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Process 099 ☼ How To Create A Photo Essay
My Favorite Night In Amsterdam Yet - Human Connection and Joy
In this week’s letter, I share work I shot during the most fun night I’ve spent in Amsterdam so far, an amazing soul/funk dance party organized by my friends Ghetto Funk Collective. I also talk about how to create a cohesive photo essay.
An Amazing Night in Amsterdam
It was a night to remember, a night that showed me a side of Amsterdam I hadn’t yet seen. One that I craved and missed from my time in New York City. As the doors of the music venue Paradiso swung open, I found my way backstage to capture the soulful essence of the Ghetto Funk Collective. I clicked away, taking portraits and group shots, immortalizing the instigators and architects of joy who would soon set the basement ablaze with their infectious beats.
The atmosphere was wonderfully magical, pulsating with a palpable energy that sent shivers down my spine. The crowd was a tapestry of creativity, happiness, and positivity. It seemed only fitting that this dance party unfolded in the basement of a converted church; it was a celebratory mass, honoring love, community, and joy as acts of resistance against the mundane.
As the night wore on, the music soared to new heights. Once the upstairs concert ended, and the room was cleared, making way for Dancing Machine to seize the entire Paradiso and flow out of the basement room.
The beats rolled like a mighty river, undulating between funk, soul, and house, compelling everyone to surrender to the rhythm. I, too, succumbed to its enchanting power, dancing and shooting well into the early hours of the morning.
The crowd was open, living wholly in the present moment. I marveled at their unabashed expressions of individuality and originality, reminiscent of the vibrant night and street life I was so familiar with in New York City. A haven of positivity, where not a moment of friction tainted the air. People encouraged one another to let loose, to be themselves without reservation.
That night, I realized just how much I needed this experience. As the hours melted away, I found solace in being both an observer and an active participant. I reveled in the freedom to capture the essence of the night while simultaneously becoming a part of its fabric.
Now, as I reflect on that unforgettable night, a sense of anticipation stirs within me. The memory lingers, creating a craving for more. I eagerly await the next Dancing Machine extravaganza, set to take place on August 23rd. I know, without a doubt, that it will be another intoxicating blend of soul, funk, and unadulterated joy.
Since that night, I have carried the essence of that experience with me, like a secret treasure tucked away for when I need a joy boost. I told my friends in NYC I found a little piece of the spirit we chased right here and that they should come to visit soon.
I can't help but find glimpses of the Dancing Machine spirit wherever I go now. It is a testament to the power of human connection, of bringing together a diverse group of individuals under the spell of music and celebration. It reminded me that moments like these are not confined to a specific time or place; they can be cultivated and cherished in every corner of the world.
The photographs I took serve as visual reminders of the magic that unfolded. Each image tells a story, capturing the twinkle in someone's eye, the fluidity of movement, and the unabashed smiles that radiated pure happiness.
To see a much larger collection of images from the night check out the full photo essay by clicking the button below.
Speaking of photo essays, below is a quick bit of insight in how I put these together.
How To Curate A Captivating Photo Essay
So, let's start at the beginning. The first step is to immerse yourself in the collection of images captured. In this case, that means six rolls of film shot on my Contax G2 with the TLA 200 flash, plus several hundred images shot with the Canon 5D Mark IV.
It's like diving into a sea of visual possibilities. I meticulously review each and every frame, allowing the images to transport me back to the moments I experienced while shooting. It's a journey filled with excitement, anticipation, and curiosity.
As I sift through the images, I pay attention to various aspects. I look for technical excellence, ensuring that the composition, exposure, and sharpness are top-notch. That’s only part of it, and not always the most important part. I also seek out the emotional connection within each photograph. Do they evoke the intended feelings? Do they tell a story that resonates with me and, more importantly, with the viewers?
A photo essay is not just a random assortment of beautiful pictures. It's a carefully crafted narrative that unfolds through visual storytelling. Each photograph should seamlessly connect to the next, like puzzle pieces falling into place. The sequence, pacing, and relationship between images are vital to creating a cohesive story.
Now, let's talk about the challenges. Editing down a large collection is a ruthless endeavor. There might be moments captured that I absolutely adore, but if they don't serve the narrative, they have to be left behind. It's a battle between emotional attachment and the greater purpose of the photo essay.
But here's the magical part: it's incredibly satisfying when all the pieces finally come together. The collection of images transforms into a powerful story that elicits emotions, sparks conversations, and connects with viewers on a deeper level.
It can be the perfect way to introduce readers to a cultural event they may have never seen. But not every photo essay has to change the world or have a deep meaning. Sometimes it can be an aesthetic exercise with a small personal story at its heart. Or a collection of images shot at barbershops around the world. Or an artist studio visit.
So, in a nutshell, curating a photo essay is an adventure filled with tough decisions and creative choices. It's about selecting the images that align with the narrative, even if it means leaving behind some of your favorite shots. But when the final result emerges, it's a breathtaking and rewarding experience for both the photographer and those who engage with the essay. I hope this essay imbues you with even a small version of the same feeling of human connection and joy it gave me to document.
That’s it for this week! I’m taking a two-week break as I travel and will be back with Process 100 (!!) June 25th.
Can you believe we’re at issue 100? It’ll be a special one you won’t want to miss, so if you’re not a subscriber yet click below and join 8k+ photo fanatics honing their craft.
Keep shooting and take good care of yourselves and others. <3
PS Major shout out to Taylor who was present to assist me for this shoot. And to the fellas at the Ghetto Funk Collective for their hospitality and creativity. Also a shout out to Paradiso for being so supportive of great photography being made at their beautiful venue, and to the light and sound people for doing an amazing job.
These are links to my friends over at MPB.com, my go-to place to buy, sell, and trade used cameras and lenses. MPB caters to over 625,000 visual storytellers and provides a 6-month warranty. I myself just bought a 28mm Canon lens from MPB and will share some first images soon. Thanks for supporting the Process community, MPB! <3
Analog — The film shots were taken with the Contax G2, a Carl Zeiss Planar 35mm f2 lens, the TLA200 Flash unit, on the following film stocks: Kodak Portra 160 NC, Kodak Portra 400, Kodak Tri-X, and bulk-rolled Double X.
All images were developed and scanned by my friends at Carmencita Film Lab. They’re my favorite lab in the world and I’m grateful for our collaboration. Use code “PROCESS” at check out to get a free size upgrade. <3
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