Tag Archives: Keith Carter

Julia Dean: Forty Years Behind the Camera

A dozen years ago, photographer Julia Dean changed my life by asking me to teach at her photography school, The Julia Dean Photo Workshops in Los Angeles. Over the past thirteen years, Julia has taught hundreds of classes, thousands of students, and exposed the Los Angeles community to photographic luminaries and educators such as Keith Carter, Duane Michals, Mary Ellen Mark and many others too numerous to count.  Her school has created a photographic community in Los Angeles, a place to share portolios over a glass of wine, a place to hear lectures, experience wonderful exhibitions, and take a broad array of classes (160 offered each year). Julia’s desire to open our eyes, to see one world, and to bring attention to those who have no voice has been remarkable.  Her generous and enthusiastic spirit is infectious and I feel so lucky to be her friend.  So today I celebrate a woman who has spent a lifetime engaged, enthused, and involved in photography.

Julia has spent the last year revisiting negatives and spending month upon month in the darkroom creating beautiful silver prints in preparation for a 40 year retrospective of her work that opens at the Julia Dean Gallery in Los Angeles tomorrow night, December 15th.  I am featuring work from her General Stores project today — she recently rediscovered the negatives and printed the images for the first time for the exhibition.  Julia is also offering photographs from the exhibition for sale online at a special anniversary price on her site.

Forty Years Behind the Camera: A Retrospective

When I worked as an apprentice to Berenice Abbott’s in 1978, I was 23 years old. Berenice was 80. 

She taught me how to print, among many other photographic skills. She taught me about life in Paris in the 20s, about working with Man Ray, about meeting and photographing people like Eugene Atget, James Joyce, and Jean Cocteau. She even taught me how to do the Charleston. 

I remember using an 8×10 camera with 8×10 film and an 8×10 enlarger. The film had to be processed in complete darkness, one sheet at a time, in 8×10 trays that you lined up just right so you knew what to do in the dark. 

images from General Stores

I learned how to bend light with my hands under an enlarger, how to add light, how to subtract light, how to make a print look just like our eyes saw the subject when the picture was taken. I learned that photography renders 10 tones compared to the hundreds of tones that our eyes can differentiate. I learned that it can take hours to get one good print.

I also learned how to flatten the prints, how to retouch the dust spots, and the patience it takes to produce one beautiful black & white fiber base print.

 I was asked recently what the difference is between the traditional role of film and the digital era. It is very simple. It is much easier to be a photographer today than it was in the past. (Photographers before me would say the same thing!) Though today’s cameras are much heavier than my Leica M6 and have more buttons, once you learn your tools, digital photography makes life quicker and easier.

I don’t look down on those who didn’t learn the hard way. I wouldn’t have minded an easier path myself. But I am grateful for knowing what I know about photography that digital shooters will never know: the craft of the black & white print. 

To me, there is no more beautiful craft in photography than the black & white print from a black & white negative. I learned from a master and for that I am eternally grateful. Printing is a dying art that I hope I never give up, even if I, too, have embraced digital. This retrospective exhibit is in honor of the beautiful black & white print.

Scott Hubener

Documenting our lives in a way that allows for others to participate in the experience is an art. Making something that is personal into something that is universal is not easy to do. Photographers such as Doug DuBois, Elizabeth Flemming, and Phillip Toledano have done it well, and so has Scott Hubener. His series, Something in the Way, looks at those still moments when he might be re reading and look up and notice the pants hanging over the door and captures that in a way that makes you see them differently. He finds those moments where family members are lost in thought or captures his world in a way that elevates the house on a hill in a more poetic way. He has a book of this work, produced through Blurb.

Scott was born and grew up in Florida. He has lived in Asheville, NC for the past 10 years and received his BA in History from the University of Florida and his MFA from Western Carolina University, which he completed in 2011. His interest in photography began about 12 years ago when he started to photograph his boxer puppy, Sadie. Hubener’s work was shown recently in the 7th Photographic Image Biennial Exhibition at Eastern Carolina University (juried by Keith Carter) and the 4th Annuale at the Light Factory (juried by Dr. Susan H. Edwards). His work is featured in a group exhibition on display through February 19th at the William King Museum in Abingdon, VA.

Within the photographs of Something in the Way, people are depicted absorbed in thought or task, and a sense of ennui overshadows their existence. We cannot see into their thoughts, but we are informed of the subject’s situation by the details of the setting: lying in a bed laden with suitcases, isolated in a motel room, a child sitting with a doll. Present within the work is the theme of interiority vs. exteriority. This plays out visually within the photographs, first of exteriors of homes and the landscape in general, then juxtaposed with photographs of interiors of homes and the subjects within those walls. The subjects depicted also are representational of this theme. Their interior thoughts are masked by their exterior appearance, which is only a phenomenological representation.

In large part, these images consist of portraits of my family and friends, as well as the homes and interior spaces they occupy. I photographed objects and possessions within the homes, which are significant for the meaning they hold for the owners as well as their implications and associations for the viewer. Mundane human rituals interest me as well, and banal scenes like sitting around a table to eat, preparing food, smoking, or simply staring reflectively. Within the framing and composition, there is often space around the subjects, allowing them to fill their environment and illustrate their absorption in a task or action. These images depict the subject apparently unaware of the presence of the camera and enthralled in a chore or thought.

Even as the images suggest an overshadowing or isolation, there is also present the possibility of transformation, and the grace of the subject itself is by no means suppressed. There is something in the way an expression reveals or conceals thoughts, in the way the light falls, or in the way a gesture expresses elegance. The work is sequenced in a way that oscillates between warm and cool. This theme parallels that of the interiority and exteriority of the images. The warmth comes from inside the structures, where people can seek comfort and respite from the harshness of the elements. The exteriors are often cool, depicting snow and harsh weather. The interiors are duplicitous, however. While they offer comfort, they also enforce isolation. The balance, harmony and rhythm of life is reliant on this dichotomy, where the in-between moments become as significant as the decisive ones.

Shannon Richardson

I don’t know Shannon Richardson personally, but I kind of think he is a quiet and thoughtful man. His wonderful images of American life, particularly in Texas, hearken to another era, one without cell phones and laptops where people actually are looking out and not down. He is a photo purist, shooting with his Hassleblad 503cw or Holga, and manages to find the small moments that combine into a rich tapestry of living.

Shannon lives in Amarillo, Texas and works as a commercial and advertising photographer, but he also finds time to make work that is truly his own. His project and book, Route 66, looks at the iconic subject matter found on the quintessential American road trip which include the quirky attractions, signs, and architecture of motels and diners.


Shannon has a number of terrific series, but I actually enjoyed looking at his work on his blog, where all the images create a grid of moments–people and places that reveal years of consistent observations. His work has an essence of two photographers I greatly admire, Keith Carter and Mike Peters–all three photographers have a strong sense of place and a true affinity with the the people they photograph.








Shannon’s new series, Texas is a Fine Place to Die, is a snapshot of a place that is changing and evolving while remaining grounded in a lifestyle that remains much the same.

The project documents the places, people and traditions of a fading era of Texas that was the transition from the wild west to the new west. A generation when cowboys drove Cadillacs and shootouts took place on the screen at the matinee. The small rural towns were the hub of social rituals and events. Much of the character, atmosphere and mythos that made this area unique and sometimes larger than life still remain despite their steady decline.

Images from Texas is a Fine Place to Die

Success Stories: Julia Dean

More than a decade ago, I picked up a brochure at a local film lab and decided to take a class with Julia Dean at the Julia Dean Photo Workshops. Los Angeles, at that time, offered very few opportunites for photographers to learn photography outside of college courses or extension classes. Julia was providing an option–photography classes held in a studio that looked out at the ocean, opportunities to create community through portfolio sharing and lectures, and learning not only from Julia, but a host of significant image makers.

Now twelve years later, Julia has created a full-blown photography school that I have had the privilege of teaching at for the last decade. Workshop teachers now include photographers such as Greg Gorman, Duane Michals, Mary Ellen Mark, Sam Abell, Douglas Kirkland, David Alan Harvey, Keith Carter, Phil Borges, Bruce Davidson, John Paul Caponigro, Alex Webb, Ron Haviv, and James Nachtwey, plus a roster of terrific instructors from the commercial, fine art, and documentary world in Los Angeles offering over 170 workshops a year. This Saturday, on March 26th, we are celebrating the Grand Opening of a new home in Hollywood, with an entire building dedicated to education, including a darkroom, digital lab, and two gallery spaces. Needless to say, it’s tremendously exciting.

Image of Julia Dean by Laurie McCormick

Julia is a life force. Her enthusiasm and instant likability keeps photographers coming back for more. Growing up in Broken Bow, Nebraska, she is a natural story teller, a wide-eyed observer, and feisty go getter—characteristics that came into play after graduation from RIT, when she went to work as an apprentice to Berenice Abbott. Berenice was a huge influence on Julia, not only in her photographic and printing skills, but in her quest to be an independent career woman. Julia went on to travel the world, work for AP as a photo editor, write a children’s book, and start teaching. In 2008, she earned the great distinction of “Photo Person of the Year, when Photo Media Magazine named Julia as the “person in the photography industry who has best demonstrated exceptional artistic and business accomplishments, photographic passion, devotion to the industry inspiration to colleagues and humanitarian achievements in the community.”

Julia has not only created her ever expanding workshop program, but has continually spotlighted those without a voice with her Child Labor and the Global Village: Photography for Social Change Project. Last year she launched a new program: Project 5, which documents America’s Social Challenges–five Pressing Issues, a five-year undertaking that would also employ top photojournalists. Topics considered for the project include health care, immigration, and education for the working class and poor.”

The Kiss

I’ve known you for more than a decade and I have never seen a day that you weren’t completely excited about teaching, promoting, and celebrating photography. How do you keep than enthusiasm going?

I think enthusiasm comes naturally to people when they are doing what they love doing. I feel very fortunate to have such passion for my work.

The new Julia Dean Photo Workshops and Gallery opening this Saturday in Hollywood is the result of baby steps leading to an amazing organization and community. Did you ever have imagine it would lead to this amazing result when you decided to start a photography school more than 12 years ago?

I would like to say yes, I had the vision all along, but really all I wanted to do back then was teach and bring people together. I had been teaching workshops in my loft for a couple of years and my students seemed to want more, so I decided to start a school, with the help of a small loan from a friend. I would have started JDPW in a back-yard garage, if I’d had one. I got lucky to find a spot on Venice Beach.

What would you say has been the best part of this journey?

I can tell you the worst parts almost easier than the best parts, because as bad as they were, they were fewer. The best parts were all the people I’ve met like students and teachers, and guests who come to our events, the dear friends that I’ve made (like you, Aline), my to-die-for staff, and my new partners who are enabling us to take this next step.

The photography world has changed radically since you started your photographic journey in Nebraska. Has that changed how you feel about making photographs?

Do you mean black & white film versus the digital world? If so, I guess my answer is no, it hasn’t changed how I feel about making photographs. I’m only interested in taking documentary photographs, on the street, around the corner, in another town, or country, or continent. I am interested in documenting the world around me, in black & white. I shot black & white film then, and now (as of 2-1/2 years ago) I’m shooting with a digital camera, though still thinking, shooting, and printing in black & white.

The new facility will have a darkroom, which is very exciting. Do you think you’ll wander back in and start printing?

Yes, I can hardly wait. I’ll be teaching a black & white printing class in our next season. I’ve waited 12 years to have a group darkroom at The Julia Dean Photo Workshops! I had a really nice private darkroom at our first Venice beach location where I taught students one-on-one. I haven’t had a darkroom at all for the last four years at our present Venice Beach location. I think it might be the only four years of my photographic life that I haven’t had a darkroom of some kind. I so look forward to printing again. I’ll be side-by-side with you, Aline, I’m sure. That will be fun.

I know it’s hard to balance creating your own work and teaching. Is what you get back from teaching worth the trade off?

Teaching doesn’t get in the way of my own work, because it is a part of my own work. I’ve been combining the two for 28 years. It is running the business that got in my way. When I started this place, all I wanted to do is teach, and photograph and share, but I soon realized that I actually had to run a business too. It took a long time, but I now have the staff of my dreams, who run the business as if it were their own. It gives me more time for my classes, my books (I just finished the book on my year with Berenice), and to shoot on the streets of LA, a new project that I’ve recently begun.

And finally, what would be your perfect day?

In no particular order:
Coffee at home
Reading the LA Times
Lunch with a friend or my staff
Dinner at home with Jay
Printing in my new darkroom
Shooting on the streets of LA
Teaching and/or preparing for a class
Several walks with my dogs, Homer & Peneolpe

Thank you, Julia, for your inspiration, knowledge, and enthusiasm, on behalf of the Los Angeles photographic community!