Level 3 Program for Narrative & Documentary Practice in Arles

Photograph by Ziyah Gafić

Program for Narrative and Documentary Photography: Level 3 in Arles

In June, the Alexandra Boulat Campus in Arles opened its doors to our first Level 3 participants, composed for this pilot program of eleven VII Mentees and VII Academy Fellows from the USA, Europe, Africa, and Asia. 

The Level 3 classes are taught in person and include more theoretical concepts, integrating multi-disciplinary academic reading and research, writing, journaling, art disciplines, and workshops. In its first edition, sessions were taught by leading names from photography and visual journalism, including Monica Allende, Philip Blenkinsop, Ziyah Gafić, and Gary Knight. 

Throughout the four weeks, students learned to curate and present their work and left with an edit of a long-term project and multiple creative projects. The first seminar also included a week for students to network around Les Rencontres d’Arles, a major international networking photography event held in Arles every summer, and portfolio reviews with visiting VII Contributing Photographers. 

The second edition of Level 3 for Narrative and Documentary Photography will begin in Fall 2023.

Portrait Photography Workshop with Ziyah Gafić

Making constructed and observed portraits is an essential tool of visual journalism. In a workshop led by Ziyah Gafić, students examined and discussed Mike Disfarmer’s Heber Springs Portraits and an excerpt from Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing before visiting local places, meeting members of the Arles community and shooting portraits in the field for their assignment.

Photograph by Ulysse Fiévé

Writing and Research Practice Workshops with Dr. David Campbell and Gary Knight

Free-form writing is a technique in which the author writes their thoughts quickly and continuously without worrying about form, style, or grammar.

Led by Gary Knight, students were assigned a location in Arles and asked to write in free-form style for two hours. Paying attention to light, tonal detail, texture, smell, sound, and their relationships to people within the space, students wrote a narrative description that accompanied six images of observed portraits taken in the same location.

During the same week, Dr. David Campbell held an in-depth ethics discussion with the group and assigned a research task, asking each to write a story proposal based on their investigation.

Photograph by Ulysse Fiévé

Still Life Drawing Workshop with Jill Douglas

Still-life drawing is a practice that teaches the art of composition, an advanced understanding of depth and perspective, and the significance of detail.

Teaching technical drawing skills and encouraging unique expression, local artist Jill Douglas led an art class aimed at enhancing students’ visual voice.

The class focused on advancing confidence in expression using various mediums, from charcoal to wax, and establishing a deeper understanding of transferable skills, including composition, light, and form.

Photograph by Ziyah Gafić

“Photographer Survival Guide” with Ron Haviv

The Photographer Survival Guide masterclass by award-winning VII photographer Ron Haviv is designed to provide transferable skills for young and emerging photographers. It is often the work done without the camera that leads one to success as a photographer. Part of the Level Three Seminar in Arles, the discussion offered practical guidance and advice on various topics, including planning for success in the field, dealing with assignments, and managing deadlines.

Photograph by Ulysse Fiévé

Editing and Photobook Workshop with Monica Allende and Philip Blenkinsop

Focusing on the city of Arles as their topic, students worked on two final objects during their last week: a slideshow and a loparello. Addressing conceptual, practical, and creative questions when curating a final edit, workshops led by Monica Allende and Philip Blenkinsop discussed each project’s narrative, design, and format.

Photograph by Ulysse Fiévé

Portfolio Reviews with VII photographers

During the opening week of the first collective exhibition, See Through the Noise by VII Photo in Arles, Level Three students met with visiting VII Contributing Photographers for one-to-one portfolio reviews and feedback on their long-term projects at The Alexandra Boulat campus.

Photograph by The VII Foundation

Final Screening of Long-term Projects

Photograph by Ulysse Fiévé
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