Atwater Photo Workshop

Nick Ut with APW Campers, Los Angeles

The Lens Cap Blog is excited to showcase an innovative local business here in the Los Angeles Area. Sit back and enjoy the results of our sit down with Greg Cohen of Atwater Photo Workshops, Los Angeles, CA 90039

What is Atwater Photo Workshops?

The Atwater Photo Workshops are immersive photography learning experiences that expand technical abilities and liberate creative vision. We encourage you to See for Yourself.

How did APW get started? Why did you create it?

I started the Workshops in 2016 so that photographers of all levels would have a place to not only learn the nuts & bolts of shooting but so they would also be able to express themselves artistically and ultimately better understand themselves. My primary objective for any photography student is to develop his or her creative voice. APW is deliberately designed to be a supportive, non-competitive environment that will nurture your creative self and allow you to flourish. We’ll discover your voice, explore it, develop it, and I’ll teach you how to follow it. There’s a reason our tagline is “See For Yourself.”

What can you do at Atwater Photo Workshop?

There are so many fun workshops for all levels…

  • Group workshops – This includes our Intro to Photography and Intro to Photoshop & Lightroom workshops, plus more focused courses on Portraits, Food and Events, to name a few. We also have more involved courses like Mindful Seeing and The Longterm Project, which is a 3 month deep dive into your personal project from concept through presentation. We have monthly walkabouts, usually downtown. And I’m super excited about the parent/kid workshops we’re about to announce, a wonderful way to bond with your kid.
  • One on One sessions – Private workshops, tutoring and our Mentorship Program. 
  • Photo Camp – I honestly can’t believe how much fun we have at Atwater Photo Camp! I’ve enlisted Alyson Aliano to help with this adventure. We do field trips every day, and celebrate at the end the week with a gallery exhibit for family and friends. Parents love it and the kids have a blast!
  • Photo Trips – This year we’ll be leading international trips, beginning with Mexico City. 

Overall, you’ll learn a lot about photography and about yourself; and you’ll likely make some friends or find some people to shoot with.

Tell us something we would not believe…

Nearly every day at Photo Camp we go on some sort of adventure, anywhere from downtown to the beach… museums, galleries, gardens, etc. One day I brought the campers over to my gallery, The Perfect Exposure Gallery. I walked in with 4 campers, 9-12 years old and Nick Ut was standing there. (Nick made the Pulitzer winning image: The Terror of War.) We weren’t expecting it, but our timing was perfect! I’ve known Nick for a few years and I explained to the kids who he was and the importance of his imagery. It was amazing to see these brand new photographers share a moment with a world-class photojournalist who has been making photos for 50 years. It was profound. Several other photographers were in the gallery that day and we all watched this unfold, it was very moving to see.
This experience launched a conversation about how a photograph can influence the world. I could see the light come on with the campers, as they began to understand the power of photography. [Here’s a shot of the kids with Nick, and a video of Nick photographing a camper.]

How does learning photography benefit kids/people? What are some of the changes you see?

First of all, photography is fun, plain and simple, and we always have a good time. That alone is important. 
Also, in today’s society, where everyone needs a photo for their own personal branding, it’s helpful to use images that stand out from the rest. People sign up with APW for this exact reason, and I’ve seen their businesses change because of it. Knowing how to make emotionally charged images can be a valuable skill, and I’ve seen many students become working photographers in a number of areas… portraits or events, for example.
But it’s more than that… Photography is a language, which means it’s a way to communicate. Helping people learn this language is a privilege, especially when they begin to use it fluently. I’ve seen students who are quiet by nature, either shy or insecure, blossom through image-making. They come into their own and it’s a wonderful thing to see. 
A good photography workshop will challenge the way you see, and you will likely develop new perspectives about yourself and the world around you. You’ll gain a better understanding of yourself. This can be extremely rewarding. It’s priceless, really. It’s not uncommon for students to come back again and again to continue learning. 
Oh, and of course you get to make cool pictures.

Tell us about you, Greg, as a portrait photographer. Why would someone want an environmental portrait?

When I shoot a portrait for a client, I try to understand as much as I can about the essence of that person and then I use their surroundings to tell a fuller story of who they are. This can be in a literal sense or metaphorically. Someone may want an image for their business, say a veterinarian. Depending on the individual, I may choose to create a photograph with the person in their office, at home with their pets, or perhaps in nature surrounded by animals. I want someone to look at the photo and get a feeling of who this person is. That feeling is what I’m aiming for. The actual shoots are fun because it’s collaborative, we’re sharing a moment and creating something together.

My personal projects are a little different. I approach them in a similar way to how I approach the workshops. It’s sort of a way for me to learn and to grow. The projects often develop from a place of curiosity. What am I currently interested in? What moves me? What scares me? What do I want to celebrate? What do I want to hide or hide from? One of these things will jump out at me and I’ll consider a way to dive into it. Then once I’m inside it, I let go and stop trying to control it. Instead, I allow it to lead me. I try to respect the process in that way. My favorite images, and I feel my best work, are born out of that process.

What is ONE thing anyone can do right now to take better pics with their cell phone?  

Change your angle to the subject. Ask yourself, what am I NOT seeing? Photography is not about the things we see, but much more about HOW we see them. Can I change my perspective – lower, higher, left, right? What else comes into the foreground or background? Is the sun behind me or behind the subject? How does this change the image? How does it change the mood? Am I shooting down on the dog or a kid, or am I down on their level? Perspective can often be the difference between a good photo and a great photo. 

You can see the schedule of upcoming summer photo workshops here.

Written by

Lens Cap Staff

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