"Color Photography" Workshop with Harald Mante

The “Color Photography” course with Harald Mante was a lot of fun. The group consisted of 13 participants with very different photographic backgrounds and artistic aspirations, and the equipment ranged from a film camera (Harald) to a compact camera to a professional dSLR. The length of photographic experience spanned from a couple of months up to twenty years.

BTW, the typical photographic clichés were fulfilled here too: the people with the compact cameras made more interesting photos than those with the top gear and the 4000 EUR 1DmkIII was equipped with a cheap 28-300 Tamron zoom.

The first day was all about image composition and color design, a theoretical lecture accompanied by a myriad of slides from Harald’s archives. All other days started with a similar 90-minute lecture, but were followed by free time to go shooting or return to the seminar room and speak with Harald or show him images.

On the day before last we were to prepare an exhibit of our best work during the course, but otherwise we were free to do whatever we pleased. Harald gave us a bit of direction with his talks and slide-shows and by going out with us twice, shooting and showing us all the details along the way that fascinated him. I would have much preferred specific assignments like “photograph the wind” or “shadows” or “reflections”, but I guess he did not want to limit us in any way.

The interactions with Harald were, of course, very enlightening. He would look at our laptops and comment on the images, but he much preferred holding paper prints in his hands. He would spread them out on the table and move them around for a while, then start building groups of images based on content, tone or emotion. He would see connections between images where I saw none, and he would encourage us to follow a certain theme or go back and look for more of this or that. With each day our series became longer and more focused around a specific topic, and even those who were at a loss at the beginning about what to photograph produced a great portfolio or two.

I myself started with some good single images, concentrating mostly on the color part of “color photography”, but I also made photographs composed around strong graphical elements. Encouraged by Harald and his personal love for the abstract and non-literal, I kept coming up with images which perfectly fit the pile named “difficult to sell.”  Like this “Zebra crossing” below.

But I soon realized the power of a photographic series. This is a direction in which Harald has been working for decades, and he made a strong effort to make us think in this way.  Before the course I’d aways tried to capture the essence of a place or a thing in a single image, and that was often quite hard. Many times I wouldn’t even take out my camera because there was no strong image anywhere in sight. But Harald’s course taught me that you can tell a great story or show a thing with its multiple facets using multiple images. You can vary your position or the time of day or the viewing angle, but most often you simply stay put and take an image every few seconds or minutes. It is fascinating what great series can result from this simple method!

Below is my series called “2-3-4” which Harald liked very much and even asked me for a copy of it.  It shows a study of color areas and monochromatic patterns meeting each-other.  The title refers to the progression of the number of areas: two on the first row, three areas on the second and four areas on the last row.

This was my first ever photographic workshop, and I consider it a really great learning experience.  It was very good to have so much free time and to be able to concentrate on finding and ordering the images.  Having to produce a small exhibit with a fixed date was also an interesting exercise, but the most valuable experience was seeing the amazing works of previous participants of Harald’s courses and also of his university students from the past 40 years.