The Photography Master Retreat: Take Your Work to the Next Level


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The Photography Master Retreat is a one-of-a-kind, career-enhancing opportunity for established and emerging photographers to engage in artistic introspection and professional critique. It’s not a shooting trip, but a rare chance to bond with peers who are passionate about photography as you pause, reflect on your work, refocus your trajectory, and recharge your artistic batteries.

  • Date: Jul 6-13, 2019
  • Destination: Esparon, near Arles, South of France
  • Genre: Any (Fine Art, Conceptual, Documentary)
  • Skill Levels: Intermediate, Advanced
  • Group Size: Max. 14
  • Mentors: Elisabeth Biondi, curator and former Visuals Editor, The New Yorker. Lyle Rexer, critic, curator and educator, SVA. Martine Fougeron, artist and educator, ICP
  • Application Deadline: December 1, 2018

Workshop Details

The Photography Master Retreat is a unique, one-week, mentor-led retreat for photographers held in the south of France every year in July, right after the opening week of Les Rencontres d’Arles.

The retreat is designed for established and emerging photographers – fine art, conceptual, or documentary – who are passionate about their work and want to take it to the next level.

Three internationally acclaimed mentors will guide, advise and inspire the chosen participants: Elisabeth Biondi, curator and former Visuals Editor of The New Yorker; Lyle Rexer, critic, curator and educator; and artist-educator Martine Fougeron.

This memorable, immersive experience, set in a remote hamlet in the south of France, is not a shooting trip but a rare chance for photographers to rethink their work, refocus on their trajectory, and recharge their artistic batteries. ­

A New Model of Retreat

The Photography Master Retreat is not a practice-based photography session – those are everywhere, in every wonderful location around the world (you shoot and you learn how to do things.)

This is the only retreat where photographers are asked to reflect.

Where the main activity is to look at the work you are making and have made, and think about what it actually means.

What’s good about it, what’s most important, what’s *you* about it?

What is it that’s yours, and to let that come out in a variety of different ways, and let the other things fall away.

What you should walk away with is a better sense of yourself as a photographer, and perhaps a better sense of yourself as a person.

A Retreat is a Refuge

A retreat is a sanctuary, a hideaway, a haven. It is also a departure, a different approach, an adventure, a leave-taking, the beginning of a journey, a change from the usual or expected path, a definite time spent away from one’s normal life for the purpose of reflecting and reconnecting with your work.

Take Your Work to the Next Level

The Photography Master Retreat is designed for professional, emerging professional, serious advanced, and aspiring photographers in any genre – fine art, conceptual, or documentary – who are passionate about their existing work and committed about taking it to the next level.

A Community That Lives and Works Together

During this one-week retreat, the participants and the mentors will live and work together as a community in a large house in a remote location, the tiny hamlet of Esparon in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France.

By spending days, meals and evenings together, there is ample opportunity for discussion, input and support.

This kind of communal living helps inform the process and creates special bonds and friendships – yet another bonus of gathering people together in one remote, beautiful place and sharing local, fresh, delicious Provençal cuisine.

How the Mentors Work

The Photography Master Retreat emphasizes intensive review and discussion of each participant’s process and work.

The three mentors are committed to taking individual students to their highest photographic potential in a creative, supportive, and enjoyable environment.

Portfolio reviews, supportive critique, discussions, and opportunities for introspection are all integral components of this special program.

The mentors schedule each day working with the larger group (14 participants maximum), smaller groups, as well as individual one-on-one sessions.

The Beginning of a New Course of Action

The Photography Master Retreat is not based on an ideology or a predetermined aesthetic approach – it engages each participant’s work on its own terms, and seeks the best ways to improve and enrich the photographic encounter.

A week in Esparon becomes a path to better and more conscious work.

Together we explore photographic ideas and process in depth, allowing you to the time and space to rethink your aesthetic and your path forward.

The Venue

Welcome to Esparon, a remote, magical haven that's perfect for introspection and collaboration.

"The place, Esparon, lends itself to be an inspiration for creative time in and on itself. The beauty of the place itself and its surroundings, its history, were natural ingredients for focus and thought. Martine’s attention to every detail was fantastic." — Loli #TPMR2017

The retreat is on the medieval estate of La Bastide d’Esparon in the beautiful mountains of Les Cévennes Méridionales in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, located near Arles, Avignon, and Montpellier, in the south of France. It is held in Martine Fougeron’s family house, a serene, comfortable haven with breathtaking views.

Local cuisine and special wines are provided at the retreat for the entire week.

"The structure with having three mentors was very special. Being in Esparon, high up on a little hamlet in Martine’s childhood home added a very personal and welcoming touch. It felt like we were all supported and encouraged in a cozy and inspiring environment. (Plus the food was amazing!) Also the feeling of being “sequestered” here made it easier to focus and not be distracted by exploring or wanting to go out and see the area. Our two little excursions were enough." — Peggy #TMPR2017

"The house is so enchanting, the scenery breathtaking. Easily the most nurturing learning environment I’ve ever been a part of." — Smith #TPMR

Cuisine

All cuisine is prepared by our chef-in-residence.

During The Photography Master Retreat, the chef lives and cooks on the premises, buying only fresh produce from the local markets, and cooking for us as if we were their extended family.

Everything is served on Provençal linens and dishes on the big terrace. Add local wines, and it’s an experience ripped straight from a Provençal cookbook. Our fine chef turns every meal into an experience.

Schedule

"The weeklong retreat was filled with intensive, one-on-one interaction, large group interaction and centered on the ‘pods’ of four participants with a mentor. The ultimate goal was to emphasize the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents, potenti­alities, drive or need as photographers and in our photographic work. At the end of the workshop, each of us was required to present a final project, an artist statement and a declaration of our future goals." — Raymond #TPMR2017

The 2018 Photography Master Retreat one-week summer session will begin on Saturday, July 7, 2018 at 4pm and concludes on the morning of Saturday, July 14, 2018.

These dates have been chosen so that participants can also attend the opening week of Les Rencontres d’Arles, the international photography festival.

Typical work days will following this schedule:

7-8:30am BREAKFAST

9am-12:45pm WORK SESSION: Full sessions, half-sessions, one-on-one sessions – all mentor-led

1-2pm LUNCH

2:15-4pm WORK SESSION: Full sessions, half-sessions, one-on-one sessions – all mentor-led

"They were so open and enthusiastic and engaged with our various projects. They were passionate about documentary and fine art, but they also had realistic assessments of the corporate art world." — Rosemarie #TPMR2015

4:15-6:30pm FREE TIME: (optional) walks, visit the nearby town of Le Vigan, swimming in the river

7-7:30pm COCKTAILS

7:30-8:30pm DINNER

8:30-9:45pm LECTURES and DISCUSSIONS led by the mentors, followed by Q&A

Saturday (the first day): the students settle in, with welcome cocktails and dinner.

Sunday: (the first day of work): students present their projects in the morning.

 "For those who want to reach a new level in their creative life, this is the experience of a lifetime." — Daniel #TPMR2015 

Friday (the last day): students present the evolution of their projects in the morning. In the afternoon, there are one-on-one sessions with the mentors, followed by a celebration dinner.

"I developed a clearer view of my project. The work was intense, but thanks to the long sessions of editing and sequencing, I gained a better understanding of how to tell a story with pictures." — Gianluca #TPMR2015

One half-day excursion is planned during the week, usually to see the spectacular canyon of Le Cirque de Navacelles.