Tuesday, October 02, 2012

a review of sorts: FIND Vancouver, August 13-15, 2012

Rolleiflex 6x6, Kodak Ektar 100, Portra 400 and Portra 160
Nikon FE, Kodak Tri-X 400, E100VS, and Ilford Delta 3200

Beginning with a little back story, two and half years ago I married a wonderful woman. That's really the key. We eloped to New York and hired a local photographer, Jen Huang to meet us at City Hall for our ceremony and then shoot portraits. I was fascinated by the whole process, as well as the fact that Jen shoots both digital and film. My ever-observant my new bride noticed and gave me a Canon DLSR for my birthday soon after. Little did she know, she was unleashing a monster. I shot constantly all summer long, then we went away for a weekend in the Blue Ridge mountains, and on a whim, I took a couple rolls of Kodak Gold 200 with a Canon EOS 630 bodyand 50mm f1.4 lens. I haven't turned back since, delving headfirst into the world of film, but my photography never really found a direction. Somewhere along this path, I heard about this guy named Jonathan Canlas and started bothering him with questions on Formspring. Totally impressed with his openness, I mentioned off hand wanting to do one of his Film Is Not Dead (FIND) workshops, thinking I might reward myself when I finish grad school (someday this will happen -I swear!) But once again my wife stepped up, and as a birthday present sent me off to Canada to attend FIND Vancouver this past August. Seriously, I have the best wife ever!

Having been given this opportunity, I was determined not to waste it. The workshop consisted of three mornings of lectures on the technique and business of photography, specifically a film based approach and workflow, along with a chance to put learning into practice with daily photo shoots each afternoon. To say it was life altering would probably be an understatement! There's a lot of hype about these workshops so I went in with this expectation on one hand that it would be amazing and on the other a fear that I would be let down after all the build up. Turns out even the hype sold the experience short. These images don't tell half the story of what I got from it. For one, there was a whole lot of information provided that I couldn't possibly process and put into practice immediately during our shoots, which were very fast paced. But I did learn a lot, am continuing to practice since returning home, and feel several steps ahead of where I was only weeks ago.

But I received something far beyond the technical information and the business knowledge imparted over the three days (and in all honesty, the workshop confirmed that I am probably never going to become a wedding photographer). No, as great as all the knowledge is, the most important thing about FIND for me was the privilege of meeting some amazing people. Jonathan himself is a complete dynamo - bursting with energy and joie de vivre, generous beyond all good sense, and someone you feel really, really cares about this stuff. It is a mission for him, and it is infectious. I learned so much from watching and listening to him, not only about photography, where he holds absolutely nothing back, but also about the importance of the people in your life and how focusing on personal work and thinking hard about why I'm even doing this stuff is really going to be the real key to getting anywhere. The experience he shared to end the last lecture totally hit home with me and changed my whole outloook...on photography, and quite truthfully on life.

In addition, his cohorts, Catherine Abegg and "Spanish" Albert Roig, former FINDers themselves, also lent an immense amount of knowledge, effort, and all around cool to the proceedings. If Jonathan is the heart and soul of the workshop, these folks help give it legs. Also on hand were FINDers Jillian Mitchell and John Fong, and Catherine's daughter, all of whom provided invaluable assistance and biting commentary, and were really fun to hang out with. Much love to them all.

But beyond that, my fellow workshop participants were an incredibly fantastic bunch: Ben Wong, Ian Gustafson, Nicole Robinson, Kristen Parker, Joy Chen, Carsten Fischer, Pauline Samson, Josh and Ashley Aldridge, Alex Knight, Jen Foik, Tara Smith-Haney, and Tasha Gammel. All are great photographers, but they are even better people. Most of us stayed in the house together, and I felt like each and every person there was an open book, sharing knowledge and helping each other get as much out of the experience as possible. There really were no egos, just a sense of shared purpose and cooperation. From our conversations around the table (and seriously yo, the food? A-FREAKING-MAZING!), to extracurrcular night, sunrise, and hot tub shooting, to our late night babblefests into the wee hours, I think I learned more about photography in those three days than I had in the previous two years since I first picked up a camera. And I laughed more than I had in a long, long time.Thank you all especially for that!

And things didn't end when we all went our separate ways to return to "reality" (whatever the heck that is). Thanks to social media, especially the FINDers group on Facebook, we are continuing the experience: sharing the results of our work as we've gotten scans back from the FIND lab (more on that in sec), continuing conversations begun at the workshop, and discussing new topics as we learn more, try new things, and push our boundaries. Plus I am also making contacts with past and future attendees and have already gained even more invaluable information and encouragement. For perhaps the first time in my adult life, I feel like I'm part of a community, a family even, and I do not have the tools to express what that means to me.

Speaking of the wider FIND community, we were fortunate to work with some amazingly patient, beautiful and easy-to-photograph models, many of them former FINDers and friends. Many thanks to:
Kendra Braun & Brendan Klemm
Heather & Shan Perea
Jenny & Mark Wohrle
Natalie & Matt Grummer and their girls Araiya, Tallis & Pia
Charlene Hardy & Stephen Callister and their kids Evelyn, Lillian, Tessa, & Henry
John & Joety Fong and their son Lucas (& dog Oliver)
Stefanie de Best & Paulo Cepeda
Janessa Laas & Jensen Smith
Amy Tran & Tomasz Wagner
I am sorry I did not end up with publishable results of all of you (ah, the price of learning), but I assure you that working with each and every one of you helped me immensely in becoming more comfortable posing, working quickly under a time crunch, and interacting with people. It is already paying dividends.

And finally the FIND lab: a photo lab that employs some seriously brilliant people who do amazing scanning work and give us personalized feedback so that we can continue to improve. I have to thank Jayme Sayes for her wonderful work developing, scanning and processing all of the images here, but even moreso for her patience answering my pestering messages and working with me along the way. My wife will confirm this isn't always the easiest thing to do!

I hope that future posts will reveal everything I gained (and will continue to gain) from FIND as far as technique is concerned, but even more that my personal vision will emerge as I truly own my work. I cannot wait to continue this journey and share my passage with you. Cheers!


  1. Straight from the heart Yuri, good stuff. I like how you posted images of your fellow finders, I never took the time to do that and i wish I had. You have a nice way with words too :)

  2. Great stuff!!! & I agree with Toni, I never got the chance to take much photos of fellow finders. Really wish I would have during mine.