#921. Monday Post (28 Oct 2019 – Workshop update: the Layer Cake effect

By pascaljappy | Monday Post

Oct 28

Some weeks ago, a new workshop with different rules, purposes and methods from the usual, was announced on this blog. Things have evolved since then, and have become more concrete. Here’s the deal!

Antony Gormley at his finest

The layer cake workshop, and a structure for all training on DS


Thank goodness far wiser people than me are always at hand when needed. My initial intention was to provide a “complete workflow” workshop during which we would go out and shoot with a professional artist, learn how to make an intelligent selection with a curator and print with a master printer.

As tempting as it sounded to me, the idea was politely but firmly declined by all expert parties envolved. One reason being that it was far too much to ingest in one sitting and that no one would take home anything of any lasting value if we proceeded that way. The other being that the logistics implied to organise all this would have become complex, very expensive, and unpleasant.

I got caught out in the rain.

Thankfully, though, critique was followed by suggestions and the resulting proposition is indeed a lot better than the original idea. What the goals have lost in broadness they have made up for tenfold in transformative power. And the new format now fits into a more structured approach of the training resources (free or paid for) I want to offer on DearSusan.

In short, we are dropping the platinum printing part of the workshop. There will still be a good printer (machine) available to all, as this is important for the rest of the format, but the focus on testing an alternative printing methodology is gone. For now.

Instead, this spring workshop in France will be entirely centered on developing a strong photographic vision. And how to make it actually come to life.

Stormy Borough

How? We will be accompanied by two expert curators and one professional artist.

Day 0. (Sunday April 05 2020). Arrive at the hotel in the evening. We all meet, have dinner together and have our first night to be fresh in the morning.

Day 1. Each participant will arrive with a small portfolio of photographs and will meet with one of the curators. The two will discuss goals, ideas, put them in order so as to help formulate an artistic vision. This will last between one and two hours, individually. The rest of the day is spent photographing. Evening group discussion.

Days 2 and 3. We all go to pre-planned interesting locations to photograph with the pro artist, as in a traditional workshop but with the excercises and directions prescribed by the curator at the back of our minds. This is the practical application of the recommendations. Evening group discussion.

Day 4. We repeat day 1 but with the other curator and with the series of photographs made during days 2 and 3 (the 5 attendees who first met the first curator now meet with the second, and vice versa). Again, one to two hours is spent with the expert to dive further into the vision and guidance of day 1 and to evaluate how the photographs of days 2 and 3 have evolved in a direction the participant is happy with. Evening group discussion.

Day 5 (Friday April 10 April 2020) . Debrief and free time. Morning shoot with me for those who wish to. Others can do some shopping. We leave in the afternoon.


Where? We will be staying at Hotel La Vague in Saint-Paul de Vence (links to Getty photographer Phil Haber’s article on the village). Saint-Paul de Vence is a beautiful stone village conveniently close to Nice and its international airport, and set in hilly landscape. The hotel sits right next to the lovely Fondation Maeght. This means early birds and night owls can have a great setting for sunrise and sunset walks. Attendees wishing to visit with family can do so. Just let me know so I can book the extra meals. Taxis can take relatives to Nice and other lovely places while we work. Shared twin rooms are a possibility to cut fees.

Who? I’m super happy to be able to offer the company and guidance of really top notch experts. Our two curators will be:

  • Anna-Patricia Kahn. I’ve been in touch with Anna-Patricia for some time now, and you might have read her interview about amateurs vs professional artists, previously on DS. Anna-Patricia is the owner of Zürich gallery ClairbyKahn. The gallery represents some of the most notable photographers of the 20th and 21st century including Philippe Halsman, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Alvin Langdon Coburn, and Lee Miller. While closely working with photographers from Magnum Agency, it also represents important contemporary photographers such as Vera Mercer and Petr Lovigin. Anna-Patricia has curated major photography exhibitions on three continents and has served as a consulting editor on the publication of more than a dozen renowned photography folios. She offers a personal, worldwide curating service to collectors and selects and procures individual prints or portfolios upon request. She is currently organising major exhibitions in New York and Dublin.
  • Valérie Fougeirol. Valerie is an independent exhibition curator / Artistic Director. She was Director of Paris Photo from 2002 to 2008 and Director of the Magnum Gallery from 2008 to 2012. In 2012, she became a founding member of the Temple Gallery, was artistic director for the 2014 Mois de la Photo for the theme Anonymous authors and Famous amateurs. She has worked as independent exhibition curator, notably for the American Dream revisited, at the Galerie Hug, Paris (2015-2016 program), co-curator for the exhibition Nostalgia of the (In) visible, at the Embiricos gallery, Paris (May 2016). She has authored the recent articles: Tribute to Lewis Baltz (March 2015), Wolfgang Tillmans, On the Verge of Visibility, Serralves Museum (April 2016) for the Architectural Review. Valerie also privately mentors artists and prestigious collectors.

The professional artist who will accompany us is Tomasz Lazar. Born 1985 in Szczecin, Poland, Tomasz is the winner inner of photography contests in Poland and abroad (e.g. World Press Photo, POY, CHIPP, Sony World Photography Award, the International Photography Award, BZWBK Press Photo, Grand Press Photo, Lumix Festival for Young Journalism). His list of awards and shows is pages long. His work was published in newspapers and magazines like: New York Times, Newswek International, Sunday Times Magazine, New Yorker and Los Angeles Times. He is also a music enthusiast. He derives pleasure from spending time with other people and devotes most of his time to photography. He honed his talent by attending workshops headed by other professionals!

I think you’ll agree we’re in very good hands!

(c) Tomasz Lazar
(c) Tomasz Lazar
Missoni Show (c) Tomasz Lazar

Why I think you should come. This is not about meeting famous people. Anna-Patricia has professional training in psychology. She mentors artists and collectors throughout the world. Likewise, Valerie mentors and coaches for a living. Both have made a very successful career of guiding people to find meaning! Meaning in their photography or meaning in their collection. Tomasz is not only an award hogging professional, but a relatable artist interesting in sharing and teaching, who understands how workshops should be handled for greatest impact.

All three are experts at creating and organising art around a vision. The three of them will help tremendously understand the underlying themes in your photography, what you are able to express, what you aren’t and why, how to work towards your dream photographs. And I think the layer cake structure is designed to assist with that emergence as well. The workshop is intended to provide you with a practical framework to guide your work for the coming years!

Are you good enough? One objection I received after the first post is: “I’m not good enough for this level of training”. Well, curators regularly receive portfolios from amateurs and almost systematically turn them down. But here’s the thing: the photographs are often technically excellent but rarely express anything. Both Valerie and Anna-Patricia want the exact opposite. They are happy working with photographers who are far less technically inclined but truly try to inject intent into their photography. They don’t want to waste their time with people who refuse to open up and basically want to stand still but are happy to help photographers, experienced or not, who have a strong desire to evolve. So, to answer the question: the level of photography found DS from its various authors is easily good enough to benefit from the workshop. You are good enough.


Reasons you might not want to come: The promise of this workshop is the exact opposite of what the photo market is promoting today. Instead of telling you to shut your eyes and let the machine do its thing, it tells you to open your heart, brain and eyes and teaches you how to make them work in unison. If you believe that gear is the way ahead for you and are not prepared to dig deep to take ownership of your photography, the workshop is probably not well suited to you at this time.

Will you get an exhibition after that? That’s not the promise we are making. It all depends on your goals and the effort you put into your photography. But here’s the likely outcome :

  • If you are learning photography, getting on OK with your gear and need pointers to go beyond the obvious tourist shots, this will open up your practice and help you focus on more profound ideas. You will learn to interpret rather than document.
  • If you are an advanced photographer stuck in a rut, you feel like you’ve done it all, this will pull you out of the deep sand by showing you the deeper meaning and motivation behind your past work. And by suggesting new ideas for your future work.
  • If like me, you are an avid grabber, able to make good photographs of the things you encounter but with no specific direction, this will help you organise your thoughts along clearly articulated ideas to start a really meaningful body of work.
  • If you are less experienced, have been dabbling in all sorts of styles and genres, and lack clarity about what you really want to focus on, this will point you in a more fulfilling direction and weed out the rest.
  • If you are serious about photography but lack the artistic training to work on personal projects, this will provide clarity on how to elevate your work to a more personally meaningful approach.

I believe this is a powerful and greatly beneficial workshop for almost everyone. The stucture makes a lot of sense. And the experts are excellent. It’s really rare to find people of such pedigree that are also direct, down to earth, understandable, understanging. It’s really the best I can come up with at this point, have never seen anything like it before, and hope you will join us.


How much? So far, I have quotes from all the experts, the hotel, the transport company, the insurance company. Not everything is accounted for yet, but I have reason to believe this will not exceed the 3500€ I initially mentioned. Yes, it’s a lot of money for many people, but it’s the cheapest I can get away with – for 10 attendees – considering the costs. And I do feel it is a bargain considering the setting, the 4 experts and organiser, and the transformative potential.

As of this writing, 4 of the 10 spots have been firmly claimed by readers and 2 have tentatively declared an interest. I’ll write a final post in November with more precise information about logistics and schedules. I’ll need firm answers and payment by early December in order to secure the services and prices I have been able to negociate. The price of 3500€ is only possible if we reach 10 attendees by the end of November. As mentioned in the first post, it’s 10 or zero. Hope to see you there. Please answer me privately now at pascal dot jappy at gmail dot com if you want to secure one of the remaining spots.


How does this fit in with the rest of the training and resources found on DS? Rebuilding the webiste has forced me to rethink the purpose and logic of the website and the resources I want to offer around 3 pillars: locations, and art as the meeting point of intent and craftmanship (i.e. gear and technique).

This workshop is set very firmly in the intent section of the new organisation. It is all about understanding what is at the back of your mind and about injecting intent into your photography.

I plan to organise other workshops and resources centered on craftmanship and location later down the road, if this first one goes ahead.


So, please let me know asap if you’re interested, if you have special requirements (food, spouse …) or have any questions. Talk soon!


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  • Sean says:

    Hi Pascal,
    That’s it, it’s this bit, that bangs a gong, for me “… portfolios from amateurs … the[ir] photographs are often technically excellent but rarely express anything…” Astutely put, these words. This workshop is very well considered, structured, and certainly an event ‘to gun for’. Alas, I’ll sadly surrender my desired aspirational spot for another that has a better chance of being an attendee, for various reasons given I’m in OZ. I do wish this workshop, organisers, instructors and learners, the best outcome possible.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    The wet weather in those photos encouraged me to go back inside. I was delighted to discover the vision among the teacups – I don’t drink tea myself, but the attraction is hard to resist!

    Tomasz sounds ideal – a kindred spirit, undoubtedly cleverer and more famous than I will ever be – but I love the combination of art and music – that’s been my cultural mainstay as far back as I can remember (back, in fact, to the age of 1 – and I still have the scar on my left foot to prove it – but that’s another story). Art and music do funny things to me – they invade me, physically and emotionally. I look forward to seeing how he impacts on the workshoppers. (If that’s the right word. I never paid attention in english classes.)

    And the CVs of all three are astounding.

    The idea of working the legs in the area around Nice is also compelling.

    Unfortunately we have already made our travel plans for next year and that prevents me from participating. But if you get the target number of participants, I’m sure everyone in DS’s circle of friends will love to see the results.

    BTW I love your two wet weather photos and the obviously Hassy shot of the clouds swirling overhead! 🙂

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    Your Layer Cake workshop sounds wonderful, and those who can attend are lucky indeed. I truly wish I could be there, but the timing doesn’t work for me, unfortunately. You’ve obviously put a tremendous amount of work in organizing the workshop, so I hope you’re able to fill it. Wishing you all the best!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you Nancee. That’s a real shame and you’re not the only one with calendar issues. Maybe I should have warned longer in advance. Food for thought 😉

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