Workshops
Eddie Adams XXVIII : Burning Man for Photographers
sara swaty
Oct 21, 2015

The Eddie Adams workshop is “an intense four-day gathering of the top photography professionals, along with 100 carefully selected students.”   Intense doesn’t begin to describe it. Our days were filled with photography assignments, lectures, critiques, and portfolio reviews, leaving us only 1-3 hours to sleep per night—if we were lucky. 

99 others and myself arrived at the Barn in Jeffersonville, NY, on a rainy Friday afternoon and were immediately greeted by cameras clicking, buzzing drones overhead, and dozens of people cheering and yelling, “Welcome!” “Congratulations!”, giving out high fives and waves, all genuinely excited to see you.

I didn’t know what to think. Was this really happening??  My brain flashed back to being greeted at Burning Man by the same level of excitement, love, and pure joy just at the sight of you simply being there.

Within a few minutes of meeting our assigned teams, Jimmy Colton had already given us an assignment.  We were asked to stand up and say “I love you” to everyone around us—iconic photographers, beloved photo editors, and strangers that would soon become our friends, bonded by fatigue, joy, and passion. 

I embraced my new family, Team Turquoise: Ruth Fremson, Pulitzer prize winning NYT photographer and team lead; Colin Crawford, LA Times photo editor –and Turquoise’s personal editor/cheerleader; portrait photographer and team tech, Pete Kiehart, and photojournalist Eric Thayer, our fearless producer.   For a few minutes, despite the trees and running water, it felt like being on the playa again, love echoing all over the barn.

The first night consisted of inspiring lectures from photographers beginning with John Stanmeyer, a National Geographic photographer--and the most poetic photojournalist I have ever witnessed.  His animated language, passion, and flow of thoughts were awe-inspiring.  I had never heard anyone speak of photographing tragedy the same way he did, he admits to having “…a beautiful obsession with the poetry of war and communication.” Stanmeyer also gave me the ironic gift of calm with his quote: “If you don’t have anxiety, you can’t be creative.”

David Guttenfelder & Ruddy Roye showed me the exciting power of the smartphone camera, a refreshing reminder when the rest of the world is telling you that the smartphone has ruined the photography industry.  I confess, I have a love hate relationship with my phone--I hate that I love it. I love that it gives me the power of silence, discretion, and access and hate that my other cameras can’t compete with that. But Roye and Guttenfelder taught me to embrace this new challenge, be empowered by it, and take advantage of my tools.

But the most impressionable part of the workshop was being welcomed into this amazing and growing community of like-minded artists—passionate, caring, and creative people who all have incredible wisdom and vision to offer.  Speaking candidly with artists without competition and tension weighing on us was so freeing.

On the last night, optimism was flowing through my body, and as I looked around at all of the smiling faces, I realized even our joy was united:

We had found our family.

Love you EAW 28!

Sara Swaty

Los Angeles people and portrait photographer specializing in music, fashion, fine art and conceptual projects. LA + STL
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