This past October National Geographic photographer Sam Abell returned to DCP for an afternoon of image critiques. Sam started his presentation by sharing some of his life’s work and explaining why these specific images meant the most to him. His biggest message was to take the photos that are most important to you. As he flipped through the slideshow he shared stories of his artistic search and intimately described some of the most difficult times in his photographic life.
After his presentation, Sam turned his insight towards the work of the students. Over the next hour and a half Sam critiqued two to three images of each of the 24 participants. Photos ranged from travel photography to geometric landscapes to intimate portraits. Sam’s comments included what he liked about each image and gave suggestions on how he may have photographed the situation differently to make the image stronger. He encouraged students to slow down and compose the image and then wait for the action to happen. He shared that the photos that work well are the ones where the subject’s head is above the horizon line and they have their own space and room to tell the story.
Whenever Sam is working with images he always wants the projector to be placed so his shadow can enter into the frame. There is something magical about watching him step into an image and use his hands to call out details, crop out something he finds distracting or point out some small change that would make the image more powerful. By entering into the photograph he can clearly communicate the concept he is wanting to illustrate.
Here are a few images of Sam critiquing photographs along with the students’ comments about the experience:
Sam Abell critiques Frank Richards’ Photo
“Sam has an uncanny ability to hone in on the essence of an image – commenting both on what makes an image work and how it might be improved. I do not normally shoot photojournalistic type images like Sam’s but have been able to easily apply the principles he teaches to my work. I like that he focuses on a few powerful concepts that can be easily grasped and when successfully applied have really improved my work.” – Frank Richards
Sam Abell critiques Tracy Allard’s Photo
“I like that Sam sees value in many types of images; not just landscape, or portrait etc. I learn from every image that he critiques. He’s really made me think about what makes an image “mine”. I am still trying to find my voice and style but I think I’m getting closer the more that I’m exposed to.” – Tracy Allard
Sam Abell critiques Neil Resnik’s Photo
“I was fascinated by his ability to look at a picture and point out things about the composition that I would never notice. For example he would point out the little spaces between subjects or the space at the top of a photo and how it made a difference in the photo. Sam’s critique of my work was very affirming. It was helpful to see my photos through the eyes of another with his skill.” – Neil Resnik
Sam Abell critiques Robert Moore’s Photo
“I enjoyed Sam talking about his own story, his own struggle trying to be “commercial” and yet be true to himself. Connecting his work images with his personal outlook on life was very touching.” – Robert Moore