TAKING A STEP UP”, OCT 26 – NOV.19, 2020

MEETS ONLINE from 6-9pm (London), 1-4pm (New York), 10am-1pm (Vancouver) on the following days:
Week 1: Monday October 26 + Thursday October 29
Week 2: Monday November 2 +Thursday November 5
Week 3: Thursday November 12
Week 4: Thursday November 19

“I’m re-purposing and shifting to online, the three-day Masterclass through FOTOFILMIC that I was going to give in March 2020. I hope you’ll like to virtually join me. I don’t want to call it “masterclass”, I’d prefer “some teaching, some inspiration and some guidance from…”

Because we’re online, I’d like to make use of the liberty that gives us to break the class up into 6 x 3hr sessions that will be given scattered over four weeks. To be clear, each ‘bloc’ will be three hours long (with breaks!)

In this workshop we will discuss, share & learn about the development of your long-term photographic projects. I’m good at visual narrative and storytelling and I want to help with crafting your stories. Together we’ll work on the (re)conceptualizing and the clarifying of your project ideas; making them sharper and more effective. I get shown a lot of work that is pretty good but not often do I see work that is really special. I think a lot of us can get up to a fairly good level (even a fairly good professional level) but don’t know how to make that final step up to getting published/assigned/taken on by galleries etc. How do you give your project that extra sophistication, the sharpness that makes it stand out from the rest, the lucidity that wins awards or gets published in top-flight outlets? 

I want to show you how I craft my projects and how I layer them up with ideas to make them multifaceted. I’ll show you a little (very little) of my old work, some newer, unseen projects but more importantly I’ll show you how I research and clarify an idea and the influences I bring to bear not just on what I photograph but why  I make my pictures look the way they do. Buying a new lens or upgrading some software won’t make your photography outstanding; a little 17th century landscape painting, a whiff of the history of English garden design, a slight acquaintance with Paleolithic cave painting or a handfull of ideas from European philosophy or odd bits of the history of World War One might send you down a wormhole or two. These are the kind of places I go to look for inspiration.

The class is aimed at photographers with some experience, but are now ready to shift up to a higher level. Ideally, you’ve begun or have the sketch for a larger body of work or a more serious project. I’d rather see work that is 20% formed rather than projects which are 95% finished: I think I can help you in adjusting a project’s trajectory to lift it to a higher level. I’m also happy to spend time with photographers who don’t know where to begin with a higher level project. Sometimes the first steps are the hardest part.

We’ll also go out shooting one late evening followed by a very early morning (that’s the routine I stick to when I’m on assignment) and we’ll have the chance to review the work made. I’m going to “assign” you a shoot and you’ll be shooting, in your locality, in the days between the teaching. Then you’ll be uploading the pictures online where the whole class can see it and we’ll critique it together.

Don’t underestimate how much you will learn from the rest of the class; I’ll try to stream the entrants so that everybody is about the same level but also everybody has something to teach each other. The class will be limited to just 12  and I expect it to be friendly and supportive as well as lively and challenging. It will be a mixture of classroom, conversations and shooting but I’m happy to adjust if you have any special requirements.

– Simon Norfolk

A fully detailed masterclass program including the list of materials to have ready before the start of the class, logins to upload portfolios and Zoom invitations is provided once enrolment is confirmed.

© Cover image: Simon Norfolk, The Lewis Glacier, Mt. Kenya, 1963 (A), 2014. From the series When I am Laid in Earth.

© Simon Norfolk, Controlled destruction by the Halo Trust of US cluster bombs dropped in error on the civilian village and orchards of Aqa Ali-Khuja on the Shomali Plain, north of Kabul, May 2002. From the series AfghanistanChronotopia.

© Simon Norfolk, Former teahouse next to the wreckage of the old, Soviet-era ‘Afghan Exhibition of Economic and Social Achievements’ in Kabul. Balloons were illegal under the Taliban, December 2001. From the series AfghanistanChronotopia.

© Simon Norfolk, BBC Relay Station, 2003From the series Ascension Island: The Panopticon.

© Simon Norfolk + Klaus Thymann, Shroud 8, 2018. From the series Shroud.


Born: 1963 in Lagos, Nigeria.
Lives in Hove, UK and Kabul, Afghanistan.
Simon Norfolk is a landscape photographer whose work over twenty years has been themed around a probing and stretching of the meaning of the word ‘battlefield’ in all its forms. As such, he has photographed in some of the world’s worst war-zones and refugee crises, but is equally at home photographing supercomputers used to design military systems or the test-launching of nuclear missiles. Time’s layeredness in the landscape is an ongoing fascination of his. His work has been widely recognised: he has won The Discovery Prize at Les Rencontres d’Arles in 2005; The Infinity Prize from The International Center of Photography in 2004; and he was winner of the European Publishing Award, 2002. In 2003 he was shortlisted for the Citibank Prize now known as the Deutsche Börse Prize and in 2013 he won the Prix Pictet Commission. He has won multiple World Press Photo and Sony World Photography awards. He has produced four monographs of his work including ‘Afghanistan: Chronotopia’ (2002) which was published in five languages; ‘For Most Of It I Have No Words’ (1998) about the landscapes of genocide; and ‘Bleed’ (2005) about the war in Bosnia. His most recent is ‘Burke + Norfolk; Photographs from the War in Afghanistan.’ (2011). He has work held in major collections such as The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, The Getty in Los Angeles as well as San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Wilson Centre for Photography and the Sir Elton John Collection. His work has been shown widely and internationally from Brighton to Ulaanbaatar and in 2011 his ‘Burke + Norfolk’ work was one of the first ever photography solo shows at Tate Modern in London. He has been described by one critic as ‘the leading documentary photographer of our time. Passionate, intelligent and political; there is no one working in photography that has his vision or his clarity.’ He is currently running at a pretty nifty Number 44 on ‘The 55 Best Photographers of all Time. In the History of the World. Ever. Definitely.’