My Experience With Greg Gorman’s Visit to PDS

Greg Gorman by Mark Kitaoka 2010 (Photo: Photofocus)

Greg Gorman by Mark Kitaoka 2010 (Photo: Photofocus)

Yishi Wang, Online Staff Writer

I fully submerged myself in the photo program at PDS over the past three years. Since the very start, I was fascinated by and quickly fell in love with light-shadow relationships, meticulous processing and sequencing, and the sheer satisfaction of documenting and expressing my vision of the world around me. 

But a completely different excitement overwhelmed me when I learned that Greg Gorman, one of the best portrait photographers of all time, was going to visit PDS and spend an entire day teaching a workshop to photo students. 

How fortunate are we! 

February 14th, 2020. Big day. I was hoping the day would be enjoyable and enriching, and it did not fail to live up to my expectations. 

When we first met, Mr. Gorman surprised me. Despite having much prestige (or clout, as y’all zoomers would say), he was friendly and amiable. He also quickly memorized every student’s name, making him personable. After some brief handshakes and introductions, we quickly got to business. 

The workshop started with Mr. Gorman’s hour-long presentation showcasing his work throughout his career, consisting mostly of highly recognizable pictures of mainstream celebrities (such as Elton John, Andy Warhol, Michael Jackson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and the breathtaking Keanu Reeves). The photos somehow managed to both depict the models’ unique personalities and their unforgettable appearances. The rest of the morning was even more eye-opening, with Mr. Gorman taking portraits of photo students and PDS faculties while simultaneously giving handy bits of advice on how to light and interact with a subject to ultimately capture their best self. The afternoon was more relaxing, as Mr. Gorman and the students crammed into the digital studio to select, develop, and print the recently shot photos. A few lucky students even managed to obtain Mr. Gorman’s valuable signature on their prints. 

Spending the day with Greg Gorman was genuinely one of my best photo experiences. I am not an innate studio lighting guy—I often prefer spending time in urban and natural environments—but Gorman’s visit has inspired me to step into new territories in the future. 

Others agree that the workshop was fantastic. “The presentation was nice because I got to see his own work that he curated himself; listening to his experiences within the field also broadened our horizons,” stated sophomore Linda Qu who then added that “It was an interesting experience because I liked the idea of ‘sculpting with  light’ and I got to manipulate different equipments.”

Senior Joseph Hudicka, or PDS’s resident tree photographer, exclaimed that “to learn from someone of that professional caliber was something I’ll never forget. I specifically learned how to be more of a leader on set, how to look at a person’s face, and choose their best angle for the shot,” one of a few things that Mr. Gormon emphasized. 

PDS photography teacher Mr. Cook, who organized this event, was delighted: “I thought the students were more engaged than I had ever seen them, and I also felt like Greg, being who he is, was able to validate a lot of the things that we’ve been learning in class. Students walked away with experience, with pictures of themselves, with a wonderful day. It was a real workshop—we just hunkered down and did it.” He then told me that there would be similar photo workshops in the future, and even that “Greg mentioned himself that he would like to come back.” 

I hope that this exceptional, once-in-a-lifetime experience can become a twice-in-a-lifetime one. Or more, please. 

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