Sometimes it’s best to just state the facts and get out of the way: The Eddie Adams Workshop did more for my career than any other factor.
It was also the most fun.
I was a student for the third EAW and was invited back in 92, 93 and 96 (if memory serves me correctly) to be a part of the somewhat infamous Black Team. Ah, yes, the Black Team. I don’t know how it is today, but I hope it’s the same as it was in those earlier years. Back then, we worked our tails off before, during and after the workshop. Showing up days early, we were taken care of by Eddie and his wonderful wife, Alyssa, as we prepared the property for the incoming students. Grass needed cutting, trash needed hauling, parking needed to be organized, rooms needed to be set-up along with light tables and accessories, images needed to be hung in hallways and slide carousels needed to be set. I never loved working so hard in all my life. We clowned with each other while taking it seriously enough to make sure things were done right. This wasn’t some joke. We all knew this was the premier photojournalism workshop in the world. And if we clowned too much, well, Tim Rasmussen would be there to gently coerce us back to work.
There was no one like Tim, who took control of the Black Team in a fitting prelude to how he would evolve into a great AME, now at the Denver Post. But the Black Team had a host of characters. I love the memories of the one and only Gene Pierce, son of legendary photographer Bill Pierce, manning the road up to the barn like a sentry at the Berlin Wall. Believe me, if you didn’t have a pass, there was not a shot in hell you were driving up the hill. You had a better shot at parachuting in (if you remember that year to kick off the workshop) than driving in. There was no one better at it. Others like Rolando Otero and Rich Messina and Rick Hunter offered countless hours of laughs while hurling endless barbs at one another.
But we hustled, that’s for sure. At one point, Rolando, Tim and I stayed up for 48 hours straight. I don’t think Rolando, who wouldn’t stop talking at one point, knew how close he came to getting dumped in the deep woods by Tim who, clearly, couldn’t take another word as we sat in a late night diner. See, each night required cleaning the barn and prepping it for the morning edit session. Those were the days when, believe it or not, the chromes were driven to NYC each night for processing and driven back in time for team editors to begin editing in the morning. Once all the work was done after each day, the Black Team usually got back to the hotel after the informal portfolio review was well under way. Retiring to the bar for further reviews led to late night/early morning breakfast before showering and heading back to the barn for the next day. Usually by the second or third day when things were humming smoothly along, we’d steal off for a hour or two and crash in the hammock or go for a relaxing drive to look at the colors of the Catskills.
A great part of being on the Black Team was the access it provided to the editors who we all hoped to shoot for. I’ll forever be indebted to Jim Colton who, like he did for many others, graciously let me use his name when meeting editors in NY the next weekend. It proved invaluable. I had chances to show work to other great editors and will forever be indebted to them for giving me the chance to work with them. All because Eddie and Alyssa provided a beautiful place for the photojournalism community to gather.
I could fill pages with memories over those several years on the Black Team, but suffice it to say that some are best kept for those of us who experienced them together. So, to my former Black Team members, I want to tell you “thanks” and I miss you all!