A New York Barnstorm

Scott Anderson, a photographer for CNI Newspapers, was one of 100 young photographers selected for The Eddie Adams Workshop this year. He gives us a behind the scenes look at one of photojournalism’s premier workshop. The 100 participants out of the thousands that apply were chosen by the Workshop Board of Directors base on their portfolios and recommendations. Anderson graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Madison with a masters degree in journalism. He was named College Photographer of the Year in 2000 and 2001 by the Wisconsin News Photographers Association.

I first met Eddie Adams at the 2000 WNPA convention held in Appleton. He was one of three judges that braved a Saturday afternoon’s worth of some of the best images taken by state photojournalists. He told me he had this workshop each year in New York and that I should consider applying and that it would be great time.

I missed the cut the first year I applied, but on my second try, I was invited. The rules for applying to the Eddie Adams Workshop are quite simple, you must: 1) either be in college or in your first three years as a working professional to be eligible; 2) submit your 20 best images on CD; 3) submit a resume; 4) prepare an essay explaining why you want to go to the workshop, and 5) have a sparkling letter of recommendation from either a college professor or someone you work with who can write well.

The Eddie Adams Workshop is entitled Barnstorm for a reason. First, there’s a barn. Second, there is a storm. The storm, of course, is the part where the students have to comprehend that seemingly all of the most influential photographers of our time are talking to you, one at a time for five days straight. But more about the barn. The workshop is held at Eddie’s farm, which is located in Liberty, NY, and is a hilly 3-hour drive west of New York City. The barn on the farm is decked out to resemble a lecture hall, replete with a robust sound system, plenty of seating, a working kitchen in the basement, and numerous image editing stations. Nights were spent at the hotel in Liberty, but days were spent out at the barn a half-hour outside of town.

There was, however, no alcohol at the barn as may have been rumored in years past. All of the drinking was done around the time of the 11:30 club. The 11:30 club was a unique thing. After each day’s worth of listening to the aforementioned experts, all the students take the bus from the barn and head back to the hotel in the city. Many of the working professionals at the workshop spend time enough into the early hours of the next morning in the hotel convention hall reviewing student portfolios and giving feedback. If there was ever a time a young photographer needed 20-30 qualified opinions about their work, the 11:30 club was it. Most of the professionals would wander off to bed around 1:00am, but each night many students stayed up late just to sit and talk, network, trade stories and drink.

The 100 students invited to the workshop were divided into 10 teams of 10. Each team was given a common theme that was relevant to each member’s assignment. Teams were great. Our team leader set us up with assignments in New York City for our September 11 coverage. Our team leader, then, ran a brainstorming session where we solidified what we needed to accomplish. To settle this once and for all, we were given one day to shoot in New York. September 11. Actually, it was about 12 hours. With Barnstorm officials planning all sorts of extra activities, shooting and travel and editing time was shaved to about 10 hours. Five people went to ground zero. Period. Two because they were on assignment and the other three or so because they popped off and wanted to catch a cursory glance. The other 95% of the students set to wander the streets of New York City. We had other things to do.

My day was spent documenting a boys’ choir school located on 59th Street just south of Central Park. The assignment called for me to photograph the students as they walked in their choir robes from the school to their church several blocks away for a September 11 service. I took the assignment, called the director at the school and parlayed my time with them to include a couple of early-morning class periods, and a boisterous soccer practice with the fourth graders in Central Park at the end of the day. The staff at the St. Thomas Choir School were wonderful. They kept calling me “the kid from the New York Times.” I didn’t have the heart to correct them and, heck, it sounded good. Since I was allegedly from the “New York Times,” the rector at the church let me photograph the service. The church, St. Thomas Church–Fifth Avenue–was a holy place. The church was a daunting World War 1-era gothic thing built clear to the heavens and as dark as a root cellar.

Eddie is having a book published on Feb. 14, 2003, with our work in it. The students’ collective assignment was “We Love New York.” Students either set to the streets of New York City to document the everyday lives of New Yorkers or to show how New Yorkers were honoring their fellow citizens through ceremony and reflection of their own devices. But like I said, Eddie is having a book published on Valentine’s Day. It is his gift to the city.

My lasting impression of the workshop is that it is 1) accurately named, and 2) something I can reflect upon and revisit in the coming years.

–Scott Anderson, September 2002

Related link:

The Eddie Adams Workshop

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