RVA Photo Safari

On Wednesday I spent the day in Richmond working from Virginia Commonwealth University. I’ve been itching to catch up with the great Tom Woodward for a while now, and I finally took the initiative. As an added bonus, I got to sit in on a Gardner Campbell staff seminar, which brought back some memories and gave me a lot to think about.

But this post isn’t about that, it’s about the photo safari I went on with Tom at lunch to get out and about in downtown Richmond. I’ve also been closely watching the photo walks he’s been sharing on his blog, and I think they are just beautiful. I mean this picture of a guy walking against the camel mural is nothing short of magic. I wanted to accompany Tom on one of these walks, and he was kind enough to oblige.

Image credit; Tom Woodward

I spent the walk asking him about his approach. He has such a good eye, and I  wanted to get a sense of his technique. Try and figure out how he goes about looking for things. It was fun to accompany him, and that’s already acknowledging I love hanging out with Tom. On the walk he got into sharing his thinking with me, there was no ego around the process, and he’s a damn good teacher. He also talked about a photo safari he’ll be taking some VCU faculty on to get them to see the space they live in anew, and also think about their own discipline through the lens of the city.  A great creative and fun community building exercise for the transition to teaching and learning online—this is an idea I will be stealing.

During the final part of the safari our discussion moved to metaphor as we trailed through alleys and studied 19th century architecture. The photos help draw the connections between the built environment we exist within and the ways in which we refuse to see it. The design of how we live is everywhere, the world we’ve engineered leaves the traces of the people who exist within it—and sometimes even the people themselves. But what occurred to me on that walk is just how much of the world I refuse to see on a  regular basis. Tom is looking at the world close and hard, which might explain some of his deep concerns about the state of our culture more generally. That might be what happens when you gaze longer than most, while remaining honest. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

By taking that walk with him I have an even greater respect for his art, and it makes me want to try that much harder to look harder. That said, I have a long way to go. But here’s my first safari attempt, and I’ll be trying to get at least one safari a week in different locations in order to push myself to study my environment more closely, but also try and capture the poetry that’s everywhere around us.

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8 Responses to RVA Photo Safari

  1. MBS says:

    So glad that you are praising Tom’s awesome photography. I was recently marveling at his work as well. This photo of Clinton and the series surrounding really blew me away.

    I’ve also really enjoyed the fact that he’s been participating in GIFFight too. If you’re still in Richmond say hi for me.

    And love your bacon truck photo!

  2. He is quite beyond bionic, I am pretty sure he exists in a different frequency spectrum than the rest of us.. We had a week together sadly it was but one day for a photo walk. Tell him next time you want to go to Hollywood. It’s alive with detail.

    I remember being awash in detail at the inch level in walking around Richmond, especially the grittier streets.

    If it weren’t for that wretched inhumane humidity, I’d enjoy it more. Tom loves the boiling sauna, he bragged about driving around in the summer with the windows up to dial the heat in even more.

  3. Fine stuff, Rev.
    More reasons for me to be excited about my daughter starting school at VCU next month.

  4. Tom says:

    I appreciate the overly kind words. You make it sound far more impressive than I could have imagined. I think I’d have summarized it

    “Jim and I walked around talking and taking pictures. A few of them might have turned out.”

    I am glad I make some sense when I talk about this stuff. I’m still trying to figure out if I know what I’m doing. I may have an advanced form of impostor syndrome where I think there are no real experts- just lots of people trying to find their way. 🙂

    It’ll be interesting to see how the photo safari plays with faculty. For the record, I got the idea from Kyle and Nil from Abilene Christian. I did a mini-version of it today as part of a k12 tech conference. It seemed to go ok.

    We should all plan to do some more talking, walking, and photography on some sort of regular basis. Maybe we can tie it into some conferences . . .

  5. Pingback: Photography – Week 33 | Bionic Teaching

  6. Tom says:

    A few of your lines stuck with me.

  7. Tom says:

    stripped . . . .

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