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A few thoughts on Martin Osner’s first Fine Art Photo Workshop in Hout Bay, Cape Town, from grateful student, Bettie Coetzee Lambrecht

At breakfast today in the Art Gallery Guesthouse Thandekayo, where Martin Osner hosts his students on his weeklong Fine Art Photography courses, I sighed my wish aloud. ‘If only I could have one more day, now, after this week packed with new ideas and techniques, to just stare at the mountain from the comfortable couch, I could get back with new inspiration to the work I left behind a week ago.’

Next thing, Martin appeared with his signature smile and offered a complimentary extra day and night. No fairy had ever managed to make a wish true so soon! It was like the Magical Wand from the Photoshop Toolbox. The tool which he taught us to wield so effectively in postprocessing our work this week.

There were moments during this week’s demonstrations  – of combining oil paints, brushes, crumpled paper doused in some foul smelling liquid, of rolling photostated pictures upside down on art paper, of scratching with our fingers (yuk!) in Thinners-immersed-paper – that I dispaired. 

I lack the real artist’s urge to ‘enjoy’ the idealised ‘visceral’ aspect of art making. My interest in the socalled ‘magical darkroom where the real picture happens’) as analogue (film) photographers claim, has been still born. The smell of the chemicals, the fake dusk light, the cold wet on my fingers have never enticed me to take up photography as a hobby. It was only when the digital age descended, and the computer’s ‘darkroom’, which is Photoshop (yea, yea) emerged, that my interest in photography awakened. Despite all the ‘real’ artist-photographers’s claims that film is, was and will be the superior medium. Hail to those!

Martin, with his vast experience of both analogue and digital photography and his interest and talent in the realtime-use of brush, canvas and oil-colour palettes from the traditional artist studio, demonstrated the creative combination of all these approaches. This democratic tolerance with the vary different students he had to mould into one workshop, defines his effective teaching skill.

Strong differences of opinion, while we were working and breaking for short tea-breaks emerged around the issue: craft versus art. The final definition still hovers somewhere in mid air. What matters, was the lively discussions that ensued, fostered by Martin’s tolerance to opposing views, his ability to get to the heart of each student’s style and approach and then to suggest ideas to ‘take things further’. Then his easy acceptance if a student decides not to follow-up on that suggestion. 

All added up to an atmosphere of mutual acceptance of differences. The right state of mind where sparks of creativity kept us awake till late at night, to rise early next morrning to experiment.

Thank you Martin, for yet another opportunity to bask in the sun of your generous spirit. 

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