As I was getting back into photography a few years ago, I became interested in the work of Chris Honeysett. His work in black and white around both San Francisco and other environs really caught my eye. I’m not sure how I first came across his work – probably at one of the local arts shows here on the Peninsula. Along the way, I picked up two of his framed prints – one for my office and another for my home office. They’re both beautiful and remind me every day of the beauty of northern California.
In August 2009, I decided to take my first ever photo workshop with Chris in the North Beach area of San Francisco. Turns out it was his first workshop too. Our small group met at his studio and – painfully for me – we went through a portfolio review as a group, sharing some of our work, hearing Chris’ critique, and trying to absorb. Oh my.
We then headed to the subject area of our workshop – North Beach in San Francisco. I’ll never forget what happened. We parked alongside Washington Square Park and Chris said something like “Go find some shots!” All of us, with our DSLRs in hand, immediately began firing away – at the front of the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, up at Coit Tower, and people in the park – you name it, we were blasting away.
After a minute or two of this, Chris yelled “Stop!” He pulled us back together and suggested (!) that perhaps we might want to spend a bit more time thinking about the setting and composing potential shots. Slow down. Stop shooting. Start looking. Slow down.
His words still echo in my ears whenever I get into a venue. Stop. Slow down. Take a deep look around. And look some more. Before you start shooting. For me, it flips my brain over to the right side and I begin to see differently. Powerful stuff. Trey Ratcliff says that music also helps. I think it does – a pair of headphones on a photo shoot can work wonders at enabling me to just focus and see.
This image is one that Chris taught us to see. He took us to this spot and asked us to visualize our shot. We all were compelled to go vertical – into portrait – to capture the front of the church. Of course, if we’d done so, we would have missed the beauty of both the church and Coit Tower – and the matching fluting of both. I’ve tweaked a bit. Mostly bringing down the color so that it’s just there and enhancing the lights and shadows of those beautiful buildings.
I’ll always remember Chris for his impact on me and teaching me to slow down – and look. After all, it’s really all about learning to see.
Note: Chris Honeysett will be participating in this weekend’s Palo Alto Festival of the Arts.