“St-Germain des Pres”- George Howard
George Howard, Non-Painter and Guest Photographer in Provence
Non-painting partners are always welcome at our retreats and workshops. But while the artists paint what on Earth do they do?
We always are excited when non-painting partners come to our workshops and art retreats in Provence, Italy, and Scotland and while they don’t come to paint, their presence often adds another point of view that spices up the conversations around the dinner table. Of course, non-painters find plenty to do. When the artists are tethered to their easels painting the view the non-painters are free to explore that location, its village and surrounding area, admire the Gothic interior of an old church, relax and sip a café crème, nip into the boutiques and antique stores or even sample a variety of regional wines.
One of our frequently returning guests is George Howard. He is a charming Texan who exudes warmth and soon becomes friends with the entire group of painters. George is an art collector, a fervent supporter of the arts and of his favorite artist, his wife. He is never without a camera slung across his body. He is an accomplished photographer with a great eye for color and design who captures astounding shots. We are fascinated with the process of making eye-catching images as artists so we asked George how he finds his scenarios and selects what to shoot.
“It’s the light, the people, the food, and the wine as well as the number of scenic villages in Provence that make it a wandering photographer’s delight”.
From Interest to Intense Pursuit
George’s interest in photography began when he was a boy but his journey as a photographer started when his wife Marion, gave him his first “real” camera when he was in his 20s. We recently interviewed George about how his interest in photography grew from a sideline to a serious study of capturing the image to becoming a professional photographer.
WIF: Can you remember when you decided to pursue photography as a significant subject?
GH: While I still photographed from time to time, I had a family to support and spent my time advancing my career and professional life. That took precedence until I hit my 50s. At that point I realized that my career was on cruise control, so I now had the time, desire and wherewithal to actually study the craft of photography.
I signed up for a workshop with a well-known and much-admired photographer, Jay Maisel, and I discovered a passion for creating with a camera.
George took advantage of this amazing workshop with renowned photographer, Jay Maisel. Jay’s the author of at least 5 books on photography. He ranks at the top of ‘street photographers’ and has worked on numerous projects like the covers for Sports Illustrated, New York Magazine, and even the Miles Davis album, ‘Kind of Blue’ as well as working in advertising and as an art director.
“Follow the Light, Seville” by George Howard
“Musée d’Orsay 2021” by George Howard
Making the Mundane Memorable.
WIF: We are very impressed with your work and can always recognize your signature style whenever we see your images. Do you seek out situations with specific visual elements to capture these types of scenes?
GH: I look for scenes where there is a dramatic interplay of shadow and light with a human element to serve as a counterpoint.
I try to make the mundane moments of life memorable.
WIF: What impresses you about France and other places in Europe that makes you want to shoot photographs there?
GH: It’s the light, the people, the food and the wine. It’s also the number of scenic villages just a short drive from wherever one might be. France is a wandering photographer’s delight.
“Marseille Bubbles” by George Howard
Travel and Culture
George is well-traveled and has photographed many regions including Canada, Mexico and Cuba, Australia and Japan. The list is long, he’s been all over Europe including England, Scotland and Ireland, France, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Greece and Switzerland, he’s seen the Czech Republic as well as Turkey and China. We asked him which country apart from France, came to mind and stood out as memorable to a photographer and what was it in particular that made it special.
GH: Probably, Japan, because the culture is both admirable and considerably different from my own.
But also, northern Europe, because the light is wonderful and the history is deep. The United Kingdom too, because I am an Anglophile child of the 60s.
“Kyoto Temple” by George Howard
“A photo can transport me immediately back to the time it was taken. I can again hear or smell or feel whatever was taking place at the time”.
A Sense of Place
WIF: It’s as if the light in each photo contains the distilled essence of that country. You definitely have the ability to capture the sense of place even if in an intimate portrayal without a telltale background. We appreciate the strong light in your work but tell us what subjects are you drawn to and what inspires you as a photographer?
GH: Life in the street. The gestures of people and place
WIF: On a personal note, when I travel I find that when I see life through the metaphorical lens of an artist, it’s different than traveling as a tourist. It seems to magnify the experiences and enhance the trip in a way that makes it so much more memorable than say “going on vacation”. Even the most routine encounter seems special. I’m sure you agree that when you travel as a photographer, the act of taking photographs actually creates another level of your experience.
GH: Yes, that’s true. And a photo can also transport me immediately back to the time it was taken. I can again hear or smell or feel whatever was taking place at the time.
“Fontaine de Vaucluse” by George Howard.
Can you see the artist’s shadow?
This image was taken at the Rose Frantzen workshop in 2021. Franck was our model and posed against the tree in the center of the village. Artists were positioned around him painting him in the dappled light. If you look closely you can see the cast shadow of one of our artists on the left-hand side.
Creating a Stronger Connection
WIF: We find that traveling as a painter creates a stronger connection to the time and the place. Sometimes someone will even come over and talk to you just because you’re an artist.
Can you recall a particularly memorable connection with the locals just because you were shooting your camera? Do you ask their permission to photograph them?
GH: Yes! It happens frequently.
Actually, I tend to ask for forgiveness rather than permission when photographing people in the street. Asking permission tends to produce stiff, posed photographs rather than the natural slice of life that I am looking for in my work. But, to avoid leaving a trail of possibly disgruntled people behind, I will smile post-photograph, and I tell them what attracted me to the shot such as, “great hat!” or “I love your hair”.
Those types of comments will often lead to a conversation with the locals.
I have also met several photographers in the street when doing this and it’s great that we stay in touch through social media.
“Paris” by George Howard
“Paris Climbers” – George Howard
Advice on Cameras
WIF: Technical stuff: What camera are you using now?
GH: I spent time during the first stages of lockdown justifying to myself the benefits of a Leica and I ended up buying two: The Leica M-10P (it’s mirrorless that reduces the body size) and The Leica Q2. The Leica Q2 is compact enough that I can wear it every day. The Leica’s lenses are superb.
WIF: For someone who wanted to take up photography and who travels, what equipment would you recommend that’s high quality and affordable?
GH: Go with one of the mirrorless cameras such as those made by Fuji. That, and say a 24MM to 70MM zoom can tackle almost any travel-related scene you want to point a lens at.
WIF: Don’t you recommend a lot of lenses? Which would be the ‘go-to’ or most ubiquitous lens to have on hand?
GH: At one time I carried several lenses with me every time I went out to shoot. Aging shoulders taught me that less is better. I now shoot with the Leica Q2 most of the time. It has a fixed 28MM lens. I rarely miss those other lenses I used to cart around.
“Venice” by George Howard
Photography and Art
WIF: What prompted you to first come to join us at WorkshopsInFrance?
GH: My wife, Marion is a painter and a friend of the artist, Quang Ho. When we found out that Quang was doing a workshop in France with you it seemed like a good idea.
And it was!
WIF: As a photographer, do you think that your experience mixing with the company of painters has influenced the way you take photographs? We think that some of your images look like fine art paintings.
GH: Well, Jay Maisel told his students that if they wanted to become better photographers they should study art. So the exposure from that standpoint is a good thing. In my discussions with painters, I become fascinated with the various methods of creating a path for the viewer’s eye to travel through the image. For example, leading the eye by the use of light or dark, or by lines (real or imaginary), or the composition, etc. I apply those methods to the extent made possible with my photography.
We asked George if he found that when in the company of painters had any of our dinnertime conversations or other art-centric discussions resonated with him as a photographer?
GH: Since we all have the same goal of generating memorable images and have a devoted commitment to the craft of doing so, I found that most of the group’s conversations to be of real value.
“Kingsland” by George Howard. A family portrait in silhouettes.
WIF: You have signed up for the Quang Ho and Adrienne Stein workshop with us in the heart of Scotland in July of 2022. What are you most looking forward to when photographing during your stay in Scotland?
GH: Compelling shadow and light.
And haggis with a wee dram.
WIF: You are talking to the right people! We’ll make sure it is on the menu (as an option).
George, tell us where is your dream location to take photographs?
GH: Give me a city street filled with interesting people lit by strong, low sunlight.
WIF: Sounds perfect!
We love your images, where can we follow and find more of your work?
WIF: Thank you, George.
“Austin” by George Howard
We look forward to seeing more of George’s images and encourage you to bring along your partner to one of our workshops or retreats! It will be an unforgettable experience and be full of memories to last a lifetime.
More of George Howard’s Photography
Blogger: Julie Snyder
Julie Snyder is a professional artist and also the programs director of Workshops In France. A native of Scotland, she is a seasoned traveler who splits her time between California and France. You can learn more about her role with Workshops in France here and about her painting on her website.
If you are curious about the other activities we offer non-painters and artists alike you should read Non-Painters at Workshops and Art Retreats. We also explore the region and go to places like Les Baux where Vincent van Gogh’s works were projected up to 30ft tall in Tech, Art and a Starry Night, and the spectacular Quarry of Light featuring Sorolla, Picasso and the Spanish Masters.
Check out more blogs about art workshops, tips and hacks for artists traveling in France and Scotland.
Yellow ochre is a naturally mined pigment used by artists everywhere. One of the must-see villages in Provence is Rousillon, where this multi-hued pigment was mined. You see it as orange, pink, and red on the walls of all houses and the red rock faces for the surrounding hills.
From a train station to a world-class art museum, the Musée d’Orsay is the top choice for artists who want to view magnificent French art. The Musée D’Orsay has a fascinating history which began as a train station built of steel and glass and became a world-class art museum.
Where do you find the inspiration to take the leap and make art the priority in your life? Meet Jill Dowell, who took a chance and leaped clear across the Atlantic. She now lives in Paris where she thrives as an artist.