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A photo essay is a series of photographs that tell a story about a person, place, event, or trend. In this course, photojournalist Paul Taggart takes us on assignment as he photographs Kevin Carman, an artist in Ventura, California.
Paul, whose work has appeared in publications such the New York Times and National Geographic, shares insights into how he prepares for an assignment, how he engages his subject, and how he takes advantage of unpredictable and unforeseen situations. The course concludes with a look at how the final essay might be sequenced and distributed.
>> (SOUND). So, just break it down for me. So, if you've got all these artists here, are they sort of paying rent... >> Yes. >> Or in a school, or. >> Yes, yeah. Everyone pays rent, for their, studio spaces. >> huh. >> And then it, it comes with the use of the kitchen, you know, for lunch and, you know, and everything. And we have the events here where we can, you know, do all the stuff for the catering of it. The shows, the gallery around the corner. This is Paul's area here. This is our drilling area.
This is, this is a big drill where we can drill whatever length and however big and I mean. >>Where do the rocks come from? >> All over the place. >> >> All over the world. You know I have the salt comes from the desert or you know outside of Washington, Spokane Washington. >> Mm hm. >>These, you know that gray stone there comes from you know, British Columbia. There's you know, there stuff from all over, from India >> Mm hm. >> And all over Europe. Belgian black marble. And, you know, the Mexican onyx. And there's a tremendous amount I, I don't know if there's anywhere on the planet that has such a variety, you know, of really good stone that's used both for, for sculptors to carve with.
>> Does this work? >> Yeah. (CROSSTALK) >> because one thing I want to do before you know before we finish up for the two days is, I want to get like an environmental portrait of you. Something that's like a little bit more formal. My initial idea was I wanted to have like just a whole bunch of rock or a whole bunch of your sculptures around you. But kind of >> All right. >> Looking down you're getting like sort of Sure >> (CROSSTALK) >> Swamped by materials (CROSSTALK) >> Sure. Yeah. Yeah. (CROSSTALK) >> So I was going to ask if you had, like, a tall ladder or something, but that probably gets up pretty high too. >> Absolutely. >> (CROSSTALK) You know >> (CROSSTALK) >> We have both. >> (CROSSTALK) If you get up high and then I can shoot down. >> (CROSSTALK) Yes. >> You know. Cool. >> So this our gallery space that we have shows in. but this is, this is the body.
>> This is the jellyfish. >> Of the new jellyfish. >> Okay. So is this what you're going to be installing? >> Yeah, so it has a housing >>Thing for the light and the support. >>Uh-huh. >>And all the hooks on it for the tentacles. >>Uh-huh. >>So all the tentacles that I finished inside, I'm going to start, you know, bringing out here, and, and hooking them up. >>So, Kevin's working on this really cool lantern sculpture that we're going to go see tomorrow and have him install it and so I asked him if I could see some of the smaller pieces that he's working on before he finishes this thing up. because in our story it's going to be nice to have him, not only doing the process of building it, but also installing it. and we can connect those pictures, which will be great. So I asked him to show me where they are, and I lucked out, because the small pieces he's working on, were actually in his house which is right here at our city and, it's great.
So, anytime one of your characters actually like invites you into their home, into their living space it's a great privilege but it's also just a, it's a treasure chest for us, there is so much material there to work with. so he invited me in and I got to sort of walk around his space and see the tenacles, and then also get to watch him in his, he's got these great hands working on this sculpture and sort of beading these small pieces on while he was sitting down in his living room. which was really great.
So I got the wide angle on and it's got a great macro on it. So I can get really in there and get in tight. and got lots of nice shots of the hands doing physical things. and then once I was in the space. I asked him, hey you know is your bedroom around here. And he said yeah it's over here. And I got to into his bedroom with his permission. I said you know, Can I just get some detail shots around here because a person's space without them in it actually says so much about their character. and with Kevin, like, his space is definitely an open book because everything's right there. So I, I walked around (SOUND) with my cameras and got some you know small detail shots.
He lives with the pieces that he uses in his sculpture work. So he's literally surrounded all day and all night by his raw materials that I find fascinating. So there's lots of I got lots of shots of you know little shells and little stones and little chars of glasses that he's found over the years. And then part of my favorite shot from the entire scene was I was looking at his dresser which is right next to his bed and he's got his keys and his coins and all this stuff that we all have on our dressers and then he's got four pictures of his daughter. And for me this is like, this is gold.
This is a great story telling moment, you know. We've got a picture of him carving this beautiful statue, an angel, and then we find out that the face is actually a representation of his 13-year old daughter who lives in Florida while he's in California. And then I go to his room and he's got pictures of his daughter sitting right there on the dresser and it just connects everything. One thing when you, when you do portraits of people, you know, the first thing you think of is that's a picture of a person. If I ask you what's a portrait? Yeah, it's when I take a picture of a person and they're in the frame, but really a portrait can mean a lot of things and one of my favorite photo essays is actually a portrait series about fallen soldiers.
And the soldiers themselves are not in any of the pictures. It's just a whole set of photographs of their empty rooms back home after they pass. And so I mean the sense of space that somebody lives in can say so much about who they are. And with Kevin it's a, it's the same thing. You, you know, taking a portrait with the person not actually in it. can sometimes be louder than actually having them in that space. And I think in Kevin's, situation, both in his house and also in his work space, that definitely, definitely is true.
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