The Quilt of a Career: Photographer Todd France Visits Williston

6830593075 02ee8f9dc7 o resized 600Images flashed across the screen in the photography room: close-ups on succulents and sea grass, daisies shot from below, stems crisscrossing distant lights.

From the back of the darkened classroom came the voice of New York photographer Todd France ’85.

“This was wide angle, as close as I could focus and thrown all the way open,” he said, describing his series “Unnatural Light.” “The sense of scale is thrown out.”

The students in Ed Hing’s Photography V class watched as France flicked to a photo of the former R&B group Destiny’s Child, their heads thrown back as they laughed in the back of a limo.

“You can set up a pose in a studio or on location, but there’s an unexpected energy here,” France explained. “You just have to let things happen—let things fall apart.”

In the break between Wednesday classes, Hing, a fine arts teacher at Williston and the film club advisor, explained that students really connect to the “in the trenches point of view” that a working photographer can provide.

“I think people pay attention to the reality of it, the stories that are told,” he said. “They connect the theoretical abstract to the reason why.”

Hing said that students will often come away from a class with a visitor saying, “Oh, yeah, Mr. Hing’s been saying that for a year and a half.”

France is one of several visitors who visit the photography classes during the year to share their expertise. Williston hosts an annual Photographers’ Lecture Series, which includes a master class for advance photography students before the evening presentation, which is open to the public.

Past presenters in the series have included photojournalist Ed Kashi; architectural and landscape photographer Sean Hemmerle; and Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Ed Keating.
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France added that he, too, had mentors who made a difference early in his career by taking the time to review his portfolio and offer him a couple words of encouragement.  He added that the chance to revisit his alma mater and to connect with students appealed to him.

“I get inspiration from seeing young minds do their thing,” he said.

While he has done a variety of magazine and newspaper work in the past, France currently focuses on weddings and events. During the Photography V class, France explained that such work provided a lot of variety—everything from landscapes and interiors to portraits, action shots, and still life.

“It’s like a tapestry,” he said of the variety his work encompasses. “Over time you discover this is the quilt that is my career.”

“It’s definitely eye-opening to see how a professional photographer works,” said Maria Strycharz ’12 after the class. “Mr. France also does not just focus on one area and that’s really important.”

Strycharz turned away as France began to flip through portraits she had spread across the table.

“I like these,” he told her. “They caught my eye.”