Experiencing Bruce Barnbaum Live
I’ve had the pleasure of attending two of Bruce Barnbaum’s legendary photography workshops, The High Sierra to Death Valley workshop in Death Valley and Lone Pine, California, in November of 2012, and Fine Art Photography in Heidelberg, Germany, in September of 2014.
Bruce Barnbaum is considered one of the greatest landscape photographers of our time. Most of his work is done on black-and-white, large-format film. But he is not only an outstanding photographer and probably one of the best photographic printers; he is also a wonderful educator. Every year, photographers from around the world attend his workshops, many of whom are professional photographers themselves. What is it that makes these events so desirable, so immensely valuable?
Of course, it is a real experience to go out on shooting sessions with Bruce, long before dawn. Days often start at five o’clock in the morning and end around midnight, with Bruce carrying his enormous backpack with his Linhof field camera and big tripod up steep climbs while we try to keep up with this old guy. But it is the “Student Review Sessions” that make these workshops really unique. Every student is required to bring and show his or her own work during the workshop, to set it up silently, with no explanation or comment. Then Bruce and the other students have 10 minutes to study the images, after which Bruce opens the review session with a few questions and begins to solicit comments from the group. It is his style, his sensibility, his discerning comments that bring out the kind of feedback and encouragement that is invaluable for the photographer who exposes his work to these reviews.
I highly recommend taking one of Bruce Barnbaum’s workshops. Or if you can’t, get one of his books, which is how I learned about Bruce and his teaching style. His manuscript was just a spiral-bound, self-distributed book at the time, but it contained the most inspiring and intelligent writing on photography I had ever read, and I decided to make it into a book for everybody to see: The Art of Photography. After I took one of his workshops, I encouraged Bruce to sit down and collect his lectures into a book that focuses on “seeing and creativity”—this book, The Essence of Photography, is now at the printer and will be in bookstores later this month.