Zone VI Workshop Alumni???

Discussion in 'Workshops & Lectures' started by bill schwab, Mar 27, 2006.

  1. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    I'm a notorious pack-rat who has been tossing most of my past life in the trash over the last 4 weeks. I caught a serious Spring cleaning bug. Anyway, I came across my old folder full of Zone VI Newsletters from Fred Picker and got to thinking about my workshop experience there in the summer of (gulp) 1981. In this folder was a sheet they gave you with all the other folks that attended your session. I was amazed. I remember it being a big group, but it was a BIG group! I googled a few folks and was surprised to find 1 who had done a photo book on trains... Graeme Outerbridge, but none others. I figured out of a group that big at least someone must have a website today or still out there working. So far... nothing.

    This got me wondering if and how many APUGgers ever attended one of these workshops? What was your experience, etc.?

    Bill
     
  2. RAP

    RAP Member

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    I attended one in 1978 or 1979, not sure which but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was my first visit ever to Vermont.

    http://narrationsinlight.com/narrationsinlight2004/newengland/vtmainfolder/vtprints/rockflatv.htm

    Here is one image from my website that I took while attending.

    I remember working like a dog, eating like a pig, (the food was great!) and still loosing weight. Fred was a great teacher, though we seemed to clash at times, not always agreeing on things, I think I asked too many questions.

    I remember the slide show Martin Tartar gave, which got a standing ovation. One exercise that was really crazy was about 10 of us cramming into a school bus with polaroid cameras and told to take pictures. It was a free for all, people climbing ontop of each other, trying to shoot pictures. The results were hilarious.

    That was the only workshop I ever attended and I never felt the need to attend any other.
     
  3. AllenR

    AllenR Member

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    Bill,

    I attended in the summer of 1982. That has been a while ago, hasn't it? Our session was quite large also and access to the assistants, let alone Picker, was difficult. Still, it was a fun and useful experience. Visiting Lil Farber's loft gallery in New Fane was probably the highlight of the workshop. That was the first time I had been able to see actual prints by Caponigro, Strand, etc. Spending an afternoon with all those exceptional prints probably had more impact on my future direction in photography than all of the other workshop activities combined.

    For a few years, I was able to stay in contact with several people I met at the workshop, but I haven't heard from any of them in many years. You are the first person I've run into in a long while who actually attended one of those workshops.

    Allen
     
  4. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    I had a great time as well. The whole trip from Michigan was a sojourn of sorts. I stopped in Rochester and spent a day at the Eastman House which is where I first saw a lot of the great images in person. Then I spent a week shooting along the coast of Maine before ending up in Putney for the workshop. That is where I met Alen MacWeeney who was one of the instructors and ended up going to NY the following Spring to work for him. From him I learned tons, the most important of which was how to make money with my camera! The whole experience changed my life.

    Funny you and RAP should mention the Polaroid experience and the trip to Lil's as I had forgotten those. I enjoyed the trip to Fred's house and darkroom a great deal as well. It was a great darkroom.

    I also remember trips down to the bar in town with the group. :smile:

    It was also my only workshop experience...

    Bill
     
  5. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    Geez, I had no idea that Putney had become a mecca for the kind of photography I totally loved by the early 70's if not before. At that time (the early 70's) I was attending summer workshops at my cello teacher's place in Putney...The Yellow Barn...and loving the short commute to Marlboro for Casal's masterclasses and the festival orchestra and chamber groups. Musta been the harmonic resonances of the mystic forces of the pyramid power of the aligned chakras of the....oh wait, that's the bullshit of the southwest...sorry. But still, for one small Vermont town to have such powerful artistic attractions (plus others I have no clue about but may have been there anyway) there must have been something. I wonder.....
     
  6. AllenR

    AllenR Member

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    I had forgotten about the polaroid excercise, but that was fun. Watching MacWeeney work at Shelburn Falls with his Leica was eye opening. That was the first, and only, time I've ever seen a photograper become invisible to the crowd in which he was photographing. The gentleman was amazing. Martin Tartar, Susan Barron, Rosamond Wolfe-Purcel and a couple of other assistants / guests instructors were also at the session I attended. Now that I think back on it, it was a good time.

    Allen
     
  7. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    Alen is a master of this. I remember him telling me once that he actually felt he can influence and make a subject do as he wishes without saying a word. He was a remarkable man to learn from. I spoke with him recently and his "Tinker" book, now called "The Travelers" is finally supposed to be out this Spring.

    Bill

    PS. Rosamond was with our group as well. It really was a well rounded experience.
     
  8. RAP

    RAP Member

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    Susan Barron, I never thought that you could squeeze so much imagery into a 35mm contact print. That was pretty much what she did, 4x5 and 35mm contact prints.
     
  9. Peter Schrager

    Peter Schrager Subscriber

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    I attended the workshop in 1979. It was quite the experience. Mostly it was about the instructors giving up all their time and knowledge to the attendees. I was the only one making 5x7 contact prints. This was the place where I first learned what a decent negative and print looked like. The memory lasts all these years. I never felt that Fred was unreachable. Busy yes. I have an incredible print from Martin Tarter which hangs on my wall.
    Best, Peter
     
  10. RAP

    RAP Member

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    Here is another image I took while attending the workshop. I took this when my group went to Lil's house to look at prints. Instead I played hooky and took my camera and strolled up the street to this stream and found this:

    http://narrationsinlight.com/narrat...smusings/time&tides/boulderstreamputneyvt.htm

    I also learned what a good print should look like. My negatives were fine but I was printing way too dark, judging exposure under way too strong a light.
     
  11. AllenR

    AllenR Member

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    Do any of you remember one of the assistants who did platinum prints? I think his name was Carlos Richardson, or at least that is what I remember. Anyone know of if he is still active?

    Allen
     
  12. Peter Schrager

    Peter Schrager Subscriber

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    Reunion

    So when are we going to stage a reunion?
    Peter
     
  13. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    This might be the same Carlos Richardson.

    Bill
     
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  15. AllenR

    AllenR Member

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    Bill,

    Yup, that sounds like the same person. Thanks!

    Allen
     
  16. pgomena

    pgomena Member

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    I attended the August, 1980, Zone VI workshop, and can truly say it was a transforming experience. Not that my images became any better immediately afterwards, but at least I had been exposed to some well-made and wonderfully printed images. I came away with a new appreciation for the possibilities of the medium and a few new tools with which to carry on my own work. I also gained a new respect for the individuality of photographers' vision and expression. Yes, access to Fred was tough to get, especially if you were fairly "green," which I was at the time. (I think I'm more of a yellow-brown now.) But, he did take time to critique each and every student's work at some point in during the 10 days. 10 days -- A hell of a bargain even then. Fred surrounded himself with a great staff, and the volume of their production was astounding. A new show of different staff work went up every other day or so. A lot of photographers "diss" Fred as a great salesman but not much of a photographer. I found him to have a discerning eye and great sensitivity to subject matter, whether it was a rock or a human being. Those who criticize his work probably never saw it close-up and in person.

    Peter Gomena
     
  17. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Although I never attended a workshop, I have all the newsletters and his drying screens, and his video and as well some very bad sample prints.
    I imagine Fred would be a very strong supporter of APUG, in fact this site really reminds me of him and what he did over those years.
    I hate crowds and controlled envioronments so I never went to the workshops. Now I am hosting a conference . go figure
     
  18. mmcclellan

    mmcclellan Subscriber

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    I have to agree with Peter. Sadly, I never attended a workshop (couldn't afford it!), but I read all the newsletter from beginning to end at least twenty times, read the Workshop book many times, watched all the videos several times, and have bought every book of Picker's work I could find. At first, I did not appreciate his work, but now I find his work excellent and inspirational as I have come to understand the subtlety of his compositions and approach. Besides being a hell of a salesman and an excellent "vision man" for getting great products into production, he was also a superb photographer whose work will stand the test of time.

    I corresponded by e-mail with him shortly after the war in Kosovo. He nicely agreed to allow his Workshop book to be translated into Albanian at no charge, along with his newsletters, so local photographers there could start to explore the Zone System, something they had not known before. I will always be greatful to Fred for his knowledge and dedication to photography, no matter what kind of fights he may have had with Ron Wisner or anything else. He is sadly missed.
     
  19. mmcclellan

    mmcclellan Subscriber

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    By the way, my darkroom also has virtually everything Zone VI ever manufactured -- best equipment ever made!
     
  20. Peter Schrager

    Peter Schrager Subscriber

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    Zone VI

    Just finished making a print using a zone vi cold light; timer; and washer. Could you ask for anything more? This stuff has been working flawlessly for over 20 years. O.K. I did do a little rehap to my washer but it continues onward.
    Fred Picker was always reachable on the phone at the office. We talked many a time. I have some hilarious notations from an initial zone test where he says my shots "are all over the barn" And that's who Fred was. A real no BS kind of guy. I'm sorry that I never made it to a reunion in Vt. Such is life. I also think it's rediculous to say bad things about people who have passed away. Fred probably did more for the LF community than any other single person....
    Best, Peter
     
  21. Ed Pierce

    Ed Pierce Member

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    I couldn't afford it, but when Fred announced in '93 or so that this was to be the last workshop, I made it happen somehow. I can't remember where I borrowed the money now...I hope I paid them back!

    I recall leaving the workshop with a fresh sense of dedication to my work. There were a lot of lectures and demonstrations. We went on several short trips, both to photograph and to Lil's gallery. The printing demo was held at Fred's house. We didn't do any printing or developing film.

    My clearest memory of the workshop is my print review with Fred; boy was I nervous!

    Fred had a huge impact on my work. I live in Vermont and enjoy photographing many of the same types of scenes. My working habits and choice of materials and equipment were largely influenced by him at that time. See what I mean: www.edpiercephoto.com

    Last September I was very fortunate in getting a grant and attended another, very different workshop; with John Sexton in Colorado. This was geared specifically to large format, "landscape" genre photography. It was much smaller, more intimate, more work, and thoroughly enjoyable. I did have to struggle with "unlearning" some things I'd learned from Fred. Now however I have another whole set of tools to choose from.

    As others have noted, the most valuable part of my zone vi experience was seeing great prints in person for the first time, and beginning to develop a vocabulary to understand them.
     
  22. esanford

    esanford Member

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    It has been a pleasure reading these alumni posts. During Fred's "workshop period", I was busy managing a business career and raising a young family... so I had neither the time nor the money to attend his workshops. However, my darkroom is completely Zone VI outfitted. Moreover, I have all of the tapes and each newsletter as well as all of his books (I regularly purchase the Zone VI workshop book from ebay to give as gifts to young serious photography students). I've done all of the tests and many of the exercises. I am jealous listening to all of the accounts. I talked to Fred on the phone many times (I was even yelled at by him for having dumb questions without "trying things" before asking). I even have a couple of emails from him about 2 months before he passed away. This indirect contact with Fred really changed the quality of my photography. In addition, I've been able to apply his lessons in discipline and hard work to other areas of my life.

    There is one common thread that I have found among his critics. Typically, they are people who read a lot of things, jump from one thing to another without locking in and really learning one thing well. Fred's style of "stick to it" discipline would not be appealing to people of the "easy access" persuasion. I'll always remember Fred's admonition about never following anyone's advice until that person shows you their high quality finished photographs rather then just technical theory...

    Thanks for all of the memories

    Ed
     
  23. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    I've heard several people say this in this thread. Expensive for the time maybe, I think I spent some $750.00 on the full week, food AND lodging. Pretty good I think. I was a lowly student then and had money to burn from a summer dye transfer lab job I had at the time. However, this is MUCH less than outfitting your darkroom with his gear! Perhaps this is why I only had a Zone VI meter and cold light head!

    Bill
     
  24. esanford

    esanford Member

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    During the late 70s and 80s, there was no way that my wife was going to allow me to take $750 (that would not have included the plane fare) out of the family budget to take myself away on a "frivolous" photography trip when that same amount could have taken the entire family away for a week at the beach at that time. In the late 80s and early 90s, I had a sports portraiture business on the side and I used the proceeds to buy Zone VI equipment. Over the years, the remainder of it was purchased used from Ebay and other sources at a time when my kids were educated and out of the house thereby giving me more disposable income for hobbies.
     
  25. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    I understand completely. I considered it part of my schooling and a business expense. For me, photography has never been a hobby. In fact, I could use one of those! :smile:

    Bill
     
  26. hortense

    hortense Member

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    Attended in 1980 and thorourly enjoyed the learning experience. In my mind ,Fred's workshop, books and Newsletters were great I still have the workshop notes, the book, and all the Newsletters. All the instructors were well qualified to teach; their artistry ranged from good to outstanding. Best thing was the "community spirit" of the group including the instructors. Formed several long time friends. Who stands out Martin Tartar, instructor, a very patient and knowledgeable man.