Skip to main content

New School-Parsons School of Design Photography Focus Lecture audio recordings

Identifier: PC-07-02-02


Occurring annually between 1981 and 1989, the Focus Photography Workshops offered a week-long immersion in a specialized area of photography with a public lecture series running during the same period. The workshops were targeted toward non-degree students with advanced photography skills. This collection includes audio recordings from the Focus lectures by professionals in the fields of photojournalism, advertising and fashion photography.


  • 1982 - 1985



67 1/4 inch Audio Cassette (64:59:23 total duration)

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of audio recordings of the Focus Photography Lecture Series, with presentations by photojournalists, advertising and fashion photographers, and related professionals. In the recordings, speakers often present slides while describing their work and experiences in the field, highlighting techniques, personal and professional challenges, the collaborative process, and career trajectories. While most recordings include a question and answer period following the presentation, in some recordings the audience interacts with the lecturer throughout. Recordings are of varying audio quality, and often begin after a session has begun and end before it has ended.

Language of Materials

All recordings are in English, except for the lecture by photojournalist, Dimitri Baltermants, which includes Russian and English translation.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Researchers must use digital access copies.

Use Restrictions

To publish recordings from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from The New School Archives. Please contact:

Historical Note

Organized by Benedict J. Fernandez, founder and chair of the New School-Parsons Department of Photography, the Focus Photography Workshops and Lecture Series began in 1981 and occurred annually as a week-long intensive concentrating on a photographic specialization. The most frequent offerings were Fashion Focus and Photojournalism Focus, with the occasional additions of concentrations in advertising and fine art photography, and occasionally other fields, including culinary and photo-anthropology photography.

The Focus workshops were targeted toward non-degree-seeking students with advanced photography skills, and were cross-listed in the Parsons School of Design continuing education course catalogs and the New School Adult Division catalogs. According to an oral history interview conducted with Ben Fernandez in 1994, Focus was organized by uncompensated alumni as "one way the alumni was giving it back." Fernandez continues: "The Focus program started because I wanted to get more exposure outside of the school. And let's face it, The New School has always been very frugal, shall we say? And so what I did was I took my budget that I had for publicity, and I produced it in the manner that I would invest it in a poster and send that nationwide, and then we set up a Focus [series]."

The lecture series that accompanied the workshop was open to students as well as the general public, affording an opportunity to hear from and interact with working professionals. Lecturers frequently presented slides while describing their work and experiences in the field, highlighting techniques, personal and professional challenges, the collaborative process, and career trajectories. In addition to lectures by individuals, the photojournalism series occasionally featured panel discussions, including a panel on Afghanistan led by Jim Sheldon, a street photography panel led by Fernandez; and a panel on Roy Stryker held at the International Center for Photography.

By 1985, the workshops were being offered in other cities, including Los Angeles and Daytona Beach. By 1987, they had branched further afield, offering opportunities to attend the workshop in other countries. According to the 1987 course catalog, this was a chance for students to "study in a variety of stimulating environments, test their endurance, challenge their ability to make quick decisions, and simulate the real world of professional photography." In an oral history interview, Fernandez indicated that the Leica company contributed the funding for the international program, with Time magazine, as well as Nikon and Kodak also contributing funds. Through 1988, the Leica Medal of Excellence award competition was the culminating event of the New York City Focus workshops. By 1989, the program offered workshops in Paris, Dortmund, Moscow, and Helsinki, and in 1990, the Focus name had disappeared from the course catalogs, replaced by a program called INFOTO: The New School's International Photography Workshops. INFOTO does not appear to have been continued past 1990.


New School Bulletin 1987 Fall Vol. 45 No. 1. Accessed online October 13, 2020:

Interview with Benedict J. Fernandez. Parsons School of Design Centenary oral history project. Accessed online October 13, 2020:

Biographical Note

Benedict J. Fernandez III was the founding chair of the Parsons School of Design Photography Department from 1981 until 1992. Born in Harlem in 1936, Fernandez began his career as a darkroom attendant at Parsons and over time built up the photography program. In his professional career, Fernandez is recognized as a seminal photographer of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the anti-Vietnam War protest movement. His work is held in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian and the Museum of Modern Art.


Organized in 3 series according to workshop specialization and arranged alphabetically by lecturer name or event title within each series: 1. Advertising Focus; 2. Fashion Focus; 3. Photojournalism Focus.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Found on the shelves of the Kellen Design Archives in 2008.

Related Materials

Descriptions of the Focus Photography workshops and lecture series will be found in the New School course catalog collection (NS.05.01.01) and the Parsons School of Design course catalog collection (PC.05.01.01). The Parsons School of Design Centenary oral history project (PC.07.01.01) includes an interview with Benedict J. Fernandez, founding chair of The New School-Parsons School of Design Photography Department and a driving force behind the Focus series.

Processing Information

Title of the collection was supplied by archivists, derived from the title in the 1981 course catalog.

Audio cassettes often còntain recordings of portions of multiple lectures. Digitized versions of the recordings were divided into discrete files and included with files from the same lecture.

Guide to the New School-Parsons School of Design Photography Focus audio recordings
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
November 13, 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description