A Workshop Tour of Europe: England

It’s only taken me two and a half months to get this blog post written, and I think I’ve been unintentionally putting it off because this trip has been really difficult for me to put into words. That’s not a bad thing of course. It was one of the most amazing and challenging and rewarding experiences of my life so far, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

To preface the coming blog posts, I’ll give you some backstory. One of my closest friends in the world, Joel Robison, is an incredible conceptual photographer from Canada. We met for the first time at a Flickr meetup in Vancouver in 2012, and we have kept our friendship strong ever since, including meeting up in places like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Oregon, etc. He moved to England several months ago, and as happy as I was for that new exciting venture in his life, I was sad because I thought it would mean I wouldn’t get to see him much anymore.

Well, early this year, Joel told me he was planning a photography workshop tour of Europe, and he was looking for an assistant teacher to join him. Casually as casual could be (i.e. not casual at all), I suggested myself, and to my utter surprise and amazement, he was on board! Fast forward a few months later and I was on a plane by myself, flying to England once again–this time for a new adventure all my own.

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I arrived at Gatwick airport in the late evening, and Joel was there to pick me up with a hug and a Twizzler exchange (he loves Twizzlers and they don’t sell them in England, so he asked me to bring some for him). He and his housemate picked me up in this tiny British car, and we wound our way through the cobbled streets of Guildford back to Joel’s flat. We stayed up talking half the night, and I probably could’ve stayed awake through all of it with my jet lag the way it was.

We both unintentionally woke up at 5am the next morning, and so we decided to have an early start to our morning. Joel showed me around his adorable town, we got breakfast at a perfect little cafe, and we explore the nearby castle…because why live in England if you can’t have the ruins of a castle in your town?

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Joel’s town, Guildford, was the town where Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland) lived until his death in 1898, so there are Alice references and memorabilia scattered all over the place. It’s pretty much the most adorable thing in the world, and the perfect place for my friend to live.

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Oh yeah, there’s also an abandoned abbey in the town. Because England.

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Joel’s collection of things from his travels was my favorite. Since he’s traveled all over the world (80 countries during the Fifa World Cup Tour last year), he has quite the collection of trinkets and collectibles. I was kind of in love with them.

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The next day, Joel and I had our workshop in London, where we taught a group of 8 students + 3 models in Holland Park! It was a success in every way, and we had so much fun getting to know the students and enjoying the beautiful sunny day. Although I was a little bit intimidated to be assisting a group so big and diverse, I loved every moment of it. Joel was such a great teacher, and he had the students spellbound when he was shooting his concept with our model Jen Brook. It was such a great day!

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A few days later, we met up with our friend Devin Schiro, who happened to be visiting England at the same time as us, and we took the train to Hampton Court Palace. Being the Tudor history nerd that I am, I was dying to see this place in person at last. It’s the historical home of King Henry VIII and his six wives, the place where all the magic happened during those years of the King’s reign, and everyone who was anyone spent their time carousing in the halls. It was even more beautiful than I imagined it would be, and I was amazed by every detail of the rooms, architecture, and gardens.

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We ate a lunch of scones, clotted cream, and strawberry jam, and I died a little inside with every bite. It was the most perfectly British day ever, and I was in heaven.

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The gardens of Hampton Court were unbelievably beautiful! I was so amazed at all the work that the workers must have put into keeping them looking as spiffy as they did in days gone by.

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On our final day in London, we decided to go into the city and explore a little bit more. Since I’d been to London twice before and Joel had been there several times, we didn’t want to do anything too touristy. We of course saw Big Ben, but we quickly made our way to Camden Market to do some shopping. I’d only been there once before, and it wasn’t for very long, so I was excited to explore it a little more this time. It was such a quirky place, permeated by the scent of incense and the chatter of tourists and locals alike, and I found way more stuff that I wanted to buy than I could afford. In the end I settled on some rings and a woven bracelet.

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It seemed all of England was on an Alice in Wonderland kick that week, as we saw some more characters from the story around town. Of course we got our pictures taken with the Mad Hatter and White Rabbit–they were a riot.

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You can’t go to London without hitting up Platform 9 3/4, am I right?

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We met up with Devin again and decided to walk across the Tower Bridge at sunset, which was definitely an experience I won’t soon forget.

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Then came the day I was most excited for. We had made plans to go to Manchester during our break between England and Sweden workshops, and I had talked to fellow photographer Rosie Hardy about meeting up and possibly staying with her, since Manchester is her home base. Let me tell you, when she wrote back completely “chuffed” at the idea, I had a mini (read as: explosive) fan girl moment. Rosie is quite literally the reason I started photography. She was the first fine art conceptual photographer I ever found on the Internet when I was 17, and I quickly became obsessed with her work. She and a few other’s work inspired me to picked up my mom’s old point & shoot to try my own hand at it. Fast forward almost 7 years in the future and now I’m absolutely surrounded by hundreds of other talented, like-minded artists, I’ve traveled the world (or at least some of it), I’ve started a successful business and garnered an (undeserved) following, and I have had some of the most incredible adventures I could ever imagine–all because I stumbled upon Rosie’s photos one day when I was having a hard time. Meeting her at last in Manchester felt like meeting an old friend, and I adored her immediately.

We stayed the night at her adorable home and made plans to go into the countryside the next day to take some photos in nearby rolling poppy fields. I couldn’t wait.

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These poppy fields were to die for. I couldn’t imagine a more idyllic place to spend our day, running around and taking pictures of each other and having a wonderful time. I felt like I was in a dream that entire day.

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Isn’t Rosie the loveliest? It was such a dream come true to take photos with (and of) her, and she and I laughed and chatted as if we’d been friends forever. It was the best thing.

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My time in England was perfect in every way. I was sad to leave this beautiful and homey country, but excited for all the adventures that still lay ahead of Joel and I on our European tour!

Up next, Sweden! Stay tuned for more photos coming very soon 🙂

4 thoughts on “A Workshop Tour of Europe: England

  1. Hello Whitney, Thank you for your lovely pictures! I have been to England many times and I so appreciated all your wonderful pictures (and your travel log) and comments (loved your rings as well)…But…I am thrilled about the pictures of Devin! How could I NOT BE???? I am his Grandmother!!!! You are beautiful and I am so happy you and your friend Joel had a great time (and I’m so happy you took pictures of Devin)….Thank you! Sandy Hoffman

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