Erica McDonald thoughts on “The Personal Documentary”

©Andrew Sullivan

“For two years I have had the privilege of teaching a weeklong documentary photography workshop thru Spazio Labo’. Even before we meet for the first time, I feel that I know something of each of the students from their submitted portfolios and their written words. Laura and Bob, from Spazio Labo’, arrive in New York City early and lovingly prepare the beautiful loft space where some of the students stay, and where we all gather each day, sometimes to look at the work of master photographers, sometimes to look at students’ portfolios, always to talk and grow and push toward the growth that each individual wishes for himself. The instructors’ knowledge and the students’ personal goals combine to craft shooting assignments tailored for an optimal learning experience while allowing for exploration of New York City.

The nervousness and excitement that many of the students exhibit at the start of the workshop gradually transforms into confidence and ability as shooting projects and days progress. The experience – for both teachers and students – can be uplifting, exhausting, life changing and challenging all at once. Though filled with much amusement, the days are long and the students are expected to be up early and to work late. We find time to rest together over good meals and in casual conversation. Real friends are made, along with lifelong memories and photographic skills which reach far beyond the technical. I half jokingly call the workshop a boot camp, because we all work to our limits, and develop in ways that can only happen in such an intensive situation. The joy and the pride that we all feel at the end of our week, along with a bit of sadness to see it come to a close, is a sweetness known among a group of new friends who have grown in their talent and understanding of photography”.