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Photography with Rob & Lisa Walcott

You will rarely meet a more talented duo than husband and wife team Rob and Lisa Walcott. This December we were lucky to have them join us for our after school workshops. Although their professional and personal work spans a wide variety of mediums (photography, drawing, painting, installation) a strong reverence for the temporal unites it all.

On the first Thursday in December they joined us for a photo-walk and studio tour. Rob opened with a video excerpt from a BBC program (shown below) exploring the four words the Himba (a tribe in Africa) use to describe color. The whole program is fascinating and the accompanying website is worth a read too. Back to the Himba – because of the words their tribe uses to classify color they are often unable to observe differences in certain colors you and I (assuming we grew up with ROYGBIV) can easily recognize. In playing a more elaborate version of “which one of these things doesn’t belong” the anthropologist shows the theory in action.

From here a simple yet profound metaphor emerges: if language shapes what we see, then a camera gives us access to a new kind of language; one that we are constantly submersed in by but rarely notice (or have the words to explain). From mouthes to eyes and back to mouthes again.

After the video we took to the streets like a horde of photojournalists. During our walk Rob, an experienced guide, pointed out often overlooked characteristics of light. Shadows were tinted a cool blue while areas bathed in sun were warm. Rim and fill light brought the two in close contact. Surrounding colors tinted skin tones one way or another. The whole tour made the everyday act of seeing quite magical…which, when you actually think about the act of seeing (a lens focuses lightwaves onto rods & cones that convert said waves into electrical signals that your brain interprets as color) makes it even more so.

Eventually we worked our way to their studio where he used a student model as an example to show how the size of a light source effected the shadow. Larger lights cast a softer shadow while smaller sources cast hard lined shadows.

Praxis. This word contains all that I love about our workshops; it’s the perfect blend of theoretical knowledge and hands on experience. I can’t thank Rob and Lisa enough for giving us a glimpse into their profession and the language they use everyday. Rob is a excellent teacher and it came through in the workshop. Afterwards several students expressed gratitude for how simply he explained the basic concepts of photography. It was quite brilliant to watch and I found myself equally (if not more so) enthralled. Thank you so much, Rob, for exposing us to a language of light that makes our life richer.

Be sure to check out the photography of Rob & Lisa at Walcott Imaging.



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