What to say about Yan? What to say about Yan Fam Way? I didn't write this post right after the workshop (which was this past September) because I wanted time to process, reflect, and absorb. Some attendees of her workshops are able to rush home and immediately put down all their experience. Yeah. About that. I am not that person. So here we are 5ish months later and I'm MAKING myself blog about it now. I called myself out about it in my 2015 year in review post, because I knew I had to make that shit known to make sure I would follow through. Also, as I've said before, I have SO MANY sessions that I want to, NEED TO, blog, but I wanted to write about this first.
Here's the thing about Yan's workshop- if you want to take it to learn how to be like Yan, you absolutely can. She will give you her tips. Her tricks. Her poses and directions and little games. Her film and gear and lab and post processing. She is an open book. If you want, you can leave her workshop and shoot just. like. Yan.
...BUT if that is what you take away, then I feel sorry for you, my friend, as you are missing out. The point of the workshop isn't how-to-be-exactly-like-Yan, it's is about how to be YOU. There is already one Yan in the world, we don't need another. And, if I do say so, the Yan we have already does a pretty fucking fabulous job at being Yan. So don't go to the workshop just to become the Yan of your town. Go to the workshop to delve into YOU- what you are all about and how to express that through your art. Go to talk about what you are afraid of. Talk about your fears. Your hopes. Go to bond and grow with a fabulous group of photographers. Go for support and to hear you are not alone as you struggle with your craft.
I know I've talked about this before, but although the idea of being true to yourself sounds simple and easy, it is really not (at least not for me). It takes dedicated work. In this industry it is all too easy to lose sight of yourself. You get lost as you chase likes and followers. You compare your work and your worth to all the images you're bombarded with day in and day out. Which is really not good for you (duh, right?). At Yan Fam Way you can find yourself again. Somewhere along the way I definitely lost sight of me. Somehow all my years studying studio art and art history went out the window. They were regulated to the past as what I studied in college and were not informing my own current practice. Instead I was letting pinterest and "likes" and what I thought people wanted cloud my own unique vision. Instead of making art, all too often I was creating imitations of what was popular. I was trying to recreate what I other people did- I saw they were getting hired and I saw all the seal claps they were getting and I lost myself in wanting that. However, now I am actively trying to NOT do all those things. Sure, I still find myself playing the oh-so-fun game of comparing my work to others (hint: not actually fun at all). But I also am consciously unfollowing people/groups/photographers that make me feel that way. I'm going back to my roots and studying the photographs of the Masters. It's amazing how looking at photographs by great artists can be undeniably inspiring, while looking at photographs by people playing the game can be rather, ahem, soul crushing.
Yan gives your the push to stop being vanilla- that is, to stop being something people merely like. Instead she encourages you to be a strong flavor- sure, some will hate that flavor, but others will love it and truly connect with what you put out there. And that. That is what you want. Stop trying to please the masses, it is a fools errand. Instead work on creating images that speak to you and put those out into the world. It will be hard, but, oh, so worth it.
My only complaint is that the day went by too fast! Which (duh) I know is a good thing. I felt like we could have kept going and talking and learning on and on and on and on. Lucky for me we get to do just that in a few months. We are having a reunion workshop for 3 days at the coast (yes, please!). It won't be all the same ladies from the Portland workshop I attended (although there will be some overlap). I can't wait for Yan Fam 2.0 (but also I have so much to do before then! Lots of people took the workshop a year or more ago, but with having taken mine so recently there is still so much I want to get done before then!).
The lovely Kati Dimoff hosted the workshop at her crazy adorable home and then she and her crazy adorable family were also our models. It is always interesting to see how other photographers shoot. My style is very different than Yan's and before taking her workshop I really had no idea how hands on she is! Her photos look so effortless, but really that is due to a lot of effort on Yan's part! She is constantly directing and posing to bring out the emotions she wants to evoke. It was fascinating to watch how her brain works and how that translates to her images and process, especially as it is very different from my extremely hands off documentary method. It is also always interesting to have a bunch of photographers all shooting the same thing at the same time as you can see their style come through in the similarities and differences with one another's images. It has been fun keeping in touch with my workshop mates and seeing the variety of photographs that were made at the workshop.