HOW AN NFL STAR FOOTBALL PLAYER INSPIRED A NEW WORKSHOP
For Scott Reither, photography cracked him open to a fuller way of viewing his life and his place in the world. From the start of his fine art photography career - which has now earned him over 50 International Photography Awards - Reither has sought places and moments that spark him personally and allow him to communicate the deeper intimacy he experiences when out lost somewhere with his camera. He calls it “being a keen observer” and knows how the discipline of the photographic process has helped him experience the world in more enriching ways. In his conversations with collectors and through his photography workshops, Reither likes to inspire others to understand how a single photograph can represent a holistic experience. When the NFL star wide receiver Brandin Cooks heard Scott talk about the transcendent value of photography, he knew he found a creative mentor. He just didn’t yet know that he was looking for one. But that soon changed.
Brandin Cooks is one of the fiercest players in the NFL - and only one of four in the league’s history to record at least 3 seasons of 1000 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns before his 25th birthday. In 2018, his drive and discipline even got Cooks a starting spot in Super Bowl LII. But long before all the stadium glory, Cooks grew up in Stockton, California and he’s stayed humble to his roots. His dad (who died of a heart attack when Brandin was 6) would race him down the long block in front of their home, pushing him to go hard and achieve excellence. Now that he’s an elite athlete, Cooks’ training schedule never lets up. He values that discipline but he could sometimes feel cut off from the greater world. Still, Cooks had never thought of following a creative pursuit. Until he met Scott Reither and their conversation took off.
Cooks first sparked to Reither’s photographs in 2017 during Scott’s exhibition at the Four Seasons in Maui and Brandin became a collector soon after. At that first meeting, the two talked at length about how photography could be a portal to a deeper awareness of life. That way of thinking clicked with Cooks. Once back home, Cooks decided to purchase a camera - a sturdy Leica - and began taking his own photographs. While he was disciplined on learning all the tech skills necessary for getting a good shot, letting loose his artistic self was still proving to be a challenge. So Brandin decided to book Scott for a private multi-day workshop in Maui (and later Oregon) which lead to a much more involved mentoring relationship. Cooks was inspired by how Reither prefers to teach landscape photography from the inside out - starting with an emotional connection to a place and then shaping the composition from there. That way of seeing made a difference to Cooks. It made photography intimately personal and more privately creative.
For Reither, the direct emotional immediacy of a photograph is what first pulled him into the field. In his 20s, Reither spent 6 months wandering around Southeast Asia. He wasn’t yet a photographer and it was his first trip out of the country. But by day 3, Reither had picked up a used Nikon 35mm camera and couple of lenses. Then in Nepal, he took a riveting shot of an elderly monk that seemed to reveal the full profound faith of the man as shown through his face. Reither considers that image the start of his photography career. After that, Reither made his emotional awareness of a scene matter more than the camera in hand. Given all his critical awards and success as a fine art photographer, it’s a vantage point on photography that has served him well.
In his new private One Year Mentoring Program Workshop - first initiated with Brandin Cooks and now open to photographers of all skill levels - Reither provides a unique opportunity to gain from his photography experience, creative insights and career success. As with the program Reither has shaped for Cooks, the year-long mentorship is carefully structured to inform photographers about how to create more resonant images and a compelling portfolio, while also helping them refine their in-camera and digital skills. Having previously conducted over 250 photography workshops, Reither knows that many photographers struggle with how to make their landscape scenes more personal, creative and alluring. Since each mentorship is conducted on a one-on-one basis and covers a full year, Reither is able to dig in deeper and help guide each student according to their interests and needs. That supportive and collaborative relationship gives photographers the tools and inspiration to push past their earlier limitations. Reither wants everyone to come away more skilled and confident and with a high-quality portfolio of images. But he also wants people to find more meaning and joy in the creative act of landscape photography.
For Brandin Cooks, Reither’s mentoring guidance has been “life-changing”. He considers their working relationship key to improving his technical, editing and compositional skills. But now he also more intimately appreciates that there is an emotional, even spiritual, quality to landscape photography that is very compelling. Scott’s view is that what we feel more deeply, we see more evocatively. Every individual mentoring program starts off with an intensive multi-day workshop. From that in-depth creative start, Reither guides each student through a series of motivating photography assignments. By providing his students thoughtful, critical feedback and lots of informed encouragement over the course of a year of active engagement, Reither believes that every photographer will be able to maximize their personal and creative potential.
As for Brandin Cooks, it’s not often that an elite athlete also seeks to express an artistic vision, but he’s now eager to get outside with his camera whenever he can find the time in his schedule. And all the lessons and discussions have given him a clearer appreciation for the many ways photography can make a difference to his life. Reither knows that photography has the power to witness the world in a meaningful way. Now he just wants to help others realize that potential.
- Barry Dumka, 2018
For more information about the One Year Mentoring Program Workshop: