Daniel Schwartz - Modus Operandi
Philip Blenkinsop - Modus Operandi
If it applies what Alain de Botton says in his book The Art of Travel (2002), that the pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more from the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to, then it could be argued that my journey begins before I pack the gear and ends when I set down my bag on returning home. At most times I find getting into this mindset is much more difficult than being on the road. Maps I look at, books I consult confirm yet again what I already know—it will be impossible to make new factual discoveries, say, in Burma, a giant Buddha.
This realization, however, takes away a burden. It frees my mind before setting out and it frees the eye once I am on the road. A discovery thus can be anything that captures my attention. When no filter —thematically, methodically—must be implemented, when no third-parties’ exceptions must be met, then as a photographer I can be a flâneur and my subject really is the transient. In the course of the journey, the unassigned, indefinite and vague, any chance objects I may find and a sketch I may draw, the notes I record and the words I write down start to relate, and my itinerary takes shape as a diary or journal. It records my mood at the moment, a longing perhaps, my delight about an image missed or a reflection about one captured. In this record the story, if there had to be one, is secondary. The record itself becomes the story, and a personal document. Evidence of a unique experience made—folded or bound sheets, briming over with things stuck onto the pages or slim and austere like the diary Albrecht Dürer kept on his Netherlands journey 1520-1521.
Over time the visual record will become an indispensable counterpart to the photographs taken en route, but as these will have many lives, The Burmese Days journal will always remain in an edition of one precious, sole copy. We are looking forward very much to see your copies in the making!
I am acutely aware that at anytime on the road I may be surprised by an event, perhaps more likely of less than major significance but nevertheless an event which will unfold only once in such fashion in an eternity.
Thus my road trips become exhausting affairs where I am constantly choreographing the life in front of me in my mind's eye and interpreting it in real time ready to raise the camera to my eye.
The road allows us to give in to the forces at play and follow our nose. It is neither the place for agendas nor preconceived notions and there are no wrong turns.
A broken-down train is not a setback, it is a wonderful opportunity to alight and soak up the track-side theatre as people from all walks of life congregate to survey and comment on the spectacle.
Indeed, each gifted moment, no matter how insignificant it might seem at the time, has the potential to become an integral part of the narrative during the editing stages.
At the end of each day, I retire to a street-stall, or if luck might have it, a bamboo restaurant slung low over fast-moving water and with night fast falling, make small sketches of the images I have made during the course of the day. It is my way of keeping track of where I am in terms of a body of work.
Once the journey is finished and an edit is finalised, the character of the place within which I have been travelling begins to develop.
It is an honest approach in as much as I have relied on the people around me and the life unfolding to guide me in my choice of moments.
For me, there is no other way to work.
About the workshop...
One of the best ways to learn any skill is by observing master practitioners at work.
This is the reasoning behind offering such an intimate workshop experience; to ensure that participants have the invaluable opportunity to observe Daniel and Philip, seasoned exponents of their art, at work in the field.
The ability to pre-empt images and to frame, focus and shoot while moving is an art best demonstrated in such an environment
Importantly, Daniel and Philip are generous and non-possessive when it comes to the events unfolding around them, encouraging participants to go forward and engage with people, camera in hand, while offering constructive advice in real time.
Our days will be spent observing, building confidence, readying ourselves and seeking out those special moments that as photographers we live for, documenting them as they happen, whether walking the streets, journeying by train, bus or boat or simply sat at a tea shop watching the world go by.
It is these captured frames that, when pieced together to form a whole, will make each person’s journal a unique commentary on what is sure to be a memorable journey.
Leaving Rangoon, we will stay in (or in the environs of) Bago, Kyaktiyo (famous for the Golden Rock) Hpa An and finally, Moulmein.
(of course, as with any successful road-trip, the key is to always be prepared to take advantage of surprises along the way, which may mean modifications to the schedule. At times like this it is important to remember; the journey IS the destination!)
Participants will edit between forays with camera and make use of a portable communal printer to produce work for their travelogues-cum-journals which will take shape along the route and which will provide some of the focus for discussion after dark over local delicacies.
The workshop will culminate with a presentation dinner in Rangoon.
An image or excerpt from each student’s journal will be posted on VII’s Instagram feed.
Participants are responsible for their own accommodation, travel and living and expenses.
Instructors: Daniel Schwartz and Philip Blenkinsop
Location: Burma (Myanmar)
Duration: 7 Days
Limited to six (6) participants.
Four paid and two full scholarships for residents of South or South East Asian countries
Skill level: Advanced amateurs and professionals