For those of you with the desire to learn photography in Korea, you've finally come to the right place.
Michael Hurt, the main instructor, is an experienced photographer with a base in many areas of the photographic field, from street to documentary, everyday to runway fashion, weddings to studio portraiture. He is self-trained, having been an avid photographer since elementary school. As a graduate student, he was priveleged to have been accepted into a master class at the School of Journalism at UC Berkeley in photo documentary, having the chance to work with accomplished photojournalists such as Kenneth Light and Susan Meiselas, and meet photo dignitaries such as Sebastio Selgado and others. He is a published street and documentary photographer, in publications ranging from CNNGo.com, Lufthansa flight magazine, the Hangyeoreh, The Korea Herald, The Japan Times, and many commercial clients. Most recently, he has worked as one of the only foreign fashion and runway photographer coverings Seoul Fashion Week, University Fashion Week, and many other individual runway shows in Korea. He has been featured in Harper's Bazaar Korea and has worked with several top runway Korean models, including a 2009 Miss Korea (미). Most recently, he was become the head photographer for the new Korean fashion magazine Faddict.
First and foremost, besides being an experienced photographer, Michael is an experienced teacher of photography. He has taught in both English and Korean, and has conducted private photo classes for more than five years. He has also worked extensively in the Seoul alternative schools teaching documentary projects for at-risk Korean youth (The SSRO Media School), as well as creative projects at other schools and media centers (The School Within the City, The Haja Center). He was most recently a lecturer at Myongji University in the course "Understanding Korean History through Pictures" and is a regular lecturer for incoming Fulbright ETA grant recipients on "The Visual Culture of Seoul." He has also taught custom classes for such international organizations as the Seoul branch of Voice of America (VoA) and the Australian Embassy in Korea.
As photo classes, the approach is quite different from most other courses, in that it is extremely experientially based an centered around the camera's functions themselves. This is the "direct method" of photographic instruction, favored by legend Minor White when he founded the photography department at the California School of Fine Arts, which primarily had, as its first students, GI's going to college for the first time under the post-war GI bill, and whose first instructors included luminaries such as Minor White, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, and others. The point was that committed students, even without the slightest background in the arts or photography (or even higher education) could be taught photography if they were taught by doing. This is the active assumption that makes our course very, very different from others.
Student start the class, even the theory-based first session, by understanding things through the specific functions of their own cameras. All DSLR's work essentially the same way, and traditionally share the same nomenclature for even the most advanced functions; however, there is still the specifics of the individual camera, which students need to get to know. By the second session, we're outdoors and applying camera-specific theory from the first class to the real situations we find outside. We also add in the use of external flash as a means of further understanding concepts already learned. The assumption is that, once students get one level of things, adding another level of complexity simply offers another dimension of understanding -- not a greater hindrance to it. That is the working assumption for the third session as well, in which a model is brought in and the students learn the basics of studio photography, which further deepens understanding of the basic concepts of shutter, aperture, light strength, distance from the subject, etc. In fact, the basics of studio photography have already been conceptually learned in the second session -- the studio is just a variation, again. By the fourth session, we are working with advanced exposure techniques, multiple flashes, and many other techniques that basically define all one can do with a camera.
In short, it's a chance to try as much as possible as a means of understanding just a few key concepts.
Courtesy of CNNGo.com
There are 4 consecutive 3-hour sessions usually spread over the course of a month, conducted in the instructor's actual studio, which is right outside Namyeong Station on the #1 line. Desired class sizes range from 4-6 people.The only real requirement is having a DSLR or an extremely advanced all-in-one camera. The course offers enough depth to total beginners, especially from the first session (the basics of aperture, shutter, depth-of-field), to truly get a basis in photography by the end of the course. But there is also enough breadth and a range of new experiences (outdoor flash, studio work, complex lighting situations) in the course's second, third, and fourth sessions, such that even the intermediate or advanced amateur will benefit greatly. Anyone short of being an experienced, regulalarly working photographer, with advanced technical skills from natural to flash to studio lighting -- you will learn something significant in this course, and it's small and flexible enough to meet your greater needs or more advanced equipment, if you bring that along. Dealing with your advanced issue or question will actually help the class, not hurt it. It just makes the experience set of the group broader, and everyone benefits. Broken down:
Session 1: Fundamentals
Explaining the relationship between shutter, aperture, and depth-of-field. Going through the basic settings of the camera, including ISO, white balance, the meanings of different program modes, autofocus and exposure settings, etc. Understanding the mechanics of proper exposure is emphasis. Homework is assigned, to be uploaded through Flickr.
Session 2: Practicals I
On an outing, usually to Hongdae, we emphasize proper outdoor exposure, the use of fill flash, and the mechanics that limit its use, such as maximum flash-sync speed, compensating for that through aperture and ISO, as well as the use of manual flash, especially an external one. There is also an element of street photography and candids on this outing.
Session 3: The Studio
Shooting a subject with studio lights offers another dimension on the subject of distance and flash power, except the light source is now no longer on the camera. It also demonstrates how aperture affects flash power, without being affected by shutter speed, as well as composition, distance from the subject, etc. By this time, most students are really "getting" the technical aspects of photogaphy.
Session 4: Practicals II
Back outdoors, usually at the Han River or Myeongdong, we experiment with extreme background and fill flash lighting, multiple remote flashes, and other extreme lighting conditions that make for interesting casual outdoor shots and portraits.
Other side benefits to the course include many discussions about equipment choice, the best lenses, flashes, and other buys that can enhance one's photography, and which a professional shooter can offer some good advice about.
Payment and Times
The course is 250,000 won for the entire 4 weeks. It's a pretty penny, but worth it, as most of my students are exteremely satisfied, and the success of the class depends on the recommendations and referrals of satisfied former students. So, bring all your photo equipment, a notebook, and sense of adventure. In addition, for every friend you bring into a class to sign up with you, you receive a 25,000 won discount. You can take the discount or split it between yourselves. If you bring in several people, the class can be quite cheap for you!
Except for the first class, the classes afterwards are fairly modular. If you have to miss one, you can take that session again on another cycle of the class, although I don't encourage it as an attendance strategy (for your sake, not mine). If you miss session #2 and then come to studio session #3, it's not a huge loss. The knowledge isn't directly cumulative, although it does help to come in order -- the class is structured the way it is for a reason. But there are no refunds. So, if your work schedule suddenly changes that month, for example, you're free to come again on another cycle. This makes it easier to live my life, as well as encourage you to make sure to treat this as a class you've paid good money for, not an optional activity.
Photo classes generally are offered one at least one weekday and the weekend. All announcements, directions, and payment info are run on the Studio 11 Facebook site. If you do not use Facebook, you can email directly for information from the link at the top right of the page.
And for Those Outside of Seoul...
We know that many of you don't live in Seoul. If you can gather a group of 6+ people for a course outside of Seoul, we can make special arrangements for an intensive session, which I have done before. One thing that worked previously was having the first two sessions over one day (say 11-2, followed by a long lunch and break, filled with camera conversation and other good banter, and the last two in Seoul, so non-Seoul people have to only make one trip, not four. If you're really way out there and it would be better for me to make two trips for two intensive sessions, we can work something out for a slight hike in the signup price. In any case, we can work something out, and it has worked out well in the past.