Angkor Photo Workshop tutors Kosuke Okahara, Veejay Villafranca, Katrin Koenning and Ian Teh share words of advice for potential participants to one of the longest-running photography workshops in the region.
Now into its 16th edition, the workshops have remained tuition-free thanks to the dedication and the passion of the tutors who volunteer their time and expertise to nurture new generations of photographers to think critically about their photography and storytelling skills.
Workshop dates: 17 – 28 November 2020
Venue: Siem Reap, Cambodia
Applications close on 22 July 2020.
Apply here: angkor-photo.com/16th-edition/2020-apply/
Who should apply for the workshop and will benefit the most from it?
IAN TEH: Someone already engaged with exploring photography as a personal mode of expression, whether it is stories that are intimate to them or projects that are more documentary in nature. They don’t need to be professional or highly accomplished technically, but photography should already be significant to them.
Whether they have ambitions to be a photojournalist or see photography occupying a more private space in their life, the medium fundamentally has to communicate and record. An intimate understanding of how photography is seen and felt, its limitations and strengths as a visual language are all essential to developing one’s voice. The experiential and immersive nature of the Angkor Photo Workshops supports a felt sense process of learning, allowing the participant to cultivate their critical facility and develop their creative potential in a nurturing space.
KATRIN KOENNING: Anyone who wants to learn, take risks, be pushed and push themselves and build community should apply. Don’t feel discouraged if you’re not entirely sure how to put a ‘strong’ folio together or if you haven’t done any workshops in the past or feel a little lost or if you may sometimes feel ‘not good enough’– we don’t care for choosing pretty pictures.
What’s most important is that you have a fire in your belly and are hungry and that you have something to say, that something is at stake for you, and that you want to come together in an honest way – Katrin Koenning
VEEJAY VILLAFRANCA: I think anyone who’s been serious in pursuing photography on a professional level, should apply. In developing communities in Asia, there’s a large population of photographers who have no access to learning resources and a community where they can share ideas and also get inspiration from. The Angkor Photo Festival has proven to be that platform for over a decade.
KOSUKE OKAHARA: Anyone who wants to pursue their photographic language. Photography is a medium you use to express yourself whenever you are taking pictures. Why you are taking pictures, why you are interested to express certain things with photography, why you are taking a certain approach – all these things are coming from you. I hope the workshop participants have enough motivation to really dig deep into and face themselves.
What are you looking for from the workshop participants? What do you expect from them when they come for the workshop?
IAN: I look for signs of their dedication and desire to tell stories while exploring their limits — both personal and creative — in photography. It’s a rare opportunity to have tutors offering time and support for a week for your development; in return, I would expect their full commitment to the endeavour.
Participants should maintain an open mind to learn from both mentors and fellow students. The dynamics of group learning, the support it provides in the often solitary effort of personal work can be a catalyst for stimulating development, while even possibly achieving a perspective shift in one’s work. The benefits, I feel, are only possible when both parties are committed.
KATRIN: I think this is kind of aligned with who should apply…I look for the participants to really want to be there for the learning and the pushing. That they need to be ready or wanting to push up against their own boundaries during this time, as well as ok to be vulnerable together in the group. I think it’s also really important that you can look out for each other and support each other during the workshop with your peers, too.
I want participants to think hard and to work hard. Angkor is not the place to prove yourself to others but a space to step out of your comfort zone and to find something important for your own photography – Kosuke Okahara
VEEJAY: As compared to past editions, the APFW organizers have been more liberal on what type of work they accept. For me, I look for consistency and dedication towards their portfolio. Although the submitted work isn’t necessarily an accurate reflection of the photographer’s skill, it gives a strong first impression on the capabilities of the applicant.
I, together with the other mentors, only expect a high level of respect and dedication towards the workshops and the festival. You see, organizing an annual festival is not an easy task. Moreover, organizing a festival in a developing world while trying to maintain integrity is daunting. I think it is but fair that the participants give their best during the workshops and help create an inclusive work environment for everyone.
What are some common misconceptions about the workshop?
IAN: The most common mistake is allocating too much time deciding what story or idea to pursue in a constricted time frame. Usually, this delays the moment work starts leaving little room for other aspects of the work process like story development and problem-solving. Even after our best efforts in research and planning, there will always be a knowledge gap — the decision is often a not-so-simple — ‘yes’ or ‘no’ — based on what we can surmise at that moment.
Attending the workshop is not necessarily about producing your best work to date but about immersing in the process to gain greater understanding – Ian Teh
Failure and problem solving is a big part of learning, and the benefit of a mentor and co-participants are sometimes the combined perspectives, experience and knowledge of the group in problem-solving and exploring alternative avenues together.
VEEJAY: That is is easy to get in and that it is all fun. I mentioned this in my answer above but I would like to emphasize that APFW is run solely on volunteerism and this gives it the integrity it has.
KOSUKE: This is not a place to prove yourself but to learn from your experience, which includes shooting, editing, talking and sharing with others (fellow participants, tutors and the people you meet here).
What does the workshop strive to impart to the participants (and what is it not about)?
IAN: It’s not a technical workshop, possibly more like a creative writing workshop, only with photos. To me, it’s about nurturing curiosity and the trust in oneself to investigate an inclination or an issue while simultaneously being willing to see how far an earnest exploration of the subject can take you. Is it possible to nurture self-reliance by learning to perceive one’s work more dispassionately? And by that fact to better produce work that better resonates? It is about harnessing thinking and curious minds while simultaneously sharpening their ability to express them as visual stories.
VEEJAY: The workshop fosters the community spirit which gives APFW the integrity it has.
Through the years, the workshops and festival has created a large community and a huge network of photographers in Asia and beyond, thus giving photographers more opportunities to further their profession and also a platform to discuss important issues that they face – Veejay Villafranca
I understand that the term ‘festival’ gives an idea of fun and glitz. It may have been the case from the past editions and also taking cue from other festivals in the world (mostly in the West), APFW organizers has been working to keep the workshops and festivals more concise and beneficial to what the photographers need.
KOSUKE: I think this is the place where participants learn how to be autonomous and not depend on others in terms of their work. Sometimes it’s important to show your work to others and get feedback but ultimately, it’s you who decide what you want from your work. The important thing is to have the ability to filter out the things coming from outside of you. You should be open to feedback and criticism but it doesn’t mean you have to listen to everything.
Read Part 1 for more tutor advice on how to apply for the workshop: https://angkor-photo.com/words-of-advice-tutors-of-the-workshops/