Photo Field Trip’s Squarespace site

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© Photo Field Trip

In the hustle and bustle of daily life in the competitive photo industry, it can be hard to carve out time to get back to the basics, to reflect on what inspires you, and to forge meaningful connections with artists you admire. That’s where Photo Field Trip comes in. Now in its second year, the five-day photography retreat was engineered by photographer and Smilebooth co-owner Whitney Chamberlain and film television producer Justin Lyon, with Graphic Designer Mallory Cohn, as a way of uniting creative minds and opening a constructive dialogue about the future of the medium.

Set in California’s beautiful El Capitan Canyon in California at the onset of spring, Photo Field Trip is a unique camping experience that offers a diverse set of classes, each of which is geared towards fostering an open and democratic exchange of ideas, along with community-building activities around the campfire. With dozens of teachers and ambassadors, Photo Field Trip encourages artists of all levels to hone their craft, build confidence, and not insignificantly—to have fun. Photo Field Trip 2015 will take place March 5th-9th. We chatted with Chamberlain and Cohn about inspiration, friendship, and building the perfect creative environment.

How did Photo Field Trip begin?
“So let’s backtrack a bit, if you will. 4 years ago, we were just a tiny group of friends, sitting around a campfire in the woods, somewhere in California—just hanging out, making delicious hot s’mores, talking to raccoons, streaking— you know how it is.

“At some point, we realized that we shared a common dream. How cool would it be to gather a group of forward-thinking photographers in a camp environment to streak and talk to raccoons together? It was a groundbreaking thought, but we didn’t stop there. We augmented the idea: what if we could all learn together, grow together, and make new friends? Something simple. A place where we could connect in a way that’s meaningful, be inspired, say things like “Hi, my name is . . . ” and strike up a conversation—just like that. A place where we would all put aside our social masks for a minute, and not be scared to be ourselves and all the while learning, connecting, exploring, and having fun. We decided to make this dream happen.”

What was the inspiration or motivation behind founding Photo Field Trip?
“Education through play. Reconceptualizing the idea that teachers and people we respect in our industry don’t need to be on a pedestal to communicate and disseminate their knowledge. Going back to that smaller classroom ideal, versus a huge conference with keynote speakers where you’re just a body in a crowd. We believe that you should be able to connect with these people, not just for one day, and not just for two hours. Everyone is approachable.”

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© Photo Field Trip

Could you walk us through a day in the life of a photographer at Photo Field Trip?
“At Field Trip, your day starts off with coffee, good coffee and lots of it (and tea for those who might be from England) and breakfast where we fill up on good food. Then you’d set off for classes, a live shoot followed by a step by step editing workflow lesson from an editing master. Then you head to lunch.

“Then you’re off to two more classes. You go make a leather camera strap, and then you attend a panel with photographers and companies you’d love to work with and hear firsthand what they are looking for in associates.

“Then dinner. After dinner, it’s one more class, and you’ve signed up for an intimate talk with a photographer who goes through all your portfolios and gives you honest feedback.
Lastly, we know it’s been a long day, but we’ve got campfires, musical performances, and beer and drinks to relax all night long.”

What do you think people learn from their the intimate, close-knit experience fostered by Photo Field Trip?
“What’s more intimate than a whole cabin going and getting a tattoo together? The friendships fostered at Field Trip are more than skin deep. I can’t count how many sub-Facebook groups have been started from attendees. They communicate daily. They’re all bettering each other and helping out. We’re a small community of people who believe in passing the torch.”

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© Photo Field Trip

What are you looking for in photographers applying to join Photo Field Trip?
“We’re looking for people who want a new experience and are open to it. We attract people who are looking to get re-inspired, connect with other people in their same profession with the same problems and passions, or even people who are just starting out to get a huge jumpstart in the game. The entrepreneurial edge is one of the qualifications that we really try to seek out.”

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© Nate Kaiser

Is Photo Field Trip geared towards honing a photographer’s artistic voice, business acumen, or both?
“We like to think both. Class-wise, I think we have more artistic and technical classes. But part of being a successful photographer is getting business, and we want our photographers to be the most successful out there. We want to give them the tools, and any knowledge we have about how we did it ourselves. Field Trip pushes collaboration with other individuals as a way to improve and deepen your business connections. This is a main purpose and reason for Field Trip in general.”

You set aside time for work and for play. What is downtime like at Photo Field Trip?
“The downtime was when some of our favorite moments from last year happened. We had an impromptu dance party, some people left on a night hike’ other people took the bikes and went to the beach to take photos. And our scheduled party, of course: Lazers & Blazers.”

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© Nate Kaiser

Why did you choose Squarespace to build your site?
“It’s a no-brainer. I think seeing that they had a seamless payment and integrated shopping cart solution was definitely the winning element.

“Being a photographer and having to manage a massive event, I don’t have time to learn coding or a whole new backend system. Squarespace is intuitive. I’m not a master web builder but I want a master website (obviously this equals Squarespace).”

Your site has a lot of pages but is easy to navigate. What template did you use?
“To be honest, Squarespace is so easy, I don’t even know what template we used.”

What are some of your favorite features on the site?
“We love the new cover page options. We are using one of the video ones to display our latest video. We also love the organization of all the info we collect from contact forms or applications – it gets updated automatically to an excel spreadsheet on our Google Drive. The commerce section is also really great, we can make discount codes, keep track of payments, and create new ‘products’ easily.”

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