Alexia Winners at Eddie Adams Part 2: Sarah Blesener

Students arrive and breaking into color groups at the Eddie Adams Workshop, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. Here, Sarah Blesener walks the yellow carpet ritual that welcomes the 100 students to the workshop. Photo by Mike Davis

Students arrive and breaking into color groups at the Eddie Adams Workshop, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. Here, Sarah Blesener walks the yellow carpet ritual that welcomes the 100 students to the workshop. Photo by Mike Davis

Each year, The Eddie Adams Workshop draws one hundred of the most passionate, hard-working emerging photographers to Upstate New York for four days of photojournalism, storytelling and camaraderie. Celebrating its 30th year, many of photography’s most important figures have passed through the workshop, including Alexia grantees Ami Vitale, Greg Latza, Melissa Lyttle, Sarah Ann Jump, Matt Eich, Daniel Etter, Michael Santiago, Shahria Sharmin, Craig Fritz, Annie Flanagan, Matt Black, Mary F. Calvert and Darcy Padilla.

For the first time ever, this year, both The Alexia Professional Winner, Sarah Blesener and The Alexia Student Winner, Monica Jorge, attended the workshop as students. Blesener was a member of the yellow team, with The New York Times‘s Damon Winter as her team leader.

Blesener’s assignment was to photograph the theme of “in the nature of bonds” at a football game at Monticello High School. She decided to do a portrait project of the teenagers attending, a work she describes using the quote, “We are a little bit desperate, but we find belonging in each other.”

Lizzi and Carolyn, Monticello High School, Monticello, New York, 7 Oct 2017.

Lizzi and Carolyn, Monticello High School, Monticello, New York, 7 Oct 2017.

Alexia Foundation: What did you learn at the Eddie Adams Workshop?

Sarah Blesener: I had a lot of personal feedback about my ongoing work from editors and other photographers. My team leader, Damon Winter, really pushed me in my image making, and gave me harsh but constructive feedback on how to make more readable images. He really spent the time and effort to talk about my process and each image, and I left feeling very grateful and inspired.

I learned the most from the panel speeches by an array of wildly talented individuals. What struck me most was a talk by Eugene Richards. I am a huge admirer of his work, and the way that he articulates his process and direction. I also learned from my fellow photographers: I couldn’t believe the talent I was surrounded by. The diversity of work and individuals left me speechless. I wanted to sit and look at everyone’s work for hours, which is what happened most evenings until 4 in the morning.

Peter, Freshman at Monticello High School, Monticello, New York, 7 Oct 2017.  Photo by Sarah Blesener

Peter, Freshman at Monticello High School, Monticello, New York, 7 Oct 2017. Photo by Sarah Blesener

Alexia Foundation: Why was the experience special?

Sarah Blesener: The experience is special because of the people that you meet while you are there. From the staff that is serving us the entire team, to the photographers and editors reviewing work, to classmates – I felt that I left with a whole new network of support and camaraderie. From an industry that is incredibly competitive, it feels very safe and refreshing to be around people that treat one another with respect and support. It is a very supportive atmosphere.

Aside from that, you spend the weekend running on 1-2 hours of sleep for four nights in a row. I think the sleep-depravity, the overwhelming critique and challenge of assignments, lends itself to a lot of emotion and feeling throughout the workshop. It’s very challenging.

Kaylynn Champagne, a senior at Monticello High School, Monticello, New York, 7 Oct 2017. "My dad just came back from deployment, and my boyfriend means the word to me, because we've been together for a whole year. He helped with our family readjusting. I get anxiety, and he's just so supportive. My mom thinks we will get married."  Photo by Sarah Blesener

Kaylynn Champagne, a senior at Monticello High School, Monticello, New York, 7 Oct 2017. “My dad just came back from deployment, and my boyfriend means the word to me, because we’ve been together for a whole year. He helped with our family readjusting. I get anxiety, and he’s just so supportive. My mom thinks we will get married.” Photo by Sarah Blesener

Blesener was among the workshop’s prize winners. She received an assignment from The New York Times, which she will undertake in the coming months.

You can read about Monica Jorge’s experience at Eddie Adams in Part 1 of this series.

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