Tyler Wirken & Brandon Parigo's "Camp Wirkshop" experience sets documentary project-makers on the right path

Editor’s Note: I am beyond pleased to launch this collaboration between photographer (and industry leader) Tyler Wirken and Confluence Magazine, to promote and support Camp Wirkshop. Tyler explains the workshop’s purpose much better than I do, which is why he’s the one writing the article here! But I wanted to lead with this: Tyler and Brandon Parigo have created an extraordinary opportunity for photographers who love the documentary approach and are feeling ready to learn the tools for crafting meaningful personal projects. This workshop literally hands you a project, and Tyler and Brandon walk you through every step of creating and finishing your story. And then, I’m excited to announce, stories created by Camp Wirkshop attendees will be featured in Confluence Magazine in January 2020. Project and publication, all rolled into one.

I’ve had many photographers reach out to me to ask how to get started on personal projects with impact. I truly believe Camp Wirkshop is an ideal place to start. If documentary work is calling you, and you’re ready to take the kinds of chances that push you forward, sign up.

Confluence readers: Use the code CONFLUENCE100 when you register to receive $100 off the workshop registration fee!


Regret is a powerful motivator. It nags at you. Not the same as when your mom nagged at you to clean your room but in a slow quiet way more annoying way that seems to get worse as the years go on, but at the same time never leaves. You can try to put it aside or redirect the thoughts, but it always seems to come back. Like that nagging mom whose voice will not get out of your head. The only solution is to do something about it and clean your damn room.

My passion has always been photojournalism and moving people with my images.  My biggest regret is leaving it to soon. For the past 17 years documentary weddings and family photography has filled the void and still does, to some extent, but I have felt for years that I am destined for more photographically. During that search I realized that all I want is for my photos to make a difference in some way. I have done that with weddings and families and now I want to do more. 

As much as I would love to commit my life and career to be a documentary photographer for the greater good and change the world in some way with my photography, the reality is I don’t want to commit to that. My family is still young, and I want to minimize the amount of time away. I was in search of a new path where I could fill that need photographically while using my talents and passion for telling stories in a 9-5 Monday through Friday industry. 

I do not know about you, but I am tired of our commercialized society and am tired of being sold to. We are constantly bombarded with fake, over perfected images of what our life should be. I crave authenticity and believe many of us share the same feeling. Stories connect people and I want to connect people to companies in a way that we can get behind and support their mission. I really believe the face of advertising and marketing is changing in that direction. 

So, what does that mean for me and my photography? I am now telling stories for businesses, organizations and non-profits as branding and marketing utilizing my photojournalism background and story telling skills. I found out quickly my niche in the commercial industry and was able to combine my love for documentary photography in a commercial setting. Telling each companies “why you do what you do” story is infinitely more powerful than what you do. 

The feeling of regret starting to subside, then the challenges started to come. The biggest one being everyone kept telling me to get into video. “Video is king. If you want to get work in the marketing world, make videos”! I believe in the power of the still image and never wanted to be a videographer, so this realization was problematic and I found that multimedia was the answer and the perfect compromise. Combining strong still images, audio capture, and video interview can be just as if not more powerful than video. I am making videos without shooting much video.  


I have seen firsthand how producing a film with strong still images as the backbone can move people. So much so that they become connected to the story in a way only photos can’t do. 

This interest in multimedia started many years ago as I was using it sporadically in my wedding and family work. However, it wasn’t until I tagged along on a project that my colleague Brandon Parigo was producing for Camp Encourage, a summer sleep away camp for kids on the Autism Spectrum did I realize the power of this approach for marketing and branding. I quickly fell in love with Camp Encourage and their mission. Once you witness the magic at camp, you want to do more to help. It happened to me and I wanted to do more. Brandon and I put our heads together to come up with the best way to help Camp further their cause. From that meeting Camp Wirkshop was born. 

Seeing as such a small nonprofit would likely not have the resources to have their story documented in the way we envisioned we decided to host a workshop where we would take a handful of students and embed ourselves into camp. Living alongside the campers and staff was a new concept I have not been a part of before in a photography workshop environment. I have been teaching the documentary style and mindset for over a decade as part of my teaching platform The Wirkshop Series, and have always dreamed of a photography workshop that gave back. Of course the students always leave feeling fulfilled but I wanted the work produced to be used for a greater cause and partnering with Camp Encourage was the perfect solution. The result is an experience unlike any other for students that culminates with their work being shown to a live audience at Camp Encourage’s annual benefit. Making a difference with our photos while simultaneously perfecting our craft is the ultimate learning experience.  

Find your purpose. 

“When you have a purpose in life, you express it constantly and base your decisions, thoughts, feelings and actions around that overarching purpose. A person who knows their purpose tends to make a greater impact through their work, which encourages a feeling of gratification.” - www.goalcast.com

If you are interested in learning to tell better stories both visually and through multimedia or just want to see what going back to summer camp feels like click here for more info and to register for Camp Wirkshop.

>>Enter code CONFLUENCE100 for $100 off your registration fee. <<

Tyler Wirken is a documentary photographer and mentor from Kansas City, Missouri where he lives with his wife Pam, 2 boys Alex and Zach and new puppy Milo. In addition to being named Top 10 Wedding Photographers in the World by American Photo Magazine in 2013 for his documentary wedding work, Tyler has been an educator in the field of documentary wedding and family photography since 2005 with the Foundation Workshops, Fearless Photographers, many conferences worldwide, and through his own workshops and mentoring programs as part of the The Wirkshop Series- www.wirkshopseries.com.