eddie Adams. While I was coming along as a shooter, I didn’t think I was nearly at the level of others who I knew were applying. Despite that, I applied anyway. There’s no way to know whether or not you’ll get in, but I would say $50 dollars for the chance is worth it.
Even if you aren’t selected as one of the 100 students, there’s still a chance for you to go. In addition to the 100 selects, the workshop also designates an additional six people to be on standby as alternates in the event that one or more of the 100 selected are unable to attend. It may not sound like much of a chance, but it’s the reason I was able to go.
Photo Editors want to see how you see.
To put that into perspective, my friend and former fellow SF Chronicle intern Kevin Hume (whose now working as a full time shooter at Klamath Falls, go Kevin!) asked one of the Chronicle photo staffers if they had any advice for us interns. As I remember it, she said to him “A lot of interns make the mistake of shooting how they think the photo editors want them to shoot. Don’t do that. They chose you because they liked the way you see. They want you. So shoot how you shoot”.
To place that thinking in the mindset of portfolios; I was getting my portfolio reviewed at one of NPPA’s annual photojournalism seminars, and during one review with a senior photo editor, he said to me “Every year we have our summer internship program, and out of the applicants we’ll get 30 to 50 or so portfolios from people at (insert respected institutions here) and to be honest, I often can’t tell any of them apart”
The point I’m trying to make is how important it is not to only show your best work, but to show work that best represents you. We all have cameras; it’s how we see that sets us apart.
Have diversity in your portfolio, but not just for diversity’s sake
While having a portfolio that displays your shooting versatility is great, it’s important to not fall into the trap of creating a “look i can shoot (insert subject here)” portfolio. Case in point: A friend of mine was looking through my portfolio some time after the workshop, and he stopped on a photo that I thought was good because it had been published on the front of a large prestigious newspaper. I told him why it was in there, only for him to ask me “beyond showing me that you can shoot lightning, what else does this show me about your work?”. Not enough to justify keeping it in my portfolio.
Share your portfolio with teachers and others you look up to
Get as much input as you can from others. Photographers rarely make good self-editors, and others will show you aspects of your work that you may not have even been aware of.
Take lots of pictures & Bring a recorder.
How many times have you heard a great piece of advice during a lecture or were told something really encouraging from someone at a portfolio review, only to not quite be able to remember what was said even a few weeks later? I started making recordings of lectures as far back as EAW, some of which i still have for anyone whose interested (id attach them here but my free plan won’t let me).I’d highly recommend bringing a recorder of some kind like an H4n so you can work the levels to where your sitting in the room during lectures, but if worse comes to worse the recorder on your phone is better than nothing.
Seriously, Soak up every moment as best as you possibly can.
Check out the list of people who will be participating at the workshop. Check out their bios,their photos and their particular styles. The more you know about who will be there, the better you’ll be at knowing who you’ll want to direct some of your questions to. Also, Knowing who’s who at the workshop in advance will serve you when it’s time for portfolio reviews, making your task of choosing who you want to be reviewed by a lot less agonizing.
Take advantage of the portfolio reviews
Again, obvious. But at 18 I wish I had taken more advantage of them. Also, just because your given a fixed number of allotted review times doesn’t actually mean you can’t have any more reviews than that. If there’s someone you really want to have look at your portfolio, wait until they’re done reviewing or approach them somewhere else. Remember that they’re at the workshop for you! Which leads into the next thing…
Don’t be Shy!
There are so many opportunities throughout the weekend for you to not only make connections with photographers and editors you emulate and admire, but to make friends with your fellow students! Even just asking people if you can look at their portfolio goes a long way. Seriously, the best takeaway there is from this workshop is the friendships you make there.
Plan on getting very little sleep.
This one may go without saying, but whatever keeps you going; cigarettes, caffeine pills, red bull, whatever, make sure to bring a decent stock of it. By the 3rd morning you’ll be hearing things like “you got 4 hours of sleep? wow, good for you!” official workshop activities last until the late evening, and afterwards everyone hits the bar to socialize. It’s a great opportunity to talk with some of the people you’ve always looked up to in a casual setting, and again, getting to know your fellow students.