A few weeks ago, I attended the Foundation Workshop. This is a workshop I’ve been wanting to participate in for years. I believe strongly in working hard to improve your craft and learning from people you admire. The Foundation Workshop is just that, and more. It’s a photojournalism workshop for wedding photographers, run by the best in the business. Incredible talent and heart -they teach you how to be better photographers and somehow you also come out of it wanting to be a better person.
This year it was based in a small town in Texas called Glen Rose. The students are given an assignment and sent out on their own to photograph that story over the course of two days. At the end of each day, all the students meet up and get critiqued by the team leaders. I knew it was going to be tough -there is no easy way out, no excuses for missing a shot, only ways you can improve. I loved it. It was the hardest week of my career. And the best.
My assignment was to photograph a county animal shelter. They have a small facility and are overrun with animals. As much as they try to find them homes, there are certainly many who get euthanized. This was incredibly hard for me to watch, let alone photograph. I thank my mentor Erwin for showing up at just the right time and talking me through that…
The images I’m showing (we are allowed to show only two) tell a little story. This is a couple who were saying goodbye to their dog. The dog had been staying with friends of theirs and bit a little girl. A dog bite requires a 10-day stay in quarantine to check for rabies. The couple didn’t have enough money ($340) to pay for the quarantine, so they made the hard choice of letting him go. Watching this guy staring at his dog and saying goodbye was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. **
I want to thank the good people at the Animal Control for letting me document their lives for two days. While it was very sad at times, it was also a lot of fun riding around and hearing their stories. Thanks for being so open with me and for all the hard work you guys do to help these animals have better lives.
Thank you to my mentors, Erwin Damali and Kirsten Lewis. Your support and guidance was wonderful, thank you so much for being there for me and for everything you taught me. Thank you to Janine Mcclintock for keeping us all in line and on time. I think we would have been a mess without you. Thank you to all the fellow students in room 318! You guys are the BEST. I’m so happy I got to walk through this experience with you all by my side. Thanks for the laughter, wine, snacks, pillows, and support.
My team leader, Tyler Wirken. Oh my lord, you are a gem. Before the workshop, when I told friends that I was on your team, I’d get this “knowing nod” from them. Now I get it. You are a true teacher, you opened up your heart and brain and gave it over to us. Thank you so much for your generosity, humor, for being so tough and expecting the best. The lessons you taught me will be with me for life. Side note: Tyler was just named one of the Top Ten Wedding Photographers in the world by American Photo Magazine. Dude.
If you, like me, have been wanting to go for years, I highly recommend it. Yes, it’s expensive and yes, it’s worth every penny. 🙂
**Yes, I really, really wanted to pay the $340 cost to cover the stay in quarantine. However, the day before I had also seen the awful photo of the little girl who had been bitten in the face by this dog. While I desperately wanted to help out this couple, I was also very afraid that interfering could lead to another bite or an even worse attack. This is the nature of what the staff encounters on a daily basis -being stuck between a rock and a hard place.