Saturday, August 1, 2009

Review of Mary Ellen Mark's Workshop at Center for Photography at Woodstock Part 1

Today was the first of the two day workshop that Mary Ellen Mark held at the Center for Photography at Woodstock (NY).

The staff and interns at the center are helpful, courteous, knowledgeable and fun. The facility is thankfully air conditioned since it was quite humid today.

Ms Mark arrived late without an explanation from the staff and without apology from her to the students. After arriving she stood in front of the class complained about her accommodations to a staff member then discussed plans for the public lecture this evening with her.

She spent the morning session reviewing student's portfolios There was no lecture. She had agreed to spend 7 minutes per portfolio in order to stay on schedule. Actually she spent 15+ minutes on several; one portfolio she spent less than a minute and didn't share it with the class. Never once during any review did she ask what the intent of the photographs was. She just declared she liked them or she didn't. I've never seen or heard of it being done that way.

The lunch break was 1 1/2 hours. The food was excellent. And there was plenty.

After lunch she reviewed the remainder of the portfolios keeping pretty much to schedule. Then she showed everyone her Mamiya 7II camera. After which time she seemed to be at a loss for what to do for the remainder of the time. Finally she showed one of her husband's films. During the brief Q&A session following the film she often gave vague or incomplete answers. Even to ones as straightforward as what do you do to research a subject prior to a portrait session.

Although I respect Ms Mark as a photographer her lack of professional conduct in the classroom was disconcerting. I lost respect for her as a person when she slandered a fellow Magnum photographer in front of the class. Accusing him of illegal and immoral behavior based on here-say from some of her students.

Day two of the workshop consists of going to the Ulster County Fair and taking pictures. We're scheduled to meet at the gate at 11AM breaking for lunch at 12:45 and then having a final meeting at 4:30. She is supposed to spend time with each student during the day. I'll have part two of my review tomorrow.

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