I‘m sitting with Jeff Dunas at his lovely home and photo studio, located above the Sunset strip in Hollywood., California. I’m here to Interview Jeff about the upcoming Photo Festival in Palm Springs. Jeff founded the Photo Festival and is its executive Director.
AF: So Jeff, one of the questions I wanted to ask you right off the top is; what does this event mean to you personally? I know as the director, you’ve been involved in it from the very beginning, and it’s basically your creation. Tell me what it means to you personally, this festival. Does that question make sense?
JD: Yes it does, it’s a good question.. Well, you know for one week out of the year I’m like, in the center of a cyclone, an intense photo cyclone. It’s an incredible week. What does it means to me? I’m playing a role I guess, in this transitional period for professional photography, on multiple levels, No, I’m not talking about digital and analog, I’m talking about the blending of Fine-Art and Commerce, the new directions for photographer’s careers, adding emotion, doing new things, for example, producing stories for iPads. I mean, all this stuff is going on right now, this is right while we’re living through this, and there’s a lot of educational programming out there. It’s interesting for me to be at the forefront of moving that along, and so, in terms of putting together this big Photo Festival, it’s like this large salad, with all these incredible ingredients.
JD: It’s gratifying when it works well. It’s really gratifying to see how much people get out of it. I’ve never had that experience before, you know I’ve taught a lot of workshops, but workshops are for twelve, fourteen, eighteen people maybe, and you always have a few at a workshop that aren’t really paying attention. Who knows why they’re even there? Then others drive you crazy because they’re totally on your case. This is different, this is putting together five, six, hundred photographers and then creating a structure for that, so its, its . . .
AF: It’s a large responsibility.
JD: Well, it is a huge responsibility. But what does it actually mean to me? That is a good question. Why am I really doing this? It’s because I found myself in this position. It’s an interesting position to be in. I put this together in 2006 for the first time, when most of us weren’t even using digital photography.
There was this, we used to put together a symposium called, “Silver versus Digital.” It was widely attended. If I were to put that out there today, I’d get four people . . . maybe . . .
AF: Is that because nobody’s working in silver-based emulsions, traditional film photography anymore?
JD: They left the stadium already. I mean, yes, the horse is out of the gate. It’s not an issue anymore.
AF: There’s still a few of us left who shoot film, work in the darkroom and make our own exhibition photographs, ect. I don’t think we’re a dying breed. At least, I hope not.
JD: Well, true. But now, it’s more or less creating special programming for analog photographers. It’s a whole other trip, and it’s a different mind set. I’ve got a workshop that we’re offering this year with Douglas Kirkland, with 8 x10 view cameras.”Portraits with the 8×10.” For me, I would have thought that would be one of the first workshops to fill up, and you’d be surprised, its not filling up.
AF: Is that because of the intimidation of working properly with an 8 x 10 inch View Camera?
AF: Or the fact that it’s a workshop dealing with the handling and exposing of large sheets of film correctly? That is, using film to accomplish one’s photographic goals and vision?
JD: If I’d said, “Douglas Kirkland, Portrait Workshop,” it would have filled up in 5 days, 10 days, 20 days, no problem. You know, he’s really well known for being one of the earliest guys to jump into digital; hook, line, and sinker. He’s the digital pioneer, that guy. Yet the fact that he’s offering a workshop in 8 x 10 cameras, doing studio portraiture, is unique. `You know, if I had said Doug Kirkland is teaching a portrait class with the Canon 5- D, he’d have filled it up. But its 8xl0, and people think it’s irrelevant, or they don’t understand the reason for learning how to make a portrait with an 8 x10. To me, it’s so incredibly important to know how to use a view camera, just understanding the fundamentals of it. That a fixed lens on a camera, alone, does not get you all the way to the finish line. You start moving the back around, you start working with shifts and tilts, and you start having control over the front, back, and end of the camera. Now you’re really talking about an instrument.
AF: And the quality that comes out of using an 8xlO is just amazing..
JD: Unbelievable! And there is no digital recording involved. People talk about digital capture like it’s the end all, and it is. It’s extraordinary. But you know with a 5-D Mark II or even with a digital Hasselblad back, you’re not going to get what you achieve on an 8×10 sheet of 64 ASA transparency film. It ain’t gonna happen. It won’t happen.
AF: No, no way. Just look at the portraits Richard Avedon did in 8 x10 black & white. They’re magnificent.
JD: But then, the need currently isn’t there. In other words, if you’re going to go to print, basically, the best you’re going to get in any magazine or book is probably 300 line screen. You wouldn’t even see the difference.
AF: I want to go back to what you’re doing with the festival .
JD: So anyway, with that being said, I put these things out there.
AF: I’ve known you for many years. Your love and passion for photography is geniune. Your knowledge about the history of photography is significant. You’re a photographer yourself. To be in a position to provide “rights of passage,” to pass along your enthusiasm, knowledge and devotion to the medium of photography, must be rewarding for you. The festival offers seminars, workshops, lectures and portfolio reviews, among other social events.
One of the things I was curious about, and I think it’s great you’re bringing the two together, is the commercial world of photography and the Fine-Art world of photography. Many artist’s believe that they are two different and distinct universes, galaxies that have nothing in common. However many other people believe that it’s harder and harder to draw the line between the two, commerce and art. Tell me, why you think it’s important to discuss both? How do you balance this out in the festival?
JD: Well, I would say, in terms of content, the festival run’s about 50/50, adressing these subjects directly. We’re living in a time when commercial clients are looking at Fine-Art photographer’s work to get outside of what they usually do and see. They’re also looking for new inspiration or new directions. Then, in the art world, galleries are exhibiting lots of work that is based in commerce. I’m seeing this everywhere.
AF: Can you give me some examples?
JD: At the Fahey/Klein gallery. David Fahey does this all the time. They have one show after another. He’s shown Annie Leibovitz, Peter Linberg, and various artists that are really based in commerce. They’re big fashion photographers, big name portrait guys, you know, like Herb Ritz and so on. This has really been a Fahey/Klein mainstay. David Fahey really kind of pioneered that.
AF: Do you think he’s showing work they did on assignment, or work they did on they’re own?
JD: Well, whats happened more and more, when you’ve reached a certain level of photography and you get to a certain point, hopefully (and this should be your goal- to get to this point) the point where the work that you do, whether it be in commerce or Fine-Art is the same work. That’s the goal to get to.
AF: There’re very few people that can ever achieve that .
JD: That’s the goal. Keep that in the forefront of where you want to go, because then, then you end up with commereial clients paying you to do stuff that can work in your greater body of work.
AF: You don’t have any issues about being a whore? Selling soap on Madison Ave.? As an artist? You don’t have an ethical issue with that at all?
JD: That’s like starting at the top of the discussion. But at the bottom of that discussion is, what you show to a potential client (in your portfolio) is the work you’re going to get. So if you show all the jobs you’ve done, commercial client work, where you’ve executed whatever it is they needed you to do, you show that work in an effort to get more of the same. If however, you show the work you doing for yourself, the chances are it’s gonna take a little longer to get going. But eventually, clients are going to hire you to do the personal stuff your showing.
AF: So you don’t have any moral issue, as an artist, with doing a testimonial for a commercial client then? For example, lets say a major corporation like Proctor and Gamble were to buy one of my ocean photographs to promote a green detergent. So as far as your concerned, in our American culture, there are no real boundaries, on a moral level, for an artist to work in that way? Where he can sell his very private, personal work, so that it becomes a testimonial for a corporation to identify itself with and benefit from that association?
JD: Well you know, on a very pure level, I think a photographer has a right to make a living by doing photography. If you have to do other things, and work outside photography to bring money in and put food on the table, that to me, would be less advantagous. So therefore, yes. If you’d license a picture to use in that particular instance, I mean if you have to license an image for a detergent and you’re showing a photograph of the ocean, it’s still a photograph of the ocean. I mean, if they stick a Tide box in it, and have a guy in a little rubber raft holding a bunch of Tide, and you have to go execute that picture, that may not work for you.
But it’s still your photograph, so basically, you know its that same old thing. I never felt really bad. I never felt that you had to take a moral position. If you shot an ad for Marlboro, you get a photograph of a guy on a horse and they use it in the Marlboro ad. You get eighty-five thousand bucks for the week. That furthers your personal work. I mean I never really have felt bad about that, I understand the point of how people could. I do understand people taking a moral stand.
AF: I want to try and stay on point as they say, because you and I can get into all kinds of interesting conversations.
JD: I will just say that I think that today, people that have been achieving some success in the fine-art world have an interest in showing, presenting their work, and getting feedback from the commercial world.
I think they may find some very different, new, interesting avenues. If you look at a lot of the fine-art photographers of today, they are working in commerce and doing advertising and things. I think this is great. This is the only, you know, advertising, pretty much is the only photography gig that pays what the photograph is really worth. The rest of what we do, frequently, when its in commerce, we don’t get paid much of what it’s worth at all. You shoot a magazine cover, they give you a thousand bucks. I mean it’s hardly proportional to the fact that they’re using your picture to sell their magazine. Well, I mean it’s crazy.
AF: I would love to have this conversation with you in another interview, but I want to stay with the festival, because that’s what this articles going to be about.. .
JD: Let me just tell you one thing: its about people. It’s about emerging photographers looking at all that is out there and making some decisions and getting inspiration to move forward. And it’s about guys in they’re fifties, mid-career photographers who are probably at the top of they’re game, and want to know what’s next.
AF: When you say,” it’s about,” you’re talking about the festival, right?
JD: The festival, yeah, that’s who I, in my mind, that’s who’s coming.
You know the festival is for emerging and professional photographers. It’s not for amateurs at all. There are some advanced amateurs that come and they get a lot out of the content, but the content is driven by emerging and professional photographers.
So it’s, and in my mind that really is the basis for what I do in the festival. I try to open up people’s minds to what is possible and introduce them to all the right people that can help them, and get them feed back on their own work. Learn with great photographers, people that really are inspirational, people that are the leaders in the game. But also put them in touch with museum curators that they would have very little chance of seeing directly. Or put them in touch with creative directors at ad agencies that don’t see work, basically.
Everything funnels up through art buyers, you know. So, we have art buyers, ad directors, we also have a lot of creative directors, the real people that are actually running these campaigns out of these big agencies – they come and look at your work. It’s a huge opportunity.
AF: It is, there’s no question about that …
JD: I mean, It’s getting your work in front of the people that can give you a critique that can open your eyes.
AF: Let me take this from another point of view. Lets say you, Jeff Dunas, were going to take one of the seminars or classes offered at the festival. My question is; What would you be interested in taking? In terms of either workshops you’re offering this year, or seminars, what would you, at the station your currently in with your career, being a fine photographer, and a successful photographer in the commerce world as well, what would you want to take?
JD: It would depend on where I wanted to go from here. If I didn’t know, one of the things we offer everyday are symposiums. We put together these big panel discussions which are free to all the attendees. We try to shed light into these dark corners for people who are looking to make those kinds of decisions. What do I want to do? The first one is called, “The Business of Fine Art,” which for photographers is about how the business of fine-art photography really works, it’s not . . .
AF: So when you say “the business of fine art,” are you talking about from a gallerist’s point of view? Where a photographer is represented by a gallery and the gallery interfaces with collectors and museums?
JD: Here’s how it works: In the Annenberg threatre, every day at the Palm Springs Art Museum, we have over a one or two hour symposium. There, I put together panels of anywhere from four to six to eight people who are leaders in their field. These are museum curators and gallery directors. So this year, on this particular seminar, there’s, Howard Greenberg, David Fahey, Scott Nichols, there’s Carol McCusker, and Britt Salvison. So I’ve got three museum directors and I’ve got three gallery directors.
AF: That’s fantastic!
JD: And I moderate that panel, this particular one, because in the past I’ve done that panel where the discussion goes off into very esoteric directions of fine-art, which is not what it’s about. What it is about is that there are four hundred photographers in the audience and they want to know how in the hell this really works.
So, basically how does one go about getting work in a museum collection, how does one go about getting a show at a gallery, what’s involved? Is it okay if they’re ink jet prints? Do they have to be signed and numbered? You know, what is the collector looking for?
It’s really about the business of it. These people in the audience can get a sense of like, “Now I understand why Fahey/Klein won’t give me a one man show”, because Fahey needs to crack forty grand a month. He isn’t going to crack forty grand a month with an unknown photographer.”
Their work could be awesome, but it won’t work. You have to get into the dynamic of how the business really works and understand that before you can find out how you can get into that business. Find your way in there, as an artist. It’s a terrific panel, Karen Sinsheimer’s there, from the Santa Barbara Museum, they’re all there.
AF: So Carol McCusker is going to be there. She’s a very knowledgeable woman, I like Carol. I worked with her in an exhibit at MOPA, in San Diego, a few years back.
JD: Oh she’s extremely intelligent. I put together these symposiums to help photographers who are in mid-career and are in a transitional phase. These are photographers who have worked many years, done very well, and are looking for a change. They’ve never been better, finally understanding everything that needs to be understood in order to be a great photographer. What do they do now?
Well, they go to these seminars and start to get some inspiration. They start to get some information. And then they can go into this seminar program where we have twenty-seven hours you can take, if you think you need to know more about photo shop. There’s an advanced photo shop, and if you want to know more about what light room does, or what aperature does, there’s two more seminars there. If you want to learn about photography in the written word and really understand how you could be doing more work that includes the written word. There’s also a seminar there, if you want to use the Canon 5D Mark II to make motion or videos.
JD: Vincent Laforet is there to show you how to do it and that’s why I produce this thing. It’s so you have this incredible wealth of information available to you, and then at the very same time, you can bring your work and show it to the most important people in the industry on both sides of the fence.
AF: How do you avoid overlapping, do some of these seminars take place at the same time so that people can take the workshops and attend the seminars without an overlapping problem?
JD: What happens is the workshop program, almost all of our workshops are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and a rap up session Thursday. The seminars run all week. But the big seminars happen on Thursday. Friday is the repeat of the four biggest ones during the week, which means for the workshop attenders they don’t have to miss the four major ones.
You know, the four big Adobe workshops, or the Apple workshop, if we have really well-attended big ones that happen Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, for those not in the workshop program, we repeat them, and it’s free, and it’s Friday.
It’s there for them. So, if you’re in the workshop program, you don’t have to miss important seminars and you have all day Thursday And Friday to show your work to the key people in the portfolio program.
We set it up so that every day we have, at any given time, a very good mixture of photo editors, art directors, creative directors, museum directors, gallery directors, and representatives and ad agencies so, at any given time, you’re able to show your work to the same range of people.
AF: On a commercial level do you identify specifics, like architectural photography, fashion photography?
JD: We don’t do fashion. We’ve never done a fashion workshop. We don’t do that for the simple reason that to put on a fashion workshop is almost an exercise in comedy.
AF: What about editorial fashion, or studio fashion, or do you have to pick what kind of fashion?
JD: To do a real fashion workshop, you really need excellent hair and makeup. You have to have really good clothing. You have to have really good stylists. You really have to make it real. If you go down to Bullocks and you go buy a bunch of crap that you’re going to take back in two weeks, and you try to put it on girls that aren’t real models, and then try to have them do their own hair and make up, you have a disaster on your hands. People won’t learn anything, you know, because nothing they do will look very good.
AF: This is important, I want to be clear about this for people that are going to read the interview. So all the workshops, they’re very hands on. So people are actually shooting; they’re actually doing what it is that they’re there to learn. They’re not just sitting back listening, or being lectured to.
JD: No those are seminars, this is a workshop thing.
AF: That’s important that people know the distinction.
JD: The workshop is hands on photographing with a master photographer; the seminars are lecture-style, where you’re in a big room where someone’s up in front in an audio/visual facility and they’re talking about whatever it is; and the symposiums are panel discussions, which are really discussions. So one is the business of fine-art; the second one is called, “The Collectors Conference,” where I’ve got five photo collectors, big time collectors, all up there, and they’re going to shed some light on collecting. That one’s moderated by Anthony Bannon from the George Eastman house, the director from the Eastman house.
AF: I know Anthony, I’ve met him, I just got invited back there to lecture myself, actually.
JD: The Collectors Conference is going to be asking the questions, “Why do you collect photography?” “Are you open to meet an artist directly?” “How important is a gallery’s director’s input in your collection?” “How do you store your pictures?” “Does it matter to you if it’s a pigment print ?” “What size is important to you?”
AF: Theses are questions that the curators are going to be asking?
JD: These are the questions the collectors are going to be discussing.
AF: By the collectors?
JD: The business of fine art is Monday. the Collectors Conference is Tuesday. So that’s really collectors, real collectors, with real photo collections that are intense, and it’s all about why they collect, how they collect, their methodology; so we can understand as photographers in the audience how important is gallery representation? How important is an endorsement from a gallery? How do I find this person? What’s this person’s method ? How do I get my work in front of this person? And what are they willing to pay?
These are real questions, and that’s what they’re going to really answer. We’ve told them about this. This is what we’re going to be talking about. It’s not about, I really love Paul Strands work, it’s really like, “Yes I am open to buying a 48×60 inch print or “Hell no! I don’t want a 48×60 inch print,” or, “I don’t own anything on ink jet paper!” These are things we need to know.
AF: Have you found over these seminars that there’s a real difference between private collectors and institutions, in terms of what they’ll collect?
JD: Absolutely different. It’s night and day. Because the curators have a very, very educated vision of how they want to hone a collection.
AF: Curators of institutions?
AF: I mean for example, the J. Paul Getty museum, or MOMA-NYC, or LACMA, or San Francisco’s museum of Modern Art.
JD: Well you see they can’t all have the same big bland general collection. They need to have something unique about their collection. And that’s what’s happening more and more. The day of sweeping down like the Getty’s done and buying somebody’s entire collection of 19th and 20th Century work, and having the basis of a huge collection – those days are gone. It’s really done. So now, in order for a museum to have an important photography collection, they need to be somewhat concerned about the direction they’re taking it.
AF: Do you, in your own mind, as a decision that you make about who you invite and the kinds of discussions that are going to occur, do you have a line in the sand where fine art photography stops and painting, collage, and drawing begin? Where do you make that decision about artists like Rauschenberg, or Andy Warhol, who use photographs in their work, or visual artists that employ photography?
JD: Well, I’m not an art festival!
AF: Is there a point in the sand when you will say that something is no longer photography? Now, we’re talking about other types of visual art or different two-dimensional art?
JD: I don’t think I’m the right forum for people to go to learn about multimedia artists and what they do. I mean, number one, because I’m not competant to be in the position that I’m in if I’m going to be dealing in the general art world with, is Rauschenberg’s work considered photography or art? That’s a decision I can’t make. I’m not going to have Ed Ruscha down there to talk about his paintings.
AF: You might have him down there to talk about his Sunset Blvd. books, and one quick thing, because I know you’re such a huge fan of beautiful photographic books, and you have an extraordinary collection of your own, does the festival address that in any way about collecting fine books?
JD: We have in the past run seminars about book collecting, which were pretty well attended. I need to get seminars, I need to find sponsors for seminars, if I’m going to rent that room and put a hundred people in that room for two hours. And if I don’t have any revenue from that room, I need to make sure there’s a sponsor who can the sponsor that event, and it’s free.
I have to charge people to go to an event like that. In other words, the ones you’re paying for are the one’s that I conceive to fill a gap in what I have in terms of sponsor-programming; and the book thing is kind of-a plus. If I had more than one going on at the same time, I could always have that as an alternative thing. People could wander into and hear a discussion on book collecting.
I only do the seminars in one big ball room, and I try to keep it so that when one ends, another begins; so there really isn’t a ‘conflict of interest,’ where you’re saying, “Gee, I’d really like to go to that photo shop thing, but hey, this book-collecting thing is happening at the same time and Anthony Friedkin is lecturing! Damn! I don’t know what to do.”
AF: Now tell me a little about the more unofficial activities that happen during the festival, like the social networking. People can enjoy meeting new people, possible informal parties and dinners and things like that, talk about some of the unofficial things that are not necessarily planned and scheduled, but what people might expect while they’re down there.
JD: There isn’t much, when we schedule this event you’re basically pretty tied up from 8:00 AM to 1:00 AM, and that’s how much there is.
AF: 8:00 AM to 1:00 AM at night?
JD: Yeah, yeah. You can sleep when you get home.
AF: Are you actually having serious seminars or workshops going on through the middle of the night?
JD: Well, it depends on what you call serious. What happens is; our workhop program and the reviews and the seminars all end at 4:30 PM. From 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM we have the symposiums, where everyone is invited, the entire group: faculty, attenders, staff – everyone that’s available. Those are where we really really discuss important issues.
I think it’s really important to have the audience there. We give them Q&A and it’s really an important time. Then from 6:30 to 8:00 PM everybody goes off to dinner anywhere they want. Palm Springs is great for that. They just have to walk a block and there are twenty restaurants, thirty, or fifty; and then they’re back at 8:45 because at 9:00 we have an evening presentation every night. That is really the entertainment for the festival. You sit there for two hours and you’ll see Joel Meyerowitz, you’ll see a tribute to Julius Shulman, you’ll see Ed Cashe do something, whatever it is. There’s two to three events that happen every night, in a two hour period.
We also have our slide show contest winners and finalists. What happens is that we have raffles, probably some people come just for the raffles because we give away some really serious stuff, amazing gear, gift bags, Lowe-pro bags, cameras from Sony, Leica gave a camera away, Cannon gives a printer, you know.
It’s incredible raffle stuff, from our sponsors, and then after that, on two nights we have these two networking parties, which are great parties, in the sculpture garden at the museum. They start at 11:00 PM. There’s an open bar and there’s also wine tasting from California wineries each night. We have some real interesting visual presentations. Sometimes we put a show of 48×60 inch pancromatic black and white prints up for viewing, sometimes Sony has a photo booth with somebody photographing everybody and printing them out instantly for everybody. There’s always some kind of animation or something. We have thirty-inch monitors all around the place, showing slide show contest winners from prior years. I mean, it’s really quite a deal, and so those are two nights a week, Monday, Thursday. On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, we don’t have anything official after 11:00pm, so all the attenders end up going back to the Hyatt and showing each other their work. They hang out with each other. There’s a great comradery.
AF: There’s no time to get a tan …
JD: There’s no time to get a tan, there’s no time to get a tan . . .(laughter)
AF: Why did you pick Palm Springs to have the festival there? Was there a specific reason?
JD: Well, I’ve been going to this festival in Arles, France, every year since 1986.
AF: I’m glad you brought this up cause that’s a question I wanted to ask you about..
JD: Well, Arles, France is very different. I mean people say, “Did you get inspired by it?” Yeah, course I got inspired. But what I do and what they do is, is totally different. I mean, literally one hundred per cent, mine’s an educational program, and Arles is all about exhibitions. I just don’t do any exhibitions. There are no exhibition venues. That’s not what we do. The main exhibition that takes place during our festival every year, is the one that’s on the walls, by mutual arrangement, with the Palm Springs Art Museum.
So last year, there was a Maplethorpe exhibit there. This year, Linda Conner on her sacred places, and so we have one big exhibition. That’s it. It’s at the museum. And after that we don’t do exhibits.
It just wasn’t practical, Arles has forty venues that you can put photographs in; old churches, and old salt storage facilities.
AF: But in a way did Arles perhaps inspire you a little bit to hold a festival, even though it’s very different?
JD: Well, there’s two things about Arles that definately inspired me. One was there’s this great capacity for informal interaction with people because it’s summer, it’s warm, you’re running into important people wandering around in Bermuda shorts and sandals and they’re much more approachable that way. When they’re sitting in their suit and tie behind the desk and they have a secretary there with the schedule, you don’t get to see him. So these guys are walking around and he’s eating a crepe, and he’s sitting there with his hat on and his shades and you can go up and talk to him.
So I always thought there was something missing here in America, which was comradery amongst photographers. You know that I’ve always put together people, I put together these groups for breakfasts. That we do, things like that, because when we were growing up, photographers didn’t share anything. They didn’t want to know each other too much, really there was no interaction.
And so, I miss that, these things, and Arles is kind of a vacation destination. It’s a small little area, a small town, where you can wander around on foot. You don’t need to be in a car. You’re not staying at the Howard Johnsons or the airport. It’s really conducive to that. In Palm Springs, I saw a lot of similarity. Its two hours from thirteen million people between San Diego, Ventura, Orange, and Los Angeles Counties. You have thirteen and change, a big, big population. Then, you’ve got all the outlying areas like Santa Barbara. You have all these different places where you can get there in four hours. And the weather is great, the architecture is extraordinary, it’s the greatest cluster of mid-century modernist architecture probably we have in the world. And it also has this great geography for my classes in the nude, the portrait landscape, all those things.
We do a great desert landscape workshop. We are doing one this year with Kenro Izu and also Jack Dykinga, and these are people who are legendary for their landscapes, and they’re going to be in Joshua Tree National Monument.
AF: How long do the workshops last generally?
JD: Three and a half days.
AF: Is that for all of them, pretty much?
JD: All except one, the master class that we do every year, is a four day, full-on four-day master class, so that doesn’t end till Thursday night. That’s the Joel Meyerowitz one.
AF: Now tell me a little about all the information that is on your web site for the festival, just so people can be real clear about this. People can navigate through that. It’s all very clear exactly what’s being offered, when, and so forth, fees and everything else?
JD: Now the way we’re working this, for seventy-five dollars a day which is your daily registration, you have access to 3/4 of our seminars for free, the symposiums every day for free, the museum and the evening presentations every day for free, and the two parties free. You can then pay ala carte for workshops, portfolio reviews, or tech consultations as you like. We’ve innovated something really cool. We have a tech consultation; you can spend twenty-five minutes with the guy that wrote the book on Photo Shop, or the guy that wrote the book from Microsoft. These are people that are pure experts in what they’re doing, and you can sit down with them for twenty-five minutes, bring your computer, or use our computers. We have thirty Macintosh computers at this festival, and you can basically get a one-on-one with a tech expert, on the level you want.
AF: Photo-shop layers. I don’t really get layers. There’s also a workshops that teaches lighting? Isn’t there?
JD: Sure… but one-on-one with a tech consultation is more like you go into a seminar. You’re gonna get an Adobe seminar. But when you get light room at home and you start working with it, you’re gonna say, “Gee, I just don’t know how I put this web gallery together.” You’re going to be able to sit with this guy for twenty-five minutes, and say, “Okay. Show me the web gallery trip. I don’t get it,” or, “I’m not really sure what I’m doing; gonna degrade the quality of my image. How do I do it so it’s non-invasive?” This guy will sit with you for twenty-five minutes and give you the dope.
AF: Actually I need to wrap this up, because there’s going be a follow up to this interview after the festival. I’m going to do more interviews with Festival partiscipants, and more pictures about the festival also. Is there one last thing you feel is important for people to know about?
JD: Well, the main thing to convey is how much fun it is. I mean, that’s the main thing about this. If this was drudgery, nobody would come. It’s the best time you can have in a year. I’m not kidding. People come every year.
It’s one week of the most enthusiasm you could have for photography. You couldn’t be in an environment that bred more passion, more inspiration, and more enthusiasm for what you’re doing, rekindling that interest in photography that you felt early on, when it hooked you. That’s my job, is to put that together, so I mean it’s really about having a great time. It’s about having a blast.
AF: So you have a lot of repeats, obviously, people that are coming back for more workshops, taking the same workshop again?
JD: I don’t know too much about people taking the same one again. We don’t offer the same ones year to year. They’re always different. We have major categories. This year, we’re leaning a little more toward documentary and journalism a little bit. Some years it’s a little bit more towards fine-art and personal research-kinds of pictures and so forth.
But in the end, we have a pretty balanced program each year. But each year, the instructors are different, and they are all instructors that are hugely well-known. So you get an opportunity to be with photographers from the working photography environment. These are teachers. These are people that teach, because you know you can go and get teachers anywhere, really. Nothing against teaching, it’s a noble profession. But I’m not giving you three and a half days with a teacher. I’m giving you three and a half days with a star, a working photographer who’s had a huge career. If you did nothing but get into their heads for three days and try to come up with a little bit about their motivations and learn about their experience, and how they see the world, it would be hugely valuable, that’s what it’s about . . .
AF: Jeff, thank you very much for the interview and best wishes for a successful Photo-Festival 2010.