John Free Workshop on Memorial Day 2016

With everything that I have read in books and blogs about creativity and listened to in podcasts and from people I know and have met along the way, it all ends up with the same conclusion. If there is someone you admire or someone you would want to learn from, go out and do it. Reach out to them.  For the simple reason of when you do that, it will probably be one of the memorable experiences you will have. And sometimes, you stumble upon the opportunity to do it. In street photography there are very many (big) names out there, and plenty of photographers I admire. Van Styles, Marius Vieth to name a couple of current photographers. One person, that I have always enjoyed their energy and message is John Free. Most people are not familiar with him but he has been doing street photography for over 30 years. The knowledge that he shares has been gained from studying Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Eugene Smith and meeting people and working with other photographers. I was fortunate enough to find out (by accident) that he was hosting a workshop here in DC for the Memorial Day holiday. He had come to DC before but at that time, I just wasn’t able to attend. I told myself back then, that if he ever came back to DC I would not let the opportunity pass again.

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I remember feeling anxious and excited on the way to the meetup spot that morning. I already had in my mind that it was going to be a great day and that I would make some nice photos. I was actually the first one there (maybe about 15 min early) and I was able to chat with Mr. Free and his wife. He also introduced his son, Scott who also teaches the workshop along with him. Off the bat, I felt they were very warm and genuine people, it was nice to be able to calm my nerves a bit.  I met two other photographers at this workshop, unfortunately I didn’t do a good job of getting their names. It was fun shooting with them and I hope they learned as much as I did!  One guy came from out of state just to shoot with John and I thought that was dedication.   After a few introductions we went to a small coffee shop and talked about photography and with the events going on in DC that day, Rolling Thunder, the people, Donald Trump speaking, what we wanted to capture. It was pretty great. We then set off in the direction of the Washington Monument. There was a lot of activity on the way there. Mr. Free reminded us, “Don’t take the easy shot…anyone can take the easy shot!”. Pay attention and think about whats going on, the people, the bikers, the flags, the kids, the police, the background, all of the elements! That wasn’t quoted because I can’t remember exactly how he said it, but that might actually be accurate.  We walked around as a group, listening and learning and shooting. We ended up back in front of the Lincoln Memorial because Trump was supposed to speak at about 1pm-2pm. This timing might be off, but we agreed that things would probably get hectic and we might split up so we agreed on a meetup spot and went to work.

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Once Trump arrived and started speaking it was definitely interesting and an experience to say the least. I am not a political person at all. But it was amazing to see the influence that this man has had on his supporters and others that don’t support him. I remember a woman with a french accent walking past me and a few bikers, faced and turned in the direction of Trump and said out loud “Shut up, Trump!” I thought it was pretty funny and I guess the bikers did too. One of them said, “If you’re going to insult Trump, do it in english!” Which I didn’t really understand….and I still don’t know what to make of that, but whatever you say buddy.

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After some time, we all met up again with Scott, and we went off again as a group to make some pictures. We ended back at the Lincoln Memorial where we participated in a photo challenge. I was pretty pleased with what I was able to make from it. All in all, the workshop for me, was an amazing experience where I got to learn so much. Simple concepts and just being creative with what is in front of you. Putting thought into your images and making things come together….I’m posting this almost 5 months after the fact, and I still go back to that day and remember everything that was said. This was what I told myself…..Anybody can make easy shots…so don’t make easy shots. Separate yourself from those around you and put a little of yourself into every picture that you make. Hope you enjoy! If anyone is interested in any of these as a print, please reach out to me!

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2 thoughts on “John Free Workshop on Memorial Day 2016

    1. Thank you for the comment! Yes, it was definitely an experience being able to shoot with Mr. Free. If you ever have the chance to do it, I highly recommend it! You will not be disappointed!

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