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A workshop with Sylvia Plachy

This class is for photographers who are already proficient and have a project that is well along to completion. The class is about finding yourself in the pictures you take. To not just hear what you intend to do, but also to look for what the pictures say about what interests and draws you and what shapes, connections, recurring themes occur that define your way of seeing and to help you continue.

We’ll begin this workshop with a long look at each participant’s work and we’ll work mostly as a group. The object of the class is to learn from your own work and from others.

Please bring a set of pictures of one project between 30-50 small work prints, about 5x7inches are good sizes to work with. Also, bring 2-3 finished prints as examples of what you consider ideal (what colors or shades of B&W express your taste and suit your work). The 5×7 work prints need not be perfect. In addition please bring some out-takes, choices you are ambivalent about, perhaps contact sheets. Perhaps we will find unrealized threads that already exist and can lead you in new directions.

Girl and tree (Photo: Sylvia Plachy)

There may be some you’ve overlooked. We will edit and look at work, but not on the computer. The computer is a wonderful tool for finishing and cleaning up, but the initial work is by hand and eye. It is by touching and looking and physically moving the pictures around that helps you see relationships and patterns. Through editing and sequencing a sometimes hidden personal vision will emerge.

We’ll talk about titles, shapes, sizes, composition and if there should be words or other visual elements added. This class is not about finishing a project, but to energize you and set you on a course to finish your project. We’ll create a rough dummy with paper and paperclips or glue, consider sizes, materials, designs, typeface, if writing or other additional illustrative materials would be used in your book or catalogue, in your photo essay or in an exhibition.

Horse and snow (Photo: Sylvia Plachy)


Sylvia Plachy came into her own as a photographer at the Village Voice a weekly newspaper in New York City. She was hired in 1974 by Clay Felker and worked there for thirty years, first as photo editor and photographer and after receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1977, as staff photographer.

For eight years she had a column, a picture without words, which was called by different names, but the longest series was called, Sylvia Plachy’s Unguided Tour. Her first book, published by Aperture in 1990, was also called Unguided Tour and won the Infinity Award for Best Publication.

Her photographs have also appeared in many magazines, among them Granta, Grand Street, Artforum, Vogue, Conde Nast Traveler, Newsweek, and The New York Times, among others and at different times she has been contributing photographer at Metropolis Magazine and staff photographer at the New Yorker.

Originally from Budapest, at age 13 she escaped with her parents in the wake of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and after spending two interim years in Vienna, arrived in the United States in 1958.

She studied Graphic Arts at Pratt Institute where an elective course led to her passion in photography. She met Elliot Brody at age nineteen when they were both counselors at Camp Meadowbrook in Hunter Mountain, New York. They later married and they have a son, Adrien.

The recipient of grants and prizes, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Lucie Award, Page One Award for Journalism from Columbia University, Plachy was given the 2009 Dr. Erich Salomon Price for lifetime achievement in photojournalism.
Her book Self Portrait with Cows Going Home, a personal history of Eastern Europe received a Golden Light Award in 2004. Her other books are, Red Light: Inside the Sex Industry (1996), with writer James Ridgeway, Signs & Relics (1999); Goings On About Town (2007) and Out of the Corner of My Eye/De Reojo (a Spanish edition; 2007).

She has taught in the Photo Department at NYU Tisch School of Photography and has given workshops and lectured in many places, such as at Anderson Ranch, in Woodstock, ICP, the Maine Media Workshops, Friends of Photography, The University of Memphis, University of Mississippi, Centro de la Imogen in Mexico City, Aranjuez, Spain, Homer, Alaska, National Arts Club, NY, The NY Public Library, Center for Photography,

Her photographs are in many private collections and museums including The MoMa in NYC, the Houston Museum, The Queens Museum, Bibliotheque National, The High Museum in Atlanta, the San Francisco Museum of Art. She has had solo shows at the Minneapolis Museum of Art, the Queens Museum, The Whitney Museum at Philip Morris and in galleries in cities around the world, including Berlin, Budapest, Paris, Charlottesville, Los Angeles, Manchester, Budapest, Beijing, Madrid, New York and Ljubljana, Esztergom, Tokyo. This February she had a show at the University of Texas at Arlington, and a retrospective called, When Will It Be Tomorrow, opened at Mai Mano in Budapest. In May she will be a featured guest at the Romania Photography Festival in Cluj-Napoca.

Patti and Astor meet the Press, 1981 (Photo: Sylvia Plachy)