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GPP.. Through the Eyes of the Lost Boys

Mar 27

In Travels at 8:35am

Cali and Jon here from the studio..

With another amazing GPP event looming in Singapore, Joe asked us younger shooters in the studio to comment on what the annual workshop has meant to us.


The crew has recently arrived back to the ranch after a lengthy, yet thrilling month and a half on the road.  I mentioned the crew’s return home, however, Joe’s schedule continued him onward to the marvelous city of Havana, Cuba.  At the end of each year, we look back at the previous 12 months and laugh about the crazed schedule endured by all.  It’s only nearing the beginning of April, and we’ve already had a few of those laughs this year.  I’m incredibly fortunate to have traveled the world as much as I have at 24 years old.  With regular trips to Europe (London; Birmingham; Germany; Prague & Vienna next month), the Middle East (Dubai; Qatar), South Africa (Cape Town; Johannesburg; Kruger), St. Lucia, and Asia (Singpore & Hong Kong this year), I invariably believe that I’m stuck in some sort of alternate reality.

Although we find ourselves exceptionally busy a great deal of the time, we still find it within ourselves to enjoy the travels and friendships that have been so graciously planted in front of us.  One particular trip that engulfs all the positivity mentioned is our annual trek to Dubai.  Gulf Photo Plus hosts a wonderfully beneficial series of photography workshops in the Middle East.. the biggest of its kind.  It’s a rare occurrence when so many of the top names in the photographic industry are in the same place at the same time, and GPP is one of those unique exceptions.

This most recent trip I made was my third Joe workshop with GPP, and I’ve watched the program grow tremendously year after year.  Having thought about how fast time has gone, since I first visited, and how much I’ve grown since, I am absolutely baffled.  Walking in the doors of the workshop for the first time, I was nothing more than an overly nervous, newly appointed second assistant.  When you’re placed in front of such raw talent, the only thing going through the mind is “remember to keep your mouth shut, and when spoken to, try not to say anything stupid.”  Although everyone is completely gracious and sympathetic, there was a perfectly normal, yet constant sense of feeling star struck.  Now that I find myself as Joe’s first assistant, and having worked in Dubai several times, my levels confidence and maturity have exceedingly developed, since my start with Joe McNally Photography.  As I grow older, and develop more into my role as Joe’s right hand man, my priorities have shifted dramatically (in a positive manner that is). However, experiences such as GPP allow you to sit back, forever humbled by the sheer love and joy shown by unbelievably hard working photographers.  I understand how lucky I am to sit where I sit, at such young age, and I’ve come to greatly respect those who have gone before.. handing down their passion of the craft.  For that, I am thankful.

I also find myself extremely proud of our newly appointed second assistant (I say new.. but he’s been here for almost a year now).  Due to all of his hard work in the studio, Jon was asked to join us in Dubai this year!  Having gone through the same experience with our former assistant Drew Gurian, I was just as excited for him to see this new world.




As the newcomer to Joe’s studio, this was my first year attending Gulf Photo Plus. I’ve heard plenty of stories about all that GPP and Dubai has to offer, so the anticipation had been building for months prior to the trip. Plus, this was my first international adventure with Joe and Cali, so the term ecstatic (and scared shitless) doesn’t nearly begin to describe what I was feeling. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.

My week was largely spent soaking in the bottomless pools of inspiration left by the ridiculous line up of instructors Mo and Hala brought in. It was such an honor and a privilege to spend time with photographers I’ve admired for years. I also had my eyes opened to some extremely talented younger photographers, whom I now consider great friends. I look forward to following their careers, as they continue to make some serious waves in their parts of the world. The overwhelming measure of passion for their art, as well as the desire to spread their knowledge and grow the industry, was undeniable and immensely motivational.

In addition to sharing quality time with the instructors, I had the opportunity to bond with the incredibly diverse student body, from all corners of the globe. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about their backgrounds and cultures, over the course of the week. It was so encouraging to see such a variety of ages and occupations, joined together in their dedication to learn and expand their proficiency in the world of photography.

I suppose there was some “work” involved as well, but when your boss is Joe McNally, there is rarely a dull moment. Every hour on the clock is further education in the school of life and the ever rewarding craft of photography. I can’t thank Joe enough for bringing me along and for everything that he’s done for me in my first 9 months at the studio. It is safe to say that I have never had the pleasure of experiencing anything quite like GPP and probably won’t again until I go back next year!


All in all, we cannot recommend experiences such as GPP enough, especially to the younger crowd.  If you find yourself so in love with a craft like photography, take that ambition and run with it.

Maciej says:

on March 27, 2014 at 10:53 am

Guys, you rock! I believe that you complete McNally team in a superb way! Keep rocking, and hope to see you soon!

Carlos says:

on March 27, 2014 at 11:09 am

Dear Mr. McNally,

We were witnesses of the hard work Cali did as your assistant while in Guanajuato and we very much appreciated his warmth personality and humbleness. He deserves the best possible salary raise you can give him.

Thank you for the wonderful teachings. The hot Shoe Diaries andTthe Language of Light are a must buy for all your followers.

All the best!

Fadi Kelada says:

on March 27, 2014 at 11:29 am

Big thanks to you guys for helping out on locations!

Drew Gurian says:

on March 27, 2014 at 2:22 pm

So, so great to see the two of you grow into what’s inevitably a career, and life-changing gig. In all of it’s craziness, I’m proud to see my boys growing up and sticking with it. After all, once it’s over you’ll probably end up squatting in a factory somewhere in Brooklyn.

…and Cali– as the for “right-hand” man thing, might want chill on the arm wrestling for a bit. “Left-hand man” just doesn’t work.

Alexandra Neschetna says:

on March 27, 2014 at 4:21 pm

They seemed like really friendly guys, even though I didn’t really get to talk to them other than when I asked for a group photo of them.
Very lucky guys too! I wish I had such an opportunity too, or that I will get one someday.
I am as old as Cali (24 if I read that right), and I have miles and miles to grow!

Wishing all these guys the greatest futures and great careers!

JerseyStyle Photography says:

on March 27, 2014 at 7:38 pm

Enjoy it, gents. You’re getting an education…and a ride. ~ Mark

Babar Swaleheen says:

on March 28, 2014 at 12:07 am

The thing that literally made my jaw drop was Cali. That guy exactly know what Joe upto. Before Joe asked for anything Cali knew what he wants and he was standing by. Duting the workshop i was watching Joe working and flash mixing with ambient light and he was taking flash on and off the camera and at one time he put on the flash and forget to turn it on to fire the remote flash… I was watching it as i was sitting right behind Joe …. And Noe was busy in addressing questions from the workshop attendees …. But before Joe clicked the camera Cali shouted to turn it on at the last minute and i was wondering how the hell that guy know that flash is turn off he was no way near to Joe …

That was one incident and i experienced several working with Joe over 3 days … All 3 of them have vast amount of knowledge. They are just awesome … Wish them best of luck guys ….


Rob says:

on March 28, 2014 at 4:48 am

What a dream job you have to learn and grow into the world of photography. Wish I could give up my boring work in IT and find a team like this to learn and grow from. I’m a bit older than 24 though, and in Dubai money for such work is probably not good for a european. :)

Nice write up, it’s nice to hear from other members of the team that help the McNally photo factory work so well.

IBCBET says:

on March 31, 2014 at 1:20 am

Nice write up.

Simon Fleming says:

on April 1, 2014 at 1:27 am

It was great to meet you guys at GPP, and to share a beer one evening – definitely one of the highlights of my trip. You both made an invaluable contribution with the sharing of your own knowledge with myself and all of the other students during the workshops.

I wish you all the best with your future adventures with Joe, and with your own careers.

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