A visual storytelling workshop documenting the historic city of the Palio and its people led by Randy Olson and Melissa Farlow.

The Workshop

The focus of the workshop is to develop a deeper understanding of visual storytelling through lectures and field practice while documenting the Tuscan city of Siena. Participants will learn how a National Geographic story is created from inception to publication, and they will work on expanding the basic tools used to translate stories of everyday life into compelling images that create dynamic visual narratives.

Daily presentations provide instruction on the elements of visual storytelling and how to craft meaningful stories when combining images. Participants will practice various creative techniques while photographing people’s daily activities. This will allow photographers to engage and experience Siena, not as a tourist, but in a more personal manner spending time working like a National Geographic photographer does to produce a captivating photo-essay. The structure of the  schedule includes time for editing, critiques and conversation about topics meaningful to the group. We tailor this workshop to help each photographer be challenged at their individual level.

The workshop culminates in a final photo projection held in Siena inviting the residents and featuring images created by all participants.

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Giovani Sì

Client Quotes

The week in Siena gave us a rare and intimate view from the very top of our profession. It was filled with helpful perspective, insight and inspiration. This was a workshop that will be long remembered and appreciated by each of us who was fortunate enough to be a part of the Siena experience. And a million thanks to legendary National Geographic photographers Randy Olson and Melissa Farlow for their brilliance, vision and for sharing heartfelt stories of richly documenting the human condition around our planet. Well done!

Thanks for an amazing week!!
It has been an extraordinary experience for me.
This week was even better than I had hoped for.
This workshop has given me access to the lives of the true Siena-people and they have welcomed me so warmly into their hearts. That is a big part of my positive mood of wanting to shout it out to the whole world:
Do visit Siena and do meet the people!
Enjoy SIPA!


The 2019 Siena Stories Workshop will take place from October 28th to November 1st.

To apply, please complete the following online application form. Be sure to include a portfolio with twenty (20) images. Please send it via email to [email protected]

The Application Deadline is July 1, 2019. However, we may accept applicants who meet the workshop criteria as they are received.

Workshop Tuition is €1200 (€1100 if you subscribe before May 1st, 2019). Tuition will be due when you confirm your participation.

Participants are responsible for their own food and lodging while at the workshop. Additional information on housing, the workshop, and the workshop site will be sent upon acceptance of your application.

If you have questions or need more information (or would like to submit payment via check) please contact us via email to [email protected] .

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Melissa Farlow

Melissa Farlow

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Randy Olson

Randy Olson

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Client Quotes

This workshop on how to build stories with only photos, helped me develop my critical view my own photographic work. During the course, we were given different kinds of tasks to photograph. Since the group is small and the pedagogic atmosphere was respectful and the affective filter low, everyone got enough time to develop their thoughts, discuss and ask questions about their results. The teachers went thoroughly through everyone’s photos and explained their perceptions and understandings of the work very well. They also gave useful input on how to make pictures more interesting and how to get a message through. As a pedagogic grip, Randy and Melissa shared their experiences from making an article from scratch to publication.
This course is by far the best investment I’ve done in myself.

I loved the workshop it was so inspiring and enjoyed the relaxed and approachable teaching method of Randy and Melissa.


October 28th – November 1st, 2019


Sala del Senato Accademico
Rettorato dell’Università degli Studi di Siena
Via Banchi di Sotto, 55

Program - Itinerary

Morning: 9:30am-12:30pm - Afternoon: 2:30-6:00pm

Day 1

Introductions and course explanation: Instructors share images from 25 years of various published assignments followed by participants’ portfolio review. The goal is for each photographer to be challenged individually to build on his/her strengths and work on a broader range of experiences to refine personal vision.

Presentation: The Building Blocks of Visual Language. Learn compositional concepts. Practice techniques through a photo shoot around the Siena.

Early evening welcome aperitif to socialize among participants and meet residents that will be photographed later in the week.

Day 2

Morning Review: Feedback/critique of first shoot intended to aid the artist in expressing his/her intentions.
Presentation: The Elements of a Story. Understand the fundamental concepts of building a cohesive body of work, then practice skills in an afternoon photo shoot.

Day 3

Morning shoot: Photograph Siena’s weekly market to refine photographs using advice from earlier lectures Building Blocks and Elements of a Story.
Discussion of participants work followed by Presentation: Photographing People

Day 4

All day photo shoot with various residents from around Siena. The purpose is to build relationships with subjects and to develop a narrative.

Day 5

Edit, critique and create a final photo essay.
End of the day: Final presentation and projection of the photo series made by the entire class. Celebratory farewell group dinner.

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The stories of 2019

Don Enrico Grassini

by Uwe Glumm

Carlo Pizzichini

by Susanna Linder

Marina Brogi

by Makiko Ishishara

Vinicio Del Mastro

by Katti Borre

Saverio Iervorino

by Kelley Dallas

Fabio Neri

by Kaleb Warnock

Luca Pollai

by See Too Ngao

Benito Corradeschi

by Diane Walker


by Denis Reggie

Leonardo Nannizzi

by Alison Cahill

Orto dei Pecci

by Mirjam Leeflang

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