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A thousand words, instantly

Wren Wertin

Rich Clarkson, former director of photography for National Geographic and currently on American Photography’s list of the 50 most influential photographers, is coming to Vail with his Digital Summit Workshop. Focusing on the art and science of digital photography, the workshop runs June 23 through June 28, and is based in Vail’s Cascade Resort.Though working for National Geographic is a pinnacle of sorts for photographers, it wasn’t too hard for Clarkson to give it up.”I was the Director of Photography, so I never went anywhere except my desk in the office,” he said. “It was purely administrative work. I’d send people off to all these great places in the world, and then I’d read through the expense accounts to see just how great a time they had.”He left to work with Brian Lanker on what, in its 17th printing, has become one of the most successful coffee table books to date, “I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America.” Clarkson hasn’t put down his camera since.Based in Denver, his company Rich Clarkson and Associates produces photography and publishing ventures for a variety of clients including the Broncos, Rockies and others. For the workshop he has amassed a star-studded roster of instructors that will contribute their expertise to the seminars, including Joe McNally, David Alan Harvey, Susan Biddle and Chris Anderson.McNally made headlines for his September 11 portrait exhibition in Grand Central Station and LIFE books. He used a 40×60-inch Polaroid camera to make life-size photographs of people involved in the emergency response, including firemen and medical professionals.”The camera he used was almost as big as a room,” said Clarkson. “And now he’ll be teaching on a small camera, the other end of the spectrum. I think that’s neat.”Harvey is a long-time National Geographic photographer and now a member of Magnum. His book, “Alma Cubana, Cuban Spirit,” won awards last year.”To him, photography is about the art of seeing, and minimizing the distance between photographer and subject,” wrote National Geographic photographer Dirck Halstead about Harvey.Biddle is currently a Washington Post staff photographer. Some of her most recognizable images date back to the last two years of the Reagan administration and all four years of George Bush’s, when she was part of the White House photo staff and personal photographer to both Presidents.Anderson is a busy photojournalist, and his work regularly appears in U.S. News & World Report and the New York Times Sunday Magazine.They and many more will be coming as instructors and mentors for attendees, who should be professional or advanced amateur photographers looking for careers in serious photography.”The seminar is really two things at same time,” said Clarkson. “One is introducing everyone that’s not already using digital cameras to them. The second is looking at creativity. We’ve got some absolutely first-rate photographers teaching, and some attending.”Among attendees will be a current National Geographic technician, as that publication begins its slow transition into digital. According to Clarkson, there are many advantages to shooting digitally.”Principally speed, because you have a picture instantly,” he said. “So it’s the camera of preference for news agencies all over the world. But it’s not just speed – it’s now producing photos equal to what film has so far, and can even do more.”Technology has been catching up with art, and now publications like Sports Illustrated that heretofore have scorned digital prints as low-quality and cold are jumping on the digitized bandwagon. Attendees of the workshop will be able to work with the new Nikon D100 camera, which made its American debut last week. Epson’s line of stylus printers will be available as well.The days will run in roughly the same manner. In the mornings – when the light isn’t at its best, said Clarkson – specific topics will be covered by various instructors, and the previous day’s student pictures will be projected and critiqued. Afternoons will be dedicated to photographing or meeting one-on-one with instructors. The workshop will culminate in an exhibition of the students’ work.As for his own photos, Clarkson is striving to spin a tale for the viewer.”(I want to) tell a story and be creative, and to make pictures that are very intriguing and make the reader study the picture and learn what we’re trying to say with it.”At press time, the Vail Digital Summit Workshop has room for five students. Tuition for the week is $1,200. For more information call Rich Clarkson and Associates at (800) 745-3211 or visit http://www.richclarkson.com.Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.


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