Roots Workshop review


You followed the daily posts during the workshop, you've now seen everyone's hard work come together in their individual slideshows, and at long last, it's time to put Roots Workshop 2010 to bed. Well, almost. I must sneak in one last recap post before dimming the light on another memorable week.

As you likely know, the workshop took place over the course of a week in July in Cape Cod. 12 "students" (professional photographers of all ages) were divided into three teams of four, each with two team leaders. Add myself, J as the workshop cook and documentarian Eric, and you have 9 of the most talented people on the planet in the same house ready to give, share and grow with these students 24/7. With stats like that, you can't help but leave at the end of the week feeling like you have another extended family and a boatload of new skills and memories. Like in the years past, this year did not disappoint.

The most obviously different thing about our group this year was that the students were all women, except for one lone- and very brave- man. This tipping of the scale- and hormones- all living under the same roof for a week could have been a disaster. But fortunately it was a non-issue. Balanced with the men from our staff, our ratio actually didn't seem skewed and everyone played nice. As for why that happened, none of us can figure it out. Registration sold out in three days last fall, so the best we can do is attribute our female roster to the fact that, in general, women tend to plan more in advance than men and therefore scored the dozen seats first.

But otherwise it was magic as usual, and by that I don't mean lovey dovey, ooey gooey, pat-each-other-on-the-back ego stroking. This was hard work, with folks digging deep to look at their biggest insecurities behind the camera and learning how to be better. And in the process of becoming better storytellers, everyone learned a lot about themselves as well. The progress made runs the gamut with some students having full on explosive epiphanies that were fascinating to witness while others had less loud a-ha moments but I can guarantee they are, and will continue to, feel the effects of what they learned long-term just more quietly. That's the great thing about Roots. It's not a one-size-fits-all experience as everyone takes away something different, and that's ok. But it is a workshop that everyone can benefit from, no matter what each student's experience level, as the instructors tailor all assignments and constructive criticism to what that individual needs most.

The feedback has been incredible.

One student, who had been assisting at a photography studio and dragging her feet a bit about a recent career move to photography from law returned home, reenergized and confident, left that studio and has mapped out a plan for her own business. She's unstoppable.

Another has our group photo taped to the inside of her medicine cabinet and says hello to her new friends first thing each morning and every evening, her back pocket of supporters cheering her on as she finds her way in a new direction for her portrait business. That same student had $12 in her bank account when she signed up for Roots, but worked extra hours to pay it off bit by bit, as an alum had told her it was worth every penny. She already said she's coming back next year.

Another student, an experienced shooter, nearly dropped out just weeks before unsure of what she needed to gain. She summed up her experience best on her personal blog: I felt like it was a week of personal and photo therapy–I learned a lot about myself, and how it was affecting how I shoot. I learned how to trust myself, how to ask the right questions, and how to jump in even when I am super uncomfortable or uneasy. And I learned a lot about photography–we deconstructed so many images–why they are great, how they could be better, and how to put it into practice.

And so on and so on. The emails and handwritten notes have kept me smiling since we all said our somber good-byes a few weeks back. Tho we're literally all scattered about the country, Roots people are good people, friends for life. They're people I can always count on, and people I care about dearly and sincerely. Organizing a workshop is a ton of work, seeing it unfold makes it all worthwhile...

So it is with great pleasure that I announce we are going to have our 4th Roots next summer! The official dates are July 17-21, 2011, and registration opens Tuesday, September 7th, at 9a (so, get ready boys, or else those girls will edge you out again!). Check the website for updated details, and photographers, be sure to reserve your spot early!

Not sure if you should sign up? Watch this incredible piece featuring behind-the-scenes photographs and video interviews (and even original music) recorded by Eric. If you weren't there, it gives great insight into the experience and if you were, boy, does it leave you with chills!



  1. yay roots! Man, I wish I played that music - my chops on the acoustic aren't quite what they used to be... That was performed by a buddy of mine but I do have a writing credit on it ;]

    Such a wonderful year. I always leave immeasurably inspired.

    Thanks em!

  2. D'oh! Sorry, e, but hey, writing is certainly just as special.

  3. Eric, amazing job on the photos/audio... thank you. Em and all the staff, you know what goodness you cultivate each year at Roots... thank you.

    All I can say is, a wise soul once told me it may take months before your a-ha moment from Roots happens. There's so much to process after you leave. Agreed. It's only been about three weeks since Roots ended and every day I've been shooting, I still hear all y'all whispering in my ear. I even sported my Roots t-shirt today with a tinge of nostalgia. It's like Roots never really ends. Looking forward to the coming months.

    Thanks all.


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