Each season, Santa Fe Photographic Workshops is privileged to meet talented photographers, enthusiastic new instructors, and thoughtful artists from all over the world. We welcome these folks to our community of friends. One of our newest community members is instructor Eduardo Rubiano, who overflows these qualities. He and his wife, Mira, recently decided to make Santa Fe their home. We talked to Eduardo about the decision to relocate to New Mexico, how he got involved with The Workshops, and his upcoming workshop, Nikon D800: Getting the Most from Your Camera, November 10-13.
Eduardo, what brought a world-traveling photographer and National Geographic Picture Editor like yourself to Santa Fe?
In 2007, I left my job as a picture editor for National Geographic, then spent the next seven years living and travelling in different countries, because that’s what I wanted to do with my career. I wanted to be able to work from different locations, publish with different clients, grow my portfolio and expand my network of professionals in the industry. But recently my wife and I decided it was time to slow down a little bit and find something more permanent. We wanted to be less nomadic so, for logistical reasons and for family, we started searching for a small U.S. city. We wanted someplace that would give us access to art and other things that we like in our personal lives, like nature. We also wanated a place that was different for both of us. Neither of us had lived in the Southwest before, so Santa Fe definitely qualified. When we saw the city and we tried it on, it was just amazing. We felt completely embraced. We found Santa Fe had all the elements that we need and want. Here we are, one year later, and absolutely “YES!” this was the right choice. It’s a great place to work out of, I’ve been able to become associated with The Workshops and Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and I’ve been meeting lots of other photographers who are based here. That’s what brought us here: just wanting to be in a place that would allow us to work AND play the way we want.
Well, Santa Fe is certainly happy to have you! How did you get involved with Santa Fe Photographic Workshops?
I already knew about The Workshops because people know about The Workshops in the industry. We drove into town last October, and on day two I drove up to the campus and walked into the Admin office, and simply said, “Hi! I am Eduardo, I am a photographer, I just moved here yesterday and I want to be your friend.” I knew I wanted to at least get to know The Workshops as part of my community of photography. I didn’t expect to develop such a good, constructive relationship so quickly. Within a couple of weeks, I met with Reid, the director, introduced myself to him and showed him some of my work. We established a really good rapport from the beginning. Then I told him that moving here was a long-term thing and I expressed my desire to collaborate with The Workshops. To make a long story short, a couple of months later, when they were starting to put together the seasonal staff for Spring 2014, I applied for a job as a course coordinator. I felt if I really want to teach here, I should know how it works from the ground up. That was a smart decision because it gave me insight into the behind-the-scenes aspects. As a result, now I’m teaching more and more regularly. Santa Fe is so much about slowing down, grounding yourself, and going with the flow. It’s about manifesting what you want but not forcing it, so Santa Fe’s pace has also been part of the experience.
You said you walked in and introduced yourself?
Yep, I just thought, "You know, people respond to friendliness." And I think from all those years changing and moving so much, my wife and I learned to approach people in a way that is not aggressive, but with a lot of initiative and we open the doors to friendship.
Speaking of opening doors, can you tell us about your teaching style and what you like about teaching?
Teaching is not something I envisioned doing early on in my career. I didn’t discard it as a possibility, but it’s not something I thought I would be doing at this point. However, through some workshops I used to do on my own in between assignments, I discovered that I like it. I especially like sharing my approach to the creative process. And, as a result, my style is a lot more personal than perhaps other instructors. I try to design my courses and my teaching so that every participant has a truly personalized experience. I do that by always including exercises that encourage each person to go inward and try to reconnect with the motivation behind their imagemaking. Then—having reconnected with that intention—we can move forward as a group but also as individuals who are very much in touch with our personal reasons for doing this work. I always include that at the very beginning of my workshops, and I tell my participants that they can expect this kind of thing. The feedback I’ve gotten is that even though we’re in a group, it almost feels like a private workshop, like a one-on-one. To summarize, my style is about embarking on a personal exploration of why are we doing this and then looking into the technicalities of the actual craft.
How does your style fit into the Nikon D800 workshop you’re teaching in November?
To me, it’s a big challenge because it’s a very technical workshop by nature. But I feel that it is a challenge for me to grow as an instructor, and as a photographer. I want to see how I can make the workshop a technical class, yet give it a creative feel. Even though it’s kind of contradictory to the title of the workshop, I want people to kind of forget about the tool a little bit and show them how to use the tool to really manifest what they want to create. From a technical standpoint we’ll going to go through menus and settings, and get familiarized with the machine. But then I am really going to work hard to get people to identify ONLY the aspects of the machine that they truly need for what each one of them wants to accomplish. We’ll focus on those parts becoming second nature, and, hopefully, forget about the machine after a while.
The D800 in particular is a pretty sophisticated tool. So it could apply to almost anyone’s needs, correct?
It will. The D800 is very versatile, so it will apply to a lot of different approaches to photography, to different kinds of photography, and different kinds of individuals. It’s an extraordinary machine. It has some features that are technologically cutting-edge—the digital image sensor is one of the flattest objects humans have ever created. Those are some of the things we’ll be discussing.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Yes! An unexpected bonus of going through an experience at Santa Fe Photographic Workshops is what you learn from other people. Because other participants usually bring very interesting perspectives, questions (and sometimes answers!) that other participants may not have had a chance to explore. But also I feel that participants are often empowered beyond improving their images, by helping other people achieve their goals. I think it is a really nice interactive dynamic and if we can, again, forget a little bit about the actual camera, then we can really focus on making the images. I think that’s what people really enjoy doing at the end. That’s what I enjoy.
Join Eduardo this November, and get to know this wonderful friend of The Workshops in person:
November 10–13, 2014
Nikon D800: Getting The Most from Your Camera
with Eduardo Rubiano