Throwback Thursday - Arts Beat January 2018 - 2
Stephen Near

Arts Beat Throwback Thursday

Craft Photography Clinic - Diary of a Workshop by Deborrah Sherman

January 1990

Who knew whether this thing would fly? Certainly there is a need for crafts people to be able to make better slides of their work -any show juror can attest to that. But the question to grapple with was: do crafts people want to get into photographing, or are they basically content with their efforts? Would a learning experience be more beneficial, or a fast shoot-and-pay session? Expert advice from experts solved our dilemma. Consultation with knowledgeable resource people from the Ministry of Culture and Communications urged us to get to the root of the problem by stressing a hands-on learning process.

    We all know that slides are used more and more, in the jurying process for exhibitions and that “bad slides of good work can kill your chances of being accepted”. Organizers of juried shows are looking more towards jurying from slides since the cost of insurance and manpower in juring from actual pieces is becoming prohibitive. In addition, slides increase a rafts person’s chance of becoming known. “With the proliferation of craft magazines coming on the scene, there are more opportunities to have your work published. But it is necessary to put some effort into procuring a good image.” the reasons for having slides are not to be contested. We decided that if we could teach craft artists to take good slides using equipment that they could purchase or construct cheaply then we would be providing the best service.

    Discussions with Peter Hogan, a photography teacher attached to the Sheridan College School of Crafts and Design confirmed our ideas. One of the major benefits of photographing your own works is the element of control. As a professional, Hogan admits that he tends to have a formula for objects and sometimes things could begin to look the same. Hogan explains, “When an artist brings in fifteen pieces and wants the slides tomorrow, you begin to use the same set-ups again and again. When you have a few days to experiment and get to know the piece (an edge that the maker of the piece obviously has) then you can do something really spectacular.”

    Hogan came up with an excellent plan for a day-long workshop consisting of hands-on shooting with example slides and hand-outs for ‘at home digestion.’ The day began with an introduction covering the basics: camera care and handling; why a portfolio and what should go into it; camera exposure; metering; colour slide film and the main area of emphasis for the day, object analysis and light.

    We looked at many slides, identifying light sources, types and direction and their effects on subjects. The fact that light can support or deny the shape, form, surface and mass of an object was brought home by sample slides which showed one object with a variety of lighting.

    As a teacher Hogan feels that for an artist to experiment with lighting their own piece not only leads to the best photographs but can also lead to new ways of an artist looking at their own work. An object look can lead to new discoveries and enhances the creative process all around. “When you constantly take into consideration the way light affects things, you may find it begins to affect the way you design.” Peter encouraged participants to begin paying more attention to photographing our own work. Let the end use determine how it is to be done, and let the object dictate how it warrants to be photographed. Peter used his own camera to take slides, in addition to using a polaroid as a teaching aid to get instant on film results to lighting adjustments. He encouraged participants to shoot along with their own cameras.

    The really good news for us was that while he did bring some expensive equipment  that we might not be able or willing to duplicate at home, Peter also had many home-made diffusers, reflectors and backdrops that any of us could reproduce at home. He brought along some lights we could purchase at a store for less than $100 and manage nicely with. Skills we were learning were therefore not just for the studio - we will be able to apply them at home with minimal investment and a little imagination.

    Simple techniques such as using bracket exposures (shooting 2 or 3 frames of each picture increasing the exposure by 1 of ½ stop each time) were employed. Home made diffusers can be made from a simple wood stretcher frame covered with half-ounce spinnaker cloth available from sail-makers, cheap canvas can be painted to produce unusual backdrops that are interesting and unique. Peter managed to keep talking and working at the same time, and was patient and indulgent; a major benefit of having a workshop leader who is a professional teacher. By the end of the day, we knew it had flown. We had worked with some very inspiring artists and had witnessed shooting varied objects from silver jewellery to furniture to woven garments photographed on a model. We know there is a vast need for more of these workshops and as one of the participants said “It’s the best $25 bucks I ever spent”.

    Special thanks to the following members of the Craft Committee of the Hamilton and region Arts Council who volunteered their time by running a bingo to raise money to run this workshop: Andrina Carlton, Barbara Reid, and Lillian Small. Thanks to the Ministry of Culture and Communications, Christine Hart, Minister for a frant to make this workshop possible and to the Burlington Cultural Centre for accommodating the Arts Council in their excellent facility. Finally, a special thanks to Peter Hogan whose knowledge, experience and patience was greatly appreciated by everyone involved.


Sherman, Deborrah. “Craft Photography Clinic - Diary of a Workshop”.” Arts Beat, vol. 3, no. 4, Dec. ‘89 -Jan.1990, p. 4.