One of the great pleasures of traveling is sharing our favorite places with others. And one of our favorite ways to do this is to organize photography workshops. In 2014 we taught in London and Paris. For 2015 we spent ten days in December introducing nine wonderful photographers to Rome and Assisi. The best part was that we got to spend Christmas time in one of our favorite cities in the world.
I have been teaching photography workshops for a few years now and love teaching photography as much as I love making images. So while Matt and I are taking a break from working while we travel, I didn’t want to take a break from teaching photography. A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Ashley Turney owner of L’Esperta. Ashley offers an incredible service of helping people to organize their vacations to Italy. So when Matt and I were talking about teaching a workshop while traveling, I immediately thought of enlisting Ashley’s help with making arrangements. I developed the structure of the workshop and a list of places I wanted to visit, and Ashley was able to take our vision and arrange the the logistics for us. What resulted was a fantastic ten days in Rome and Assisi.
The goal of the workshop was to assist each photographer in improving their photography skills. We focused on improving photographic composition, working with available light to create beautiful images, learning how to tell a story with a single image, and how to be more comfortable photographing people. We touched on techniques for photographing architecture, people, still life, and night photography. We also had a fun scavenger hunt with the winners receiving prizes for finding the most items on the list.
One of the highlights of our workshop was traveling to the village of Petrignano di Assisi to photograph their nativity scene, or “precepe”. The precepe is a beautiful Italian tradition credited to St. Francis of Assisi created to honor the birth of Jesus. A precepe is what we in the US called a “crèche”, or a manger set with figures from the birth of Christ. In some cities, the figures are played by real people, often by members of the local church and community. This is called a “precepe vivente” or live nativity. Petrignano di Assisi goes further and takes this idea of a scene and turns it into a live play of Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem, asking for a place to sleep for the night, and the birth of baby Jesus. Townspeople dress as local shop keepers, slave traders, King Herrod, and fishermen. You can follow Joseph and pregnant Mary through the town as they seek shelter. At the end is the nativity scene in a small manger with Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. It’s a beautiful community event, even if you are not religious. The whole town gets involved to make costumes, structures to represent shops, houses, etc. It was an honor to be allowed to photograph such an event.
We had many opportunities to enjoy delicious Roman food during our workshop. Matt and I are firm believers in making sure that our workshops include cultural experiences as well as photographic ones. We arranged with Hande Leimer, founder of Vino Roma to lead our group through a meal of typical Roman dishes at La Tavernaccia da Bruno in the neighborhood of Trastevere. Hande is a sommelier and an expert in Italian food and her knowledge of Roman food and wines from the local growers is unparalleled. Under the expert guidance of Hande and Giuseppe, the chef, we tasted traditional Roman dishes that we might never have ordered as well as some classics. Everything was paired with delicious local wines.
In between eating delicious meals, we toured Rome with local guides, saw the Vatican museum with an art and history expert, and learned the fine art of the “passi” which is the Roman pastime of strolling. All throughout, we offered guidance on photographing one of the world’s greatest cities.
Matt and I are currently putting the finishing touches on our next workshop offering: Western Ireland in early May 2017. Also in the works is a workshop in Puglia, the region located in the heel of Italy’s boot for later in 2017. Information will be coming very soon on the Ireland workshop, so stay tuned as it is already nearly sold out.