Abstract Expressionism & Photography

with Valda Bailey and Doug Chinnery

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Course Description

‘Creative photography’ is surely a misnomer. The creativity comes from within. We may protest that we are not creative, yet as children, we are all creative. Oftentimes it is hammered out of us as we grow. We learn to conform. We stand in line. We pay heed to ‘because’ instead of ‘why not?’

Valda Bailey and Doug Chinnery have spent the last ten years discovering the joy to be had in using their cameras in unconventional ways. They have built up a loyal following of students who have learned from them how to move beyond the technical and instead, focus on creative expression.

This December, joining us via Zoom from England, Valda and Doug take you on a four-hour adventure to explore the imagination, color outside the lines, push against convention, and bend the rules. On the first morning, they talk about the ‘how’s – the myriad ways in which we can subvert our camera’s conventional settings in order to produce images that are expressive and imaginative. There are many variables we can use as we work through a sequence in order that we might realize our creative vision. They cover post processing and the firmly held belief that the creative process doesn’t end the minute we remove our card from our camera. Oftentimes, that is just the beginning.

On day two, Valda and Doug cover the ‘why’s. The challenges that arise when we move beyond simply replicating what is in front of our lens. The ideas that flow when we open our eyes to the possible and decide to interpret rather than replicate. Whether your interest is pure abstraction, soft painterly impressionism, or vibrant expression, they show you how you can use your camera to create images that invite the viewer to go beneath the surface. Images that are about who you are as an artist.

They also discuss how photography and art overlap and how the abstract expressionist movement has provided them with a framework within which to explore their ideas. Prioritizing the development of imagination over technical brilliance, seeking interpretation not replication and putting emphasis on emotional expression rather than prescriptive dogma. It is not an approach that suits everyone, for sure. It needs an open mind, an imaginative approach, and an acceptance that there will be many failures. In return, Valda and Doug show you a way to make images that are personal and uniquely yours, not easily replicated, and won’t have been made a million times before.

Question and answer sessions bring each day’s program to an enjoyable close.

Additional Information


Open to anyone interested in this special program.


View Withdrawal and Transfer Policies for online programs.

For the convenience of participants, recordings of each class session are posted privately for one month after the end of each session. Santa Fe Workshops takes the recordings down after one month to protect the intellectual property of our instructors.

Creative Vision, Fine Art
Valda Bailey

Valda Bailey is a freelance photographic artist living in Sussex, England. Her approach to photography is greatly informed by her background in painting and her influences come as much from artists as photographers. She is largely motivated by color and form and the tension and dynamism that these components can bring to an image. She makes her images using in-camera multiple exposure which help to create abstract shapes and blur extraneous detail.  Her objectives are to portray an emotive interpretation of a scene rather than a literal representation.

Valda made her U.S. debut in 2017 in the group exhibition Into the Woods at Sohn Fine Art in Lenox, MA. In 2015, she was the first woman to be invited to join six other photographers to exhibit at the Biennial Masters of Vision at the Southwell Minster, United Kingdom. More recently, Valda has exhibited throughout the United Kingdom with solo presentations of her work at MMX Gallery, The Sun Beyond the Shadow (2018), and a traveling exhibition, titled Fragile, which was on view at the Jersey Arts Centre and at Bosham Gallery (2017). Her work is consistently included in group exhibitions, including Tides + Falls at Sohn Fine Art, Lenox, MA and Vision 9, OXO Gallery, London, both in 2018.

Her photography is included in corporate and private collections worldwide and her work has been purchased by notable members of the art and photographic community.


Instagram: @valdab

Doug Chinnery

Doug Chinnery has been described as a “pivotal artist who has redefined the creative photographic landscape.” Primarily influenced by and drawing inspiration from Abstract Expressionist painters such as Hodgkin, Feiler, Rae, and Ryman, Doug’s gestural work eschews topography, aiming to distil the rhythm, rhyme, and flow of the landscape through poetic visual expressions.

With the camera as Doug’s principal medium and mirroring his painted mixed media abstracts, these intuitive abstracted works layer texture, colour, and form to create a deeply emotional and expressive response to the natural environment.

Doug devotes much of his time to teaching, and his passion for creative thinking has helped students worldwide to express their own unique artistic voice. He exhibits widely in the UK and overseas, is in demand as a public speaker and his first book, Abstract Mindedness has now sold out. When not making art, he enjoys making furniture (badly) and spending with his wife, Beth and their two dogs, Eddie and Lily.

Instagram: @dougchinnery

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