It isn’t everyday one is presented with an opportunity to travel to a new land and study a budding passion with Helene Dujardin. It was a leap of faith that has left me humbled and grateful for such an experience. I’ve been intentionally holding back on writing my recap of the workshop as I tend to need a bit more time than usual to process an experience like this. It was so much more than just another workshop. Experiences like these have the power to change you, to help you see things about yourself, change and stretch you in ways you didn’t know possible.
We were a group of twelve. Twelve women from around the world that descended upon the beautiful country estate and cookery school of Belle Isle. All of us bringing our own unique perspective and experiences to the table. We were all eager to learn… together. I’m certain the community element that formed during our three days together was an important part to the full learning experience of the workshop. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of women to work with.
While it takes a sum of all the parts to make an experience, Helene accounted for a huge part of making the experience. She is passionate, excited, grateful, humble and as authentic as you can get. It doesn’t take much time around her to realize how real she is. We were also treated to meeting her husband, Bill, who added great deal to our conversations at dinner. I love getting a peek at couples together (especially when I am more familiar with one than the other) – with Helene & Bill you could easily how they are each others compliments. Bills presence at the workshop really made me wish Will had taken part in the workshop, or at the very least hang around like Bill. There was so much shop talk, amongst other things, that I think Will could have added a great deal. Ah well, maybe next time. Back to Helene.
Helene is the kind of teacher that I connect with. The kind that lets you explore a bit and get a feel for things before guiding you this way or that way. She had no interest in turning us into cookie cutter food photographers. No, her goal was to impart her knowledge and wisdom to us so that we can develop into the best that we can be… whether that be a photographer, food stylist, prop stylist, etc. She also made herself incredibly available during the workshop. There was no question off limits, no problem to hard, and yes, she gladly re-explained things. She was there to help you work through it.
I don’t know if I can really sum all that I learned from workshop. As I have taken the time to really reflect on the workshop I am quite amazed at the gamut of things I took away. Yes there were the things like having light explained to me for the very first time. Realizing I need to become friends with my tripod. Getting an eye opening look into the world of food photography. Hearing a professional say “you can’t do it all.” And finally understanding what it means to tell a story. But then there are the less tangible, the personal takeaways. It is amazing how quickly you can be confronted by your own shortcomings in an environment like this. My biggest challenge the whole workshop was my unrealistic standards for myself. * takes a deep breath * Letting go and recalibrating is a process but it is a process I will not give up on.
The workshop was challenging, no question about it. But it was that challenge that once you get over it or finally start to grasp it, it leaves you with a strong sense of accomplishment and confidence. Each shoot, each session, and even each meal brought something new to the table. We were equipped well.
This was an experience that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I am looking forward to applying everything I learned to my work and am excited to see where it takes me. Thank you Helene for giving so much of yourself and your experiences to us at this workshop. I learned more than I feel like I can adequately express.