Caught by the River

Justin Partyka photography workshop

Charles Rangeley-Wilson | 24th July 2014

08.07. Suffolk, 2013-JPartykaPhoto: Justin Partyka

Charles Rangeley-Wilson writes:

It seems like the other day, but I’ve checked and it wasn’t … it was five years ago. My wife, Vicky, came home from UEA and told me about an exhibition of photographs there, photographs she was sure I’d like. There were images of farmyards and beet fields and rows of boots and tumble-down buildings and old men gathered around tractors. She remembered the surname of the photographer – Partyka – because it was the same as the man who drove the fish and chip van to our village every Tuesday. It was a Norfolk name.

02.16. Suffolk, 2013-JPartykaPhoto: Justin Partyka

I never got to the exhibition, but I found Justin Partyka’s website. Vicky was right, I did like the photographs. A lot. I liked the earthy, immersive quality of them. The mix of statuesque formality and grabbed immediacy. I liked that they were of men and women who had grown out of the soil they stood on. One I can remember quite clearly, without even looking it up: an old man standing in a field of sugar beet. The field had been harvested, one strip through the middle, while the edges remained unturned. This was where the man stood, on the edge of the pulled beet, an old fork in his swollen right hand, the fork too short to lean on. He looked down at the soil while the wind caught his white hair and the hem of his incongruously urbane, though weather-worn, coat. His shoulders sagged a little, I remember. Only three things broke out of the horizontal lines of beet, field and sky in that picture: two distant trees and this man. It was a picture about rootedness, I thought. About Permanence. The mutual shaping of man and land. Each had given form to the other.

And yet I could see also that Justin had grabbed the photograph when he saw the old man gazing downwards. There was something far away and “well bugger me!” about the way the old chap held his head and I was sure the image couldn’t have been posed. So, I could mention the technical mastery of the exposure too, and the composition, neither of which are easy to get so right in an image that has been snatched from the film-roll of the ongoing moment.

So, yes, I liked Justin Partyka’s photographs. I liked what he took pictures of and I liked how he took them.

Well, I say all this by way of letting on that Justin is now running photography workshops for those who would enjoy an insight into the way this brilliant photographer works. These workshops are designed for developing and practicing (if not necessarily professional) photographers who would benefit from a weekend of expert tuition, help with projects and portfolios, and of course good company for a few days.

The first workshop runs this September from the 5th to the 7th and is limited to six places. I believe two are already taken, so get booking if you’re interested. This workshop will take place in Suffolk, in the same landscape Justin photographs, amongst the fields, lanes and hedgerows of East Anglia, around the village of Peasenhall. The photos printed here are recent work from this area.

There’s a train station nearby for those who wish to travel without a car. Accommodation is in holiday cottages in the village. Justin is co-hosting the workshop with Bee Farrell, a Foodways curator and consultant (together they run Backroad Books and present The Suffolk Salon). All meals are provided and frankly the food sounds as though it will be worth the entry price alone: home-made bread, tarts and crumbles etc. Sensibly, the meals will be built around the photography and not the other way about: Justin is big on getting out there when the light is right. At other times there will be presentations, group discussions and portfolio reviews. You could go there to start and finish a project, to develop one, to get help producing a book. The point is, this is a workshop built around the needs and wants of those going.

The three-day workshop costs £450 per person, all food, wine, accommodation etc included. To book a place contact Justin by email:

Charles Rangeley-Wilson.