Portraiture workshop with Richard Dumas

Richard Dumas has photographed Miles Davis, Kate Moss, Lou Reed, David Lynch and Jarvis Cocker, amongst many others. And now me, on his iPhone.

Eyes in Progress Portrait Workshop 2014. Participants: Francois, Fanny, Jean-Phillipe, Delphine, Alexandra, Els, myself, Thierry and Pascal.

Eyes in Progress Portrait Workshop 2014. Participants: Francois, Fanny, Jean-Phillipe, Delphine, Alexandra, Els, myself, Thierry and Pascal.

The Eyes in Progress workshops aren't just a case of signing up and paying the fee. There's an application process based on an assessment of your portfolio images and experience. My place was confirmed at the end of August for the October course that finished last Saturday.

The course was made up of three main sections:

  • Sharing and viewing portraits taken previously by the participants and by Richard (including a number of stories from his celebrity encounters)
  • Photographing each other and then a number of models, with make-up artists on-hand
  • Building a polished and coherent set of images to be reviewed by an independent assessor

And it was very effective, in part because it was difficult. Standards were high, days long, time with each model was short and it wasn't always easy to get detailed feedback. Richard would quickly accept or dismiss an image without explanation so I learnt to press him more when I needed to know his thought process. It made you want to listen intently and seek out the information, to understand his approach and what he was looking for. There were no easy answers, no 'do this'. So the lessons felt hard-won, and hopefully will sink in that bit deeper as a result.

The other important element for me was the workshop environment. It was very easy to share ideas and suggestions, and see each others work as the printed images started to go up on the walls around us. We all worked with the same models and make-up artists, but distinctive styles were quickly obvious in the resulting images.

I'm pretty pleased with my images from the workshop. We only had 10 or 15 minutes with each model and in an unfamiliar area of Paris, so it was a good challenge. I had some ideas for themes before I started shooting, but really the themes developed through the shooting, the processing and the final selections.

Black and white portrait. Model: Thierry

Black and white portrait. Model: Thierry

Black and white portrait. Model: Victoire

Black and white portrait. Model: Victoire

Black and white portrait. Model: Clemont

Black and white portrait. Model: Clemont

It was a pleasure and an education to spend time with a photographer with as much high-profile experience as Richard and to meet so many other talented photographers working on their own paths and visions.

Will it change my photography? Perhaps. It certainly feels like a step on the journey and I'm sure will help in my consideration of portrait ideas, processing techniques and on how to present a set of images.