curated by Akemi Hiatt & Lindsay Stern
June 11 – August 28, 2011
Since 1997, Emily and Madeline Sparer (b. 1985 and 1988), Rochelle, Heather, and Brittany Roman-Green (b. 1985, 1986, and 1988), and Rachel, Daniel, and Natalie George (b.1994, 1997, and 1999), have welcomed master photographers and CPW’s workshop students into their homes, engaging the CPW community in their roles as models, muses, teaching assistants, and hosts to workshops led by such luminaries such as David Hilliard, Andrea Modica, and Jock Sturges.
The instructors and students often maintained communication with the families after the workshop had formally concluded, resulting in the familiesí accumulating an impressive collection of gifted prints which charts their children’s growth in Woodstock – from childhood, to adolescence, to the teenage years, and up to young adulthood.Continue Reading...
What does it mean to be invited to grow up in front of many lenses, over many years? How did the roles that these young women and men adopted come to shape their understanding of photography, and that of the photographers they assisted?
With the exhibition Becoming Muses, we sought to address these questions as we began to learn more about the experiences that the models, instructors, and workshop students had while working with each other. For many of the students, this exhibition was an opportunity to revisit work that was created numerous years ago and made in an educational environment without the original intention of being shown publicly. In diving into the models’ personal image archives and working with former students and instructors, a multifaceted exhibition emerged.
Emily and Madeline Sparer spoke to the aspect of play they enjoyed as young girls in Andrea’s workshops. The costumes, props, and theatrics set against the idyll of their Woodstock home alongside the Millstream, all worked to cast an atmosphere of girlhood fantasy over the day. Yet as Emily notes “As we got older, [the photo shoots] became less about the clothes and more about the art, more about the process, more about bringing out a different side of ourselves.” This increasing awareness of self and of the camera shifted the models’ relationship to students. They became assistants in more ways than one, acting intuitively as both as generous hosts and informed teachers, often with workshop participants who had no prior experience photographing models. Brittany Roman-Green describes the experience as being “comfortable” and “fun,” and that although sometimes she questioned how she would look in a photograph, “…the photographers really do a phenomenal job at painting the scene they envision.”
The influences of the instructors can be seen in the images, as well as their differing teaching styles. David Hilliard taught by example and demonstration. While teaching an environmental portraiture workshop in 2010, he was compelled to make Weather Gathering, a multi-paneled photograph focused on Heather during class. Andrea Modica assisted students one-on-one as opposed to shooting for herself; as such, her influence is represented by this portrait of a young girl in Croton-on-Hudson who is close in age to the Sparers & Roman-Greens when they first became involved with CPW’s workshops and whose expression and place in the light evokes the subtle twist between reality and fantasy that is so emblematic of Modica’s work. Jock Sturges, known for his work with the nude, had his students shoot clothed models to learn how to achieve a connection with a subject regardless of the situation, creating poetic and evocative portraits of girlhood and sisterly bonding.
CPW’s workshops have long been known as a place free from everyday distractions where photographers can come to expand their craft, skills, and vision under the mentorship of a leading image-maker in an intimate and inspiring surrounding. Each artist in the exhibition brought their own perspectives and creative tools to the class. While in many instances students were shooting identical subject matter in identical locations, the resulting images in Becoming Muses speaks to the remarkable uniqueness of each photographer’s creative vision and way of seeing. The exhibition highlights the range in style, presentation, and process that each artist chose: the hinged diptych by Carlos Loret de Mola and the close-range series by Patricia Decker, for example, emphasizes the girls’ private surroundings and stages of growth, while images by Jennifer May, Lawrence P. Lewis, and Lydia Panas suggest an atmosphere of dress up and woodland play that characterized their early involvement with the workshops. In all cases, the varying themes develop and give way to new methods of representation and changing experiences as the years go by and the students and instructors arrive anew each summer.
The Woodstock Photography Workshops foster a community that often lasts beyond the weekend event. Students and instructors repeatedly return, relationships are solidified over years and reinforced by additional classes at CPW and a shared passion for photography. For the Sparer and Roman-Green girls, the workshops are now a beacon to return to after moving away from Woodstock. When the George children became workshop models in 2006, they joined what has, in many ways, become an annual family reunion. The exhibition Becoming Muses is also a reunion of sorts, for the instructors and students, for the models and muses, and for the images they made together. These pictures, which were created over more than a decade, are a testament not only to CPW’s commitment to photographic education and to the community that the center has thrived in for 34 years, but also to the deep generosity of spirit of the Sparer, Roman-Green, and George families which nourish that vision.
– Akemi Hiatt and Lindsay Stern, April 2011
Akemi Hiatt served as CPW’s Program Associate from 2009 to 2013. Lindsay Stern has worked as the Center’s Education Coordinator since 2010.