MELANIE PULLEN: The Fine Art Narrative: Creating Stories & Portraits

(c) Melanie Pullen 2020


Orientation Sunday, September 20th, 4:30pm – 5:30pm
Monday, September 21st – Wednesday, September 23rd: 9:00am – 4:00pm.
Thursday, September 24th 9:00am – 11:00am

Melanie Pullen is perhaps better known generally as an artist in the fine art world than in the fine art photography space. Her work has always been conceptually based: High Fashion Crime Scenes and Violent Times about war have been celebrated by art and photography collectors alike.  

Don’t miss this rare opportunity to study with a contemporary art star and understand her process as it applies to your work.

This course will cover creating narratives at night including stories and portrait photography. She’ll demonstrate her techniques for painting with light, capturing vs creating moments using light and action, using both found and creative lighting to realize ones vision. Pullen will discuss the influences that inspired her work and will work with the students to help guide them and to gain confidence in how to use and manipulate lighting. The course will focus on using both available lighting and artificial cinematic lighting essentially to establish created scenes and a narrative. It will also show how lighting creates the mood one is trying to portray and teach how to create depth in ones work using lighting techniques. The friendly review of student portfolios will follow, and each student will receive personalized feedback and tasks for improvement.

Day One: Talk about work. Melanie will present her work and review the work of the attendees. Discussions will take place about the nature of powerful portrait narratives and how innovative lighting can make them sensational.

Day Two:Melanie will join attendees on a journey to a desert location and discuss ideas for the how to light portraits and nighttime urban settings using combinations of existing (found) light with light-painting and cinematic lighting to create powerful images with different moods. Melanie will work with the attendees to map out how the scenes will be lit, and shot. She will spend the late afternoon session with attendees at the location as they do lighting tests and and execute portraits, creating different lighting scenarios. The class will work together into the evening. After a dinner break, they will discuss techniques and objectives / her process and ideas for further use of painting with light and using light to manipulate the mood at night.

Day Three: Class will again meet in mid-afternoon and Melanie will review attendee work made the prior night. As sunset approaches, the class will break into groups and carry out an assignment to work as a team wearing various hats and shoot in nearby locations.There will be a van(s) provided to drop off and pick up attendees at appointed locations.

Day Four: Review attendee work made the prior night.

PRICE: $2160.


Includes daily registration for the full days of the class, class transportation, models and a boxed lunch for each full day of the workshop.


Photographers should bring their tripods, laptops and be conversant with their hardware and software in order to facilitate downloading and projecting their work for critiques in class. Digital projectors with standard DVI / VGA cables will be provided. If you require any special adapter for your computer for this purpose, please be sure to bring one to class. 

All Workshop Participants are invited to the Canon/Freestyle Digital Print Center at Korakia on Thursday, September 24th from 11:00am to 6:00pm to have an image of their choice printed out on a Canon Pro 2000 printer, using custom profiles and on their choice of several inkjet papers.


Self-taught fine-art photographer Melanie Pullen was born in NYC in 1975: She currently lives and works in Los Angeles.

Melanie’s photography is held in the permanent collections of: The Getty Museum; The Museum of Contemporary Art; The Jumex Museum, Mexico City, The Rand Collection, in addition to many other notable collections. In 2018, she was included in the Getty Museum’s exhibition titled: Icons of Style, A Century of Fashion Photography. In 2019 her work will be included in an exhibition at the The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and this year has a major survey show of her work at the MOAH Museum through 2020.

Pullen’s photography is narrative based. Working with a variety of cinematic lighting techniques she creates photographs reminiscent of a film frozen in time. Her work is heavily influenced by early forensic photography, war journalism, cinema and fashion. Pullen’s work focuses on both social values and taboos while purposely taking aim at the media’s exploitation of sex, gender, and violence. Pullen herself has noted that she targets society’s glamorization of violent acts and crimes by literally re-dressing what are deeply disturbing events, forcing the viewer to question their own values and observations. “I’m continuously creating imagery that questions our perceptions and our ingrained desire to glamorize violence.”

Pullen’s notable series, High Fashion Crime Scenes (2003-2007) is based on vintage crime-scene images Pullen mined from the files of The Los Angeles Police Department and The LA County Coroner’s Office. Drawn to the rich details and compelling stories preserved in the criminal records, Pullen began re-enacting these crime-scenes, with well-known actresses and models, outfitting the “victims” in current haute-couture, and photographing them in her elaborately staged settings. Her subsequent series Violent Times 2008-2016 is comprised of over 100 images of recreations of found war images, creations of soldier portraits portrayed as still statuesque men frozen and then later massive redundant images of soldiers acting out in poetic acts of violence.

In addition to her exhibitions, she has been featured in hundreds of publications including: The New York Times Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Vogue, Esquire Magazine, ELLE Magazine, London’s Sunday Independent, Spin Magazine, W Magazine, Flaunt Magazine, 1814 Magazine, and Vanity Fair. She has published two photography books, which both received critical acclaim. She is currently working on her third photography book. Melanie was awarded the D&AD Yellow Pencil Award.