By Michael Noble
The Palm Beach Photographic Centre in downtown West Palm Beach offers classes for amateurs and professionals, taught by world-renowned photographers such as Lawrence Gartel, Dennis Reggie and David Kennerly.
The center moved to its new Clematis Street location last fall, but the company has been around for over 25 years, said Fatima NeJame, president and CEO. By using big-name photographers, the center seeks to draw in the public and aspiring photographers.
“You get a real sense of equality when professionals and amateurs alike are listening to the same speaker,” NeJame said. “It is an excellent learning and networking experience.”
Primarily, PBPC is a school for photographers. Memberships are available from $95 to $2,500. Each membership allows for admittance to workshops and community events that help photographers grow in skill and knowledge.
Some courses cost as much as $1,000, but there are free sessions Wednesday evenings through the end of April.
PBPC board member Harrison Funk said that just one of these one-hour sessions is more informative than reading an entire book.
“I watch my students grow from amateurs to great photographers in a matter of three to four days, and it’s wonderful to see,” Funk said.
Funk has served on the board for three years and is a professor of photojournalism at the school as well.
“The board always keeps us surprised with what they are going to do next,” Funk said. “We have so many things under one roof.”
One of the newest editions of the facility is the new Leica camera store within the PBPC camera store.
“A store within a store,” Funk said.
Leica cameras are German made and were originally created by Oskar Barnak with the invention of the 35-mm camera in 1925.
The PBPC features a museum that is open to the public. It is three times as large as the original one. “We’ve been very fortunate to be this large, and we plan on expanding even more,” Funk said.
Museum admission is $5 and no photography is permitted, due to copyright infringement.
“People don’t know that taking a picture of a picture is illegal,” Funk said, who also teaches a photography etiquette class. “It’s basically stealing.”
However, another aspect of the PBPC is geared specifically toward the younger generation.
Denise Felice is the director of the Education Kids Program and her focus is on the local kids of West Palm Beach with a summer camp.
“It is all local community-based at first,” Felice said, “then we make it internationally based with the use of pen pals.”
The camp sessions are held every summer for two weeks.
Felice explained that the kids learn how to use a camera properly and to express themselves in ways they could not otherwise at home.
Then they incorporate the use of pen pals from other parts of the world, so that the kids can create a community outside of their own world.
“This way, kids can not only share their photos and knowledge with each other, but life’s struggles and difficulties as well,” Felice said.
To help raise support for the kids program, PBPC holds an auction called Foto Fusion.
This auction is comprised of the works of lesser-known photographers, the prices of which can range from $300 to $2,500.
All proceeds go directly to the kids program.
For more information, visit www.workshop.org or call (561) 253-2600. The PBPC is in the West Palm Beach Public Library building at 415 Clematis St.