John Paul Caponigro & Sean Kernan


John Paul’s home is a node through which dozens of photographers have passed, and he has done an entire series of conversations and thoughts from so many of them, both the important photographers of our time and the ones of the next time. Listening to these talks on his site is like spending a low-key afternoon with people you’ve never met but may have wanted to.


For more interviews, books, etc. visit



This game is taken (with permission) from William Westney’s Unmaster Class. In it, player walks across the circle with a ball, hands it to another, and takes his or her place while the person with the ball moves across the circle and does the same.

As they move, there is music playing, and they move in some way that is inspired by it. And the music keeps changing, so the players have to change their walks when it does.   People usually start out a bit awkwardly, but as they commit to the game, their self-consciousness disappears quite quickly, and they all move with the music easily. The constriction of self-consciousness disappears into the task. The exercise takes them into a state of thoughtless awareness, motion, and creativity.

In the course of a class we do the exercise several more times, using music of increasing emotion and complexity, but it just gets easier…and better.

Walking on String


In this exercise, one player walks across the floor however he wants.  Then he is told to do it again while imagining that he is walking on a piece of string. Then he goes a third time, imagining walking on a two by four that is lying on the floor. And finally he walks across on the same imagined two by four, but now it is 5 feet above the ground.


The rest of the group is told to pay close  attention to the way he is moving each time.  The first time the player is a bit self-conscious, but with each successive walk the task becomes more real to him and, as he commits to the game, his actions become more believable. The last walk can take quite a long time.


The lesson is that simply going into the game creates a situation that is emotionally real for the player, and when that happens it becomes more real and more involving to the watchers.


This exercise is a way to discuss authenticity in a work and how the commitment of the artist has a powerful effect on those who see it. (With thanks to students of Robert College, Istanbul.)



This exercise was taped at ASMP’s Strictly Business tour in Chicago. (Video of the full talk is available here.)


Here’s the set-up: A group of people are told to mill around in silence, and whenever they see a space between two people, they are to walk through it, and to keep doing that. There is nothing to do except be present, and players quickly players settle into this deliberately mindless action.


After a while they are told to identify two other people in the group and, without letting them know, just keep track of them.


And then, they are told to form an equilateral triangle with the other two. They take a moment to absorb this instruction…then they start laughing.


What they’ve been asked to do is clearly impossible. I mean, you are connected to two people who are connected to four other people around the room, and so on. It’s obviously a vastly complex  geometric problem that would take a  a supercomputer to work out.


After the laughter some generals usually try to order things, but that doesn’t work. Then things get quiet, and people just move and look and move again, and in six or seven minutes…the room is full of different triangles! This impossible thing is all worked out kinetically, without thinking or speaking, just by being present enough to see the energies and angles.


But the real point of doing it, and doing all these exercises, is to notice the state that one goes into. It is pure awareness, creativity.