Photo-film workshops Make it Work

Maya Earls
Spectrum Editor

Led by Alyssa Salomon, participants in the “Book ’Em” workshop will learn how to create their own handmade projects. Photo courtesy of Alyssa Salomon

Members of the community will create handmade projects and inspiring images through in-depth workshops offered by VCU.

The Photography and Film department at VCU will offer two four-week classes, titled “Make It Work-shops,” led by adjunct professors Alyssa Salomon and Dana Ollestad. Salomon will lead a class on handmade bookmaking, teaching students how to make their own portfolio, photo album or three-dimensional fold-out book. For the second class, Ollestad will teach students image composition and capturing on-the-go footage using digital single-lens reflex cameras. Ollestad said the upcoming workshop will be the first time he has worked on a community project through VCU.

“I have a big heart for community stuff and accessibility to all the kits they have in school,” Ollestad said.

Even though VCU students and alumni are encouraged to attend, Ollestad said he is looking forward to the variety of people the community workshop will bring.

“When I teach in photo film, it’s all art students,” Ollestad said. “But if you open it up to the community you’ll have an engineer or a nurse … and all these crazy different sorts of energies and expertises.”

Salomon said the workshops are less like a typical classroom format, where she is more a facilitator than a teacher. The participants will receive instruction on the basics of bookmaking, and they will have the opportunity to create a more personal project.

“What I’m doing is basically, ‘Here’s how to do something, let’s do it and let’s do it together,’” Salomon said. “The making itself is the objective, not the grade, not the check off your procedure.”

A former graduate student at VCU, Ollestad said he will focus on camera basics, such as shooting with a tripod, and expand to physically moving around while capturing images. With more dynamic shooting positions, the final image will be more dynamic as well. Ollestad said he might bring older cameras into the workshop for a varied lesson on filmmaking.

“All the same techniques and concepts apply,” Ollestad said. “If you’re careful with your composition, storytelling and editing, you can shoot some incredible ’80s, ’90s style footage.”

Salomon said she expects many of the participants will lead busy lives, but she hopes the workshop will serve as an artistic vacation.

“I almost think of it as art spa,” Salomon said. “You get to just enjoy being there for the moment of creating.”

With the world becoming more and more digital, Salomon said work can get lost within the box of technology. As a result, artistic books are becoming more enticing. Salomon said this year, thousands of people attended the annual art-book fair in New York.

“There is an appetite to do and to consume the fully conceived,” Salomon said.

Both Salomon and Ollestad said they hope each of the participants in the workshop will have their own personal ‘aha’ moment, where something will click. After the workshop ends, the participants can take their knowledge and experiment within their daily lives.

“Whenever you show something to someone, your only hope is that they’re like, ‘Oh!’” Ollestad said, snapping his fingers. “Then you say ‘Yes, go. Have fun.’”

The Make It Work-shops will begin Oct. 22 with “Book ’Em” by Salomon. Led by Ollestad, “Shooting like a pro on DSLR” will begin Oct. 24. The classes will last four weeks and are $125 for students and $150 for the general public. “Book ’Em” requires an additional $35 materials fee. More information, along with registration can be found at

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