On Location
Santa Fe

The Cultural Portrait

with Jennifer Spelman

Online registration for this program has closed. To check availability, find out about future dates, or if you would like further information, please call 505-983-1400 ext. 111. Also, get the SFW E-Newsletter for updates!

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Course Description

Whenever we travel, interacting with local people—whether chatting over tea, waiting to cross a street, or enjoying a performance—it is always a catalyst for greater immersion into a culture or community. In overcoming our initial reticence to approach strangers, we quickly learn how receptive and patient most actually are. Indeed, most strangers are flattered by your attention, care, and artistry in creating their unique portraits respectfully.

In this week-long workshop, Jennifer emphasizes personal connection, trust, and ease in creating the most expressive portraits that are representative of individuals and their culture. Jennifer is known for her fluid style and nimble use of available light to produce dynamic, deeply personal imagery. She expands your mastery of natural light and illuminates special techniques to broaden your abilities and confidence in portrait-making.

You learn approaches to engage individuals, assess conditions, develop a personal connection, and nurture the bond of trust. When you raise your camera, you and your subject are the team. The magic is a blend of confidence and a commitment to an unbending framework of respect and cultural sensitivity.  

Our studios are the lively streets of culturally rich Santa Fe and a diverse variety of carefully curated area venues. We work with models, artists, and strangers as we develop our ability to connect with others and align our techniques and visions. 

There is power and responsibility in capturing the portrait of another. Our week together aims to ensure that the impact of the portrait-making process is exciting, positive, and memorable, for the photographer as well as the subject. While we promise an enriching educational experience, laughter and camaraderie will enhance the learning environment.

A special collaboration with the International Folk Art Market (IFAM) adds an extra layer of cultural immersion to our project. IFAM invites an average of 150 artists from more than 60 countries to Santa Fe each summer, creating the largest folk art market of its kind. Through the artists’ communities’ celebrations and our special early access to the Folk Art Market, we enjoy hands-on opportunities to work with artists from around the world by developing connections and creating portraits to celebrate their unique and diverse craft-making. In a true collaborative spirit, the images we create will be shared with the IFAM market and individual artists.

Join Jennifer in Santa Fe this summer for a fun week to explore the creative and impactful portraiture techniques developed to infuse an insightful presence and true spirit of your subjects. 

Additional Information

Amateurs, Advanced Amateurs
What You Should Know:

Participants need to be technically self-sufficient, as this is not a workshop to learn how to use your gear or editing software. Participants must be able to download, select, and transfer images to their own jump drive for class each day. Digital SLR, mirrorless cameras and iPhones are all welcome.

Activity Level:
To get the most from your workshop experience, participants should be in good physical (mobility, stamina) and mental health. Come prepared for the high elevation of Santa Fe, long days, and seasonal weather including high temperatures. You must be able to carry your own photographic and personal gear at all times, both on campus and on location. You are responsible for being open and honest about your physical fitness, and we reserve the right to remove you from the workshop if we find your fitness to be less than that which you have described.

Participants should be able to engage in moderate outdoor exercise for up to an hour or more at a time. Location work is likely to include early morning and/or late evening shoots.


Participants are responsible for making their own housing arrangements in Santa Fe. On-campus accommodations are not currently available.

Lunch Monday through Friday, dinner at the Friday evening Image Presentations, and daily beverage service are included.
Portraiture, Travel Photography
© Nerissa Escanlar
Jennifer Spelman

Jennifer Spelman is a documentary photographer. She is co-publisher of CubaSeen, a quarterly magazine showcasing photography and writing about Cuba.

Jennifer received her photographic training as an assistant with Santa Fe Workshops, working with some of today’s most preeminent photographers: Jay Maisel, Norman Mauskopf, and Joe McNally.

A sensitive photographer of people, Jennifer strives to create portraits with energy and insight. She is most at home on the streets of Havana and has worked with Santa Fe Workshops across Cuba since 2011. Jennifer is a patient educator who has co-instructed with National Geographic Expeditions and taught workshops in Morocco, India, Turkey, Romania, Mexico, Japan, in addition to Cuba.

A popular workshop instructor, Jennifer is also part of our Mentorship Program »

Instagram: @jennifer_spelman

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