The Color of Light is the title of Arthur’s workshop and it deals, naturally enough, with photography’s relationship to light and color.
But it also deals with the esthetics of seeing.
The people who attend are generally advanced amateurs and intermediate shooters; some are pros. “What they have in common is they’re passionate about photography,” Arthur says. In Arthur’s workshop, passion is a key element, but observation trumps all.
Because Arthur likes to quote the innovative color photographer Ernst Haas—”There’s a tremendous difference between seeing and orienting yourself”—his students learn to do a lot more than just look for places to stand. “Haas added that most people walk through a doorway without paying attention to the door,” Arthur says.
Arthur sends participants a questionnaire before the workshop, asking them what they expect to get from the experience. “The answers are usually along the lines of a better understanding and use of light and color; or learning what makes a strong photograph; or expanding personal vision; or improving the quality and content of their pictures. A lot of people come looking to get an inkling of their style-what I call their visual fingerprint. They can be looking to find out what it is or looking to develop it.”
How does he get them there? “One thing we do is daily assignments with critiques, so they get immediate feedback. And I try to engage them in a dialogue. I want to know what they’re thinking. I think it’s important for them to verbalize why something works or doesn’t [work].”
And that’s a teachable moment-when they begin to express their feelings about their own images, about why they think a picture works or doesn’t. “Within their own critiques of their work, and from the comments of other students, they begin to recognize and see what the problems are,” Arthur says. “And I know they’re getting it when they start to solve those problems; when, for example, a problem with composition or not watching the background no longer turns up in the pictures.”
Arthur makes use of his own images to illustrate ideas he calls “the visual toolbox,” ideas that illustrate ways of seeing. “If you’re shooting near a body of water, use reflections,” he says. “If you’re stuck with harsh light casting shadows, use the shadows. Always watch for gestures, for the unexpected moves. Train yourself to look for light and color and really see what they’re doing. And realize that they’ll be changing, so be ready to keep up.”