VII Workshop, Melbourne

for Australian Photographers Journal

Prestigious photo agency VII have announced a workshop to take place in Melbourne in November of 2019 with Australian Ashley Gilbertson and VII co-founder Gary Knight at the helm.

With a class size of 16 students to the two mentors and a cost of US$3000 per place, the six-day workshop will commence in St Kilda on November 10th with the six intensive days of shooting and editing to come to a close on November 15th.

As detailed on VII’s website, the workshop is aimed at all levels from amateurs through to professionals and will encourage students “to rethink your approach to photography; to embrace new ideas and think outside of the box.”.

As Gilbertson details, this approach comes off the back of a rapidly changing landscape of photojournalism and a mantra held at VII that effective storytelling is most often the result of finding an innovative angle from which to approach an issue. “Practicing photography through what’s been done isn’t that difficult - copying a story, elements of it, even light and toning. It’s safe and straight forward and it’s done all too often - try perusing year after year of world press photo catalogues,” says New York City-based Gilbertson. “We’re interested in social issues affecting the planet, and manners in which we can really reach audiences in meaningful ways. That means doing it differently, looking at what’s been done and doing it in a unique way. During the week we’ll talk about the necessity of finding an angle onto that story which is new, or experimental to the participants or to photography as a whole.”

An MO held close to the heart of VII members since the agency’s inception roughly two decades ago, Gilbertson’s own work has constantly proven the efficacy of innovative storytelling approaches and was perhaps most noted in his early work Bedrooms of the Fallen, a photo essay and book depicting the bedrooms of forty fallen soldiers—the equivalent of a single platoon—from the United States, Canada, and several European nations.

But as Gilbertson furthers, the VII Melbourne workshop won’t be limited to discussing photographic technique and will to some extent seek to build upon photojournalism’s recent grappling with issues of diversity and representation; an issue that — in line with VII’s impressive array of philanthropic and educational endeavours spearheaded by Knight himself — will be addressed in part with the announcement of two tuition free places at the workshop to be awarded to Aboriginal Australian, Maori or indigenous Pacific Island photographers.

Gilbertson and Knight expressed their eagerness at returning to a country whose populace is both diverse and seemingly predisposed to a proclivity for photographic inquiry, adding that a particular encouragement will be made at the workshop for Australians to not neglect their own backyard within their photographic practice. “Australians have a unique approach to the world which lends itself to a natural curiosity about people’s stories, and a willingness to empathise - both vital traits in a photographer,” says Gilbertson. And as Knight adds: “I hope that we can encourage the students to embrace photographing their own communities, wherever they are. We do not seek to encourage people to work overseas — nor do we discourage them. We hope that the photographers who join us from indigenous communities will return home and bury themselves in stories that are important to their own people and amplify those stories outside. Diverse legitimate voices are vital to our understanding of the world.”