Street Psych: Paris

The course price is $1,850. 

Limited to six participants.

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If you can do only one photography course in your life,
Paris is arguably the best place to do it!

France’s importance in the history of photography cannot be overstated. Some of the most significant documentary images in the history of photography were made in Paris, and it was the home of photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau. Today, the city is still full of commercial galleries dedicated to photographs. During any given week there are dozens of elaborate exhibitions and public displays of images. Photography is respected as an art, and it is actively promoted. Indeed, France is home to Jean-François Leroy, the founder and sponsor of Visa pour l’Image in Perpignan.

Paris is divided by the Seine. The right bank is to the north, and the left to the south. The left tends to be rather rich (read: touristy) and the right bank tends to be more artsy (and frequently seedier). The right has interesting places like the medieval-streeted Marais, and the left was Hemingway’s stomping ground. The right is hillier, the left flatter.

Regardless of where you go, though, Paris is a victim/beneficiary of Georges Eugene Haussmann. Until the middle of the 1800’s, Paris had the same structure as it had during the Middle Ages—small, interwoven streets and cramped buildings. In 1794, under the influence of the miasma theory of the day that the tight quarters were the cause of illness, a Commission of Artists came up with a plan for redoing the streets. Nothing happened with the plan until Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte became emperor in 1852. He wanted the government to better control a capital where several regimes had been overthrown since 1789, and wanted wide avenues through which to move troops.

Napoleon III tasked Haussmann with reurbanization, and gave him broad powers to implement the plans. Haussmann used that power to seize property, require owners to make changes to building facades, and to completely level and rebuild parts of the city. Haussmann defined the maximum height of buildings, and their features—including balconies and roof pitch—was mandated. Neighboring buildings had to have floors at the same height, as well as matching exterior lines. Quarry stone was mandatory along the avenues. Wide boulevards, landscaped gardens, and monuments were designed to frame France’s imperial history. The plan and its result made the city look like an extensive palace.

Paris is a busy city. The streets are full of a variety of shops. People live in the city, and despite their cars, they shop very locally. The Haussmann design leaves little interior space for working at home, so people are out and about. Cafe tables are plentiful, and people loiter for hours working or talking. Pedestrian traffic is heavy, as is bicycle and motorized transport. Shops tend to close around 6 p.m., but cafes and restaurants are open later.

Street Psych | Paris is an intensive, week-long course. Your instructors are professional photographer James Conley, and psychologist Ramesh Bakhtiari. We developed the Street Psych series because we believe it's not enough to make great pictures—it's better to understand why they're great, so we can consistently make more! We also believe that photography is not just about making images: it's a way of approaching life.

The Street Psych series of courses are based upon well-established theories of learning, drawing upon the works of Jean Piaget, M. S. Knowels, and Carl Rogers, among others, which emphasize practical experience combined with conceptual reinforcement. We have designed the courses to provide the fastest and most enduring outcomes, that are meaningful to you based on your goals and experience. Specifically, the course is designed to break down and expose the underlying processes of creative thought, as well as exploring how audiences view works or art. We take those understandings further, and explore the ways in which you can heighten your creativity though awareness of states of mind, social psychology and proxemics, the visual-perceptual process of gestalt and aesthetics, recognition of humanist archetypes, and embedded cognition (e.g., an approach to working which allows your mind rapidly to observe patterns and respond to your surreal ideas). 

lthough it seems like a lot to cover, you will quickly discover that many of these skills and abilities have simply been latent. We will help you bring them to the surface so that you can take control of them and maximize their potential.

Paris is a big city, so we will concentrate our efforts in a few places in the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 18th arrondissements (the administrative districts into which Paris is divided. Specifically: Montmartre, Palais Royale, the Marais and Les Halles, Ile De La Cité, St. Germaine, and the Latin Quarter. Combining lectures and camera work on the street, we will focus on fundamental principles of art and psychology as we help you raise your visual storytelling to a new level. We will provide you with tools and insight which will not only immediately improve your photography, but will give you new paths to pursue as an artist.

Among other things, we will cover: habits of an artist, methods of storytelling, surrealism, proxemics, and translating the technical aspects of camera and lens into visual emotion. The course work will culminate in a group book telling each participant's story of Paris.