Fostering the Next Generation: The Eddie Adams Workshop at 25 Years

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Updated Oct. 10, 2014. LightBox has asked a further alum to reflect on one important lesson he carries with him from the Eddie Adams Workshop.

The Eddie Adams Workshop is considered by many to be the premiere photojournalism workshop, shaping its 100 young attendees into professional and award-winning photographers over a long weekend each year in upstate New York. Alyssa Adams, Eddie’s widow and the producer of the workshop, writes for LightBox about the workshop’s legacy as it celebrates its 25th year this weekend.

Eddie had a singular vision for a “foto farm” back in 1988: Bring 100 young photojournalism students together with seasoned pros (his “heroes” as he called them)—shut them away in a barn upstate, shoot, show work. The Workshop would be inspiration-based (not a how-to), pros would donate their time and it would be tuition-free with entry based on the quality of a student’s portfolio.

Eddie always said he wanted to attend a forum like this when he was coming up, one where he could meet his personal heroes and picture editors from major publications. We listened in awe, amazed at the living history, when Eddie’s heroes spoke at the barn—Alfred Eisenstadt, Gordon Parks, Carl Mydans, Joe Rosenthal, Bill Eppridge, Nick Ut, among others.

Working as a photographer can be a very solitary experience. So, back in the day when there were no “internets” (yes, no Facebook, no TED) and film was still the medium (rolls were bussed to the Time-Life lab and processed overnight), Barnstorm became not only a source of inspiration but also a refuge. It still remains a “recharging station”—both students and pros emerge reinvigorated by comparing notes on how all of us are creatively dealing with the economics of the business, the dangers of being a journalist, the crazy-fast advances in digital technology and constant self re-invention.

We were amazed that we pulled the first one off in 1988 and had no idea it would continue past that. Fast-forward to our 25th Workshop this October—the formula remains the same, but is now a much more layered experience. And Eddie’s legacy is evident: Our first students are now our teachers. Alumni have gone on to win every major award in the business (there are ten Pulitzer-prize winning photographers among them.) They are now our heroes in the barn.

Looking back through two decades of Workshop files (15 years analog in metal cabinets!), I found a sponsor proposal Eddie put together in 1991—The Eddie Adams Workshop: China/Europe/South America. Blowing off the dust on it now…

Alyssa Adams is a deputy photo editor at TV Guide. She is also the director of operations at Bathhouse Studios, a photo rental studio in NYC.

She and her husband, Eddie Adams, co-created The Eddie Adams Workshop in 1988. She now serves as the executive director. Adams is currently working on a new monograph on Eddie’s work with the University of Texas Press, where Eddie’s archives are housed. In 2008 she produced Eddie Adams: Vietnam. Adams was formerly the director of photography at Miramax Films and an award-winning graphic designer with Carbone Smolan Associates.

LightBox asked 25 alums to reflect on one important lesson they carry with them from the Eddie Adams Workshop 1988: Matt Black Texas migrant in her yard. Teviston, Calif. I was an 18 year-old kid from the sticks who had discovered photography a couple of years before. It seemed like a chance at a little adventure. But those few days in upstate New York were when I started to realize that photography could be something else, something more. Eddie Adams, and the people he brought to the workshop, valued substance and convictions. They spoke of commitment. They believed photographs had great power. I brought that good advice with me right back to the sticks.Matt Black
1989: David ButowA monk meditates during a two-day prayer at a private home in Paro, Bhutan. The blessing is intended to instill harmony and good luck, and is part of an annual ritual by many families in this Asian country, where Buddhism is the official national religion. Photographed in 2012, the image is a from a series for the photographic work-in-progress Seeing Buddha, which will be released next year. "Just out of college, it was the first time I had been around so many established, highly-regarded photographers and editors. I was struck by how integrated their personalities were with their professional lives. They put so much of themselves into their work, and were in turn shaped by the experiences of being around powerful people or doing exotic or dangerous travel, things most people will never see first hand. I realized then that working at that level was not just a job—it was a life."David Butow
1990: John Moore Mary McHugh mourns her slain fiance Sgt. James Regan at the Arlington National Cemetery on May 27, 2007. Regan, a U.S. Army Ranger from Long Island, N.Y. was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq, and this was the first time McHugh had visited the grave since the funeral earlier in the year. When he died, Regan was on his fourth combat deployment since 9/11. "The workshop exposed me to some of the most in-depth and emotional work I had ever seen, done by some of the very best photojournalists in the world. In the 23 years since my time there, I have spent most of my career working abroad, and in the last decade, often covering our two wars. But this photo of Mary McHugh at her fiance's grave at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend has probably touched more people than any photo I've taken. I spoke with her at length at the grave site a half hour before I made the picture. When I came back by, she was lying over the grave, softly speaking into the marble. Her story came to feel personal for me, and it still does."John Moore
1991: Brooks Kraft Nearly 2 million members of South Africa's Zion Christian Church make an annual pilgrimage to the remote rural church headquarters for a celebration of Easter. "At EAW I meet Eliane Laffont, who brought me into Sygma agency (now Corbis). It was the start of the transition in my career from newspapers to magazines. Shortly after the workshop, Sygma sent me to South Africa for four months leading up to the first democratic elections there and the inauguration of Mandela. It was a relationship and opportunity that I am unfortunately not sure still exists now for young photographers."Brooks Kraft
1992: Rick Loomis Alfred Eisenstaedt kisses the hand of Eddie Adams after speaking at the workshop in 1992. "The third time was a charm when I applied to the Eddie Adams Workshop as a student from Western Kentucky University. My first two applications were met with rejection but the experience proved worth the wait. The workshop was intense with a roster full of industry heavies that I had only ever heard about. Speaker after speaker came to the podium sharing their work, their insights, themselves.One of those legends was Alfred Eisenstaedt. When he finished his speech and slowly headed out of the barn, something compelled me to sneak out behind him while everyone else turned their attention to the next speaker. Eddie Adams had also come outside to see him off. Before closing the car door, 'Eisie' kissed Eddie's hand. I was privileged to witness these two giants in the world of photography pay homage to one another.In that moment it clicked for me—the deep history of this profession in which I was quickly immersing myself. Much of what we do as photojournalists is not done in groups. It's done alone. But we are all linked together in the pursuit and perfection of documenting history. With that knowledge comes the responsibility to live up to those who have come before us, and to lay the groundwork for those yet to come. This picture still hangs on my wall today. So each day I am reminded that their work, my work and the work of all the past and future 'Barnstormers' is all part of the same tapestry." Rick Loomis
1993: Adrees Latif Kenji Nagai of APF tries to take photographs as he lies injured after police and military officials fired upon and then charged protesters in Yangon, Myanmar's city center on Sept. 27, 2007. Nagai, 50, a Japanese video journalist, was shot by soldiers as they fired to disperse the crowd; he later died. The image won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography in 2008. It was the first Pulitzer prize awarded to Reuters in the history of the news agency. "I recall arriving to the barn in the Catskill Mountains on a crisp autumn day in 1993. It was full of photographers of all generations and genres of photography. The young, raw talent conversed with legendary photojournalists like Joe Rosenthal, whose images had shaped photojournalism and history as we know it. No matter how old or new, it was Eddie Adams who we came to be inspired by. It was he who had the vision to bring us together." Adrees Latif—Reuters
1994: Jon Lowenstein Matias Purnell, 12, poses for a picture in South Chicago on one of the main industrial corridors in this small, tight-knit neighborhood. Today, all the factories are closed and the future remains uncertain as change is in the air. "Specific yet somewhat foggy memories remain of my weekend at the Eddie Adams workshop. I had never been around that many photographers and it was at once exciting and overwhelming. I recall that it was a serious wake-up call for me to be around all these strong young photographers who appeared to be so dedicated to this craft. A few important memories stay with me to this day: Gordon Parks, who was 83 at the time, dancing into the wee hours of the last night; John Loengard imploring me to “Write more!” after looking at my series of images from the Basque country. Lynn Johnson’s supportive and kind words of encouragement after I failed to live up to my own high expectations on an assignment about a high school football player, and most of all, Teru Kuwayama’s tears of joy when he was honored one of the main awards for his photographs of a Vietnam veteran. The workshop was a gift and definitely helped me to commit myself to becoming a professional photographer."Jon Lowenstein
1995: Stephanie Sinclair Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband outside their home in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010. "I was fortunate to attend a very special year of the Eddie Adams workshop. I was one of many students able to watch and learn from incredible presentations by Gordon Parks, John White, Nick Ut and Eddie Adams. It was the first time I was truly exposed to the longevity and historical importance of the images we make—a sentiment that has stayed with me to this day."Stephanie Sinclair—VII
1996: Andrea Bruce The mother of Khan Mohammad, a 3 month old child who passed away due to the cold early one February morning in 2012, is comforted before Khan is washed and buried in the Nasaji Bagrami Camp for displaced persons in Kabul. "Randy Olson of National Geographic, one of my favorite photographers, was my instructor at Eddie Adams. What struck me most was how genuine and empathetic he was with each student and each story. I respected him as a person as well as a photographer. I believe his sense of purpose and sincerity is what makes him a consistently strong and surprising shooter. He cemented my understanding of why we do this."Andrea Bruce
1997: Kristen Ashburn Stella Forty (42 yrs) lies dying of AIDS on the floor of her home. When she died in Nov 2006, her husband was left to care for their five children. Nsanje, Malawi. "I attended the Eddie Adams Workshop as a student at New York University and was pretty naive and eager. The workshop was my first introduction to the photography community. It was inspiring to meet the professionals who donated their time at the workshop. You could tell that everyone gave 100% of themselves and truly cared about the student participants. Eddie was still alive at that time. His tribute to photographers killed while covering stories gave me goose bumps. It was then that I began to understand the bond between photographers. I also remember standing there thinking about the journeys of those who died and wondering where mine would take me. I suppose that was also my first real lesson in photojournalism—no one ever knows what’s in store for them or how much they will sacrifice while working. Eddie’s tribute to those lost could not be any more relevant than today as we continue to lose exceptional photographers and friends."Kristen Ashburn
1998: Peter Yang Barack Obama, photographed in Raleigh, N.C. in 2008. "Eddie Adams workshop was a tremendous experience for me. I was one of the younger participants and felt a bit over my head when I got to the barn. My team leader BIll Frakes put us all at ease, and I learned the importance of hard work and careful planning. Our teams woke up earlier than everyone else, shot later, and Bill was able to find just a few extra rolls of film for each of us. Yes, film. In the end, all the hard work and smart planning got me my first magazine assignment—an assignment for LIFE Magazine."Peter Yang
1999: Yola Monakhov Blue China, 2011. 40X50" "The Eddie Adams Workshop was a fantastic orientation in many things: the community of photographers, the discipline of working on deadline and under pressure, and the inspiration to go out and become the photographers and artists we wished to be. I still recall a wealth of advice: Bill Eppridge, to live large with our cameras; Carl Mydans, to practice mindfulness when witnessing history, and to keep good notes; Kathy Ryan, to treat personal work with the seriousness of assignments, and assignments as personal work; Joe McNally, that film was the cheapest thing we had, while opportunity is unique; and Eddie Adams himself, honoring his fallen comrades, that we share our mission." Yola Monakhov-Stockton
2000: Tomas van HoutryveNabin Pun, a Maoist rebel soldier of the People's Liberation Army, raises the communist flag from a tree above the village of Rukumkot, Nepal on Feb. 11, 2005. “Nick Ut and Kim Phuc gave presentations at the Eddie Adams workshop I attended. What struck me during their talks was how Nick had managed to take the picture of Kim fleeing from the napalm attack, and as soon as he had the photo, he carried her to the hospital. He took one of the most important and iconic photos of the Vietnam War, yet he didn't lose sight of his basic humanity to help out a little girl in pain. In a very tough conflict situation he played it just right. It was a lesson from a rare story outside the viewfinder—of how photojournalists should behave. It stuck with me. Don't miss your shot, and don't let it distract you from your moral duties to fellow human beings.”Tomas van Houtryve—VII
2001: Melissa LyttleTwo of Bernie Lierow's favorite things are giving his daughter Dani, 9, kisses and hugs, even if she can't give them back. Dani is considered a feral child. She was locked in a closet for the first seven years of her life by her biological mom, and after being found and removed by the Department of Children and Families, she was adopted by the Lierows. "The one thing being a student at Barnstorm XIV, the Eddie Adams Workshop, really reinforced for me was the importance of community journalism – its ability to impact, affect and make a difference. The biggest thing my team's producer Chris Ramirez stressed that weekend was that while, as a student, you may only be in this town for four days, he has to live in that town and the Workshop has to return to that town the following year. A premium was placed on respecting both the people and place, so as not to sully the subject's view of the workshop and not to ruin it for students in years to come. It's been something I've carried with me in the way I try to conduct myself on assignment now for the Tampa Bay Times, whether it's in my backyard or in some far-away-land, respect is key to my approach. That respect tends to open doors. With it comes to trust and intimacy, and when people genuinely understand your mission and how you're not just there to take, but also to give something back, it definitely improves your ability to make a difference and impact lives—even if that difference is just simply how the people you photographed view photojournalists the next time."Melissa Lyttle
2002: Krisanne Johnson A young Old German Baptist woman plays basketball with friends after dinner at her parents' farm. Sports play a large role in the Old German Baptist community by giving other young members a chance to meet and socialize. Members can not use the Internet, watch television or listen to music. "The year I attended the Eddie Adams Workshop we were sent to New York City to document the first anniversary of Sept 11th. We left the farm, piled into buses and headed to the city to document the resilient spirit of New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs. I had never been to the city before and was completely overwhelmed. How could I go to Ground Zero and document people on such an emotional day? Today, I live in Brooklyn as a freelance photographer. I often think about how green I was on that day in 2002—how scared I was to navigate the streets and to talk to people. My team leaders helped us work through the tough questions and they also simply pushed us out the door. I'm grateful for that push and to have shared that day with the amazing students—many of which became good friends and a support line in the city."Krisanne Johnson
2003: Donald WeberFrom Interrogations, published by Schilt Publishers, Amsterdam, 2012 I remember my team leader dropped out at the last minute. I was bummed as I was looking forward to working with him. So, we were offered a replacement—horror of horrors—a fashion photographer! This couldn't be—I have come to the place of photojournalism only to be tutored by a fashion photographer. What could he teach me? I was still in my romantic photojournalist phase: scarf, leather jacket, travel. In the end, it was great. He was open to all possibility. Who cares about the technical craft? Just get out there and feel your way through the pictures and the people you meet. Craft comes later; what comes first is to make a connection with your subject and being able to express that visually. So, I forget who was supposed to be our team leader, but I'm glad he missed it. Seeking out an alternative perspective was something I learned that weekend and which has stayed with me all this time."Donald Weber
2004: Carolyn Drake Playing on the muddy shore of the Syr Darya in summer, Kyzylorda, Kazakhstan 2010. "I remember it was very stressful. The work had to be shot and edited very quickly, newsroom pace, and I tend to take my time, so it was an exercise in making quick decisions and meeting deadlines."Carolyn Drake—Panos
2005: Dominic NahrNorth Kivu, Kibati, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2008. Four Congolese government soldiers shelter from the rain on the front line about five kilometers north of Kibati. CNDP Rebels and government soldiers are separated by less then half a kilometer and fighting flares up regularly. "I remember how I felt proud to be a part of such a great group of people—photographers who truly believe in what they are doing. Even though our community is small, we remember the ones who came before us with great pride and we take care or are taken care of by the ones who are still around. When the balloons flew for the fallen photographers I really felt a strong feeling of responsibility to the years that were ahead of me. The workshop gave me an opportunity to see what was out there, from stories to all the editors. In the years that followed I knew I had to produce strong untold stories, and with these essays push my work out the same way we had done at the workshop.Half the battle is making the images, the other half is showing up and making sure they find their way to the surface."Dominic Nahr—Magnum
2006: Shiho Fukada Jiang Guohua, the Communist Party secretary of Mianzhu city, kneels on the ground pleading with protesting parents, whose children were killed in a school collapse during China's recent devastating earthquake, not to complain to higher authorities, in Mianzhu, Sichuan province on May 25, 2008. Despite Jiang's pleas, the parents of the 127 children who died in the collapse kept marching Sunday and eventually met with higher officials, who told them the government would investigate. "Advice—keep shooting. It was just so inspiring to be there with other talented participants and mentors that weekend. The passion and love that people have for photojournalism really lifted me up and made me believe in what we do." Shiho Fukada—Panos
2007: Justin MaxonMarina Lopez, 21, hangs laundry out to dry on a horse farm outside of Gardiner, N.Y., as a strong wind wraps the bed sheet in her hands around her body. Lopez recently moved away from the farm, but she lived on it for over three years and it will always be home to her. "There are rare moments in one's life that can be placed in a glass bottle and later reveled as monumental in helping shape your present form. I hold the Eddie Adams Workshop in that place of reverence. The support system that began during that weekend, has contributed to the landscape of my career. I carry with me the countless relationships that, over the years, have lifted me up towards the heights of my aspirations."Justin Maxon
2008: Emily Schiffer Gage, 12, removes cactus from his heel. Cheyenne River Reservation, S.D. "I've always had one foot in documentary photography, the other in the art world. The workshops gave me the drive to continue down the path I had created for myself, without trying to conform to one world or the other."Emily Schiffer
2009: Shannon Jensen 30,000 men, women and children from Sudan's Blue Nile State crossed into South Sudan in June 2012, joining 70,000 refugees who had already fled the ongoing conflict between Khartoum and SPLM-North. These are some of the shoes that made the journey. "The biggest takeaway from Eddie Adams for me, who had no formal background in photography and was preparing law school applications at the time, was the certainty that I wanted to pursue photojournalism as a career and the confidence that, if I continued to work hard enough, I could do it. The best advice I received was from my team leader, Santiago Lyon, who was rather horrified that I brought back 1,000 frames from my full day assignment and counseled me to truly consider each frame before I push the shutter—to make good images through careful consideration rather than brute force."Shannon Jensen
2010: Mae Ryan Dad entering the house in Stony Creek, Conn., 2010 "When I went to Eddie Adams I was struck by Chris Anderson's talk. First, he showed his more traditional photojournalist work—refugees crossing oceans in makeshift boats, war ravaged deserts in the Middle East and droughts in Africa. Then he showed his personal project "Son" and I was transfixed. The project follows his relationship with his wife, newborn son and father, who is dealing with cancer. For me, his work reaffirmed that some of the most beautiful stories aren't in exotic locations; they can be in intimate places closer to home."Mae Ryan
2011: Christian Hansen New Orleans, Feb. 25, 2009. Sasha Boyesen, Jared Oppenheim and Escobar slept together on a mattress with no sheets, the morning after Mardi Gras. About a week later, they drove to Mexico City, went into a bar, and tied Escobar outside. The dog was gone when they came out. "After giving a speech, The Senator exited through the kitchen. The photographer Bill Eppridge followed. He was working for LIFE and was a regular in the entourage. Then, suddenly, gunshots ring out. He knows that's what he heard; he's been a hunter all his life. He runs to the pantry. The senator is on the floor. Bill loved Bobby. Most everybody did, especially the poor and the downtrodden. When Bobby went down, a busboy knelt and held him. Everyone else was frozen in shock, except for Bill and that busboy. Bill knew what he had to do. This was history. The world had to know. He took maybe 4 shots. They’re all surreal and one of them is transcendent. It ran as the magazine cover. It stayed in our minds forever. Years later Bill got the original print of it back from LIFE when they liquidated their archive. I remember him saying he put it behind a couch in his house, which years later caught fire. All the black negative space burned off, leaving perfectly intact the image of the busboy holding Bobby, unconscious with his arms outstretched in a peaceful, Christ-like pose. I keep thinking about the death of Bobby Kennedy and what Bill told us about it at the Eddie Adams workshop last October. It seems like a crass thing to do, but I turned it into a little lesson about photography: the most important quality of a photographer is readiness with a camera upon bearing witness to the ineffable. Bill calls that content. He says that’s basically all that matters. I believe him." Christian Hansen
2012: Andrew HinderakerAn arrest next to Washington Square Park during Occupy Wall Street protests on "May Day," May 1, 2012, in New York City. "I am excited for the opportunity to attend the 25th Eddie Adams Workshop. I am looking forward to the chance to work on a project in collaboration with my peers and with the best professionals working today. It will be an honor to contribute to the legacy of Eddie Adams by helping build the community of photojournalism." Andrew Hinderaker
Xenios Zeus
2013: Francesco Anselmi A Moroccan migrant preparing two chickens in Patras, Greece. "Eddie Adams Workshop has been one of the most intense moments in my photographic life. While you are there, you are just praying for it to come to an end. There's a kind of magic happening in that barn, and once you are back to normal life, it seems like you've been dreaming." Francesco Anselmi—Contrasto

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