The East End: A Photographer’s Dream Come True

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In 1994, Polish immigrant Katarzyna Zill landed in Manhattan, 4,000 miles away from home. The photographer was not here for fortune. She was not here for fame. She was here to run the New York City Marathon.

And she never left.

“It was such a different culture here, the diversity of people in New York City, I just loved it,” Ms. Zill recalled last week, sitting poolside at a friend’s Sagaponack manse. “You have people of every variety and religion door-to-door, which I think is the most beautiful thing ever. It’s just something I could never experience in my country. It was something very foreign.”

Seven years after her arrival in America, during a sailing trip, Ms. Zill made a new discovery: Sag Harbor. And, again, she stayed put.

“I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me? This is two hours from New York City? From this dirty, dirty highways and the smelly garbage?’” Ms. Zill laughed. “I think I’m so visual person, that makes me very happy to be surrounded by beauty. I’m like, ‘I’m not going anywhere.’”

She kept her promise, until this past winter. Then, Ms. Zill left and travelled first to Miami, Florida, en route to her first Photo Workshop Adventure—an immersive photography vacation hosted by founder and Cold Spring Harbor native Michael Chinnici.

But after a quick 45-minute flight, Ms. Zill and her eight creative comrades found themselves in a third-world country, she said. Cuba.

“It was wild,” she said. “That I just left Miami and I’m in such a place where the toilet don’t work and the kids are running around with no shoes. Poverty, total. But they’re a really nice, beautiful people. It was amazing. And, basically, you can shoot from 6 a.m. to whenever the sun goes down at night.”

For nine days, her group canvassed the isolated country. Subject material was endless, Ms. Zill said, from outdated 1950s automobiles still roaming the streets to local families cooking traditional cuisine. No two photographers—amateur or professional—took the same shot, she reported. And they all learned from one another’s point of view.

As the trip drew to a close, she and Mr. Chinnici got to thinking. Now, 35 trips, 20 countries and four continents later, Photo Workshop Adventures still hadn’t offered a trip into its own backyard: the Hamptons.

“There are so many beautiful places in the world. There really are thousands—tens of thousands,” Mr. Chinnici said last week during a telephone interview. “Why not Long Island, as well? The idea is to take people out and show them some of the most beautiful places on the East End, especially in the early fall. It’s such a perfect time to do it.”

From September 28 through October 2, eight to a dozen photographers—from all over the country, including Minnesota and Virginia, to date, Mr. Chinnici said—will descend upon the Hamptons for a five-day, four-night itinerary with the option to stay in an eight-bedroom estate in Sag Harbor, the first stop on the trip and Ms. Zill’s favorite area on the East End. After a walking tour of the historic whaling village, the group will stop off at the American Hotel for a cup of coffee before visiting and photographing East End artist Ken von der Heyden in his studio, Ms. Zill said.

“He’s lived here for 30 years in the middle of the woods. I thought this would be an awesome experience,” she said. “He’s very eccentric and his shop looks like nothing else I saw on this earth. I’m serious. It’s something very, very special.”

The following days will bring the photographers to the Bridgehampton Candy Kitchen on their way to the Montauk Point Lighthouse, the walking dunes in Hither Hills State Park, also in Montauk, and The Art Barge in Amagansett. Additionally, they’ll practice sunrise and sunset photography on the beach, architectural photography at landmarks in Southampton and on Shelter Island, and fashion photography with two professional models on the ocean in Sagaponack, behind the home in which Ms. Zill is currently staying.

“Let’s go to the roof, I’ll show you the beach from there,” she said, taking to the stairs. “This is supposed to be fun. This is what I experienced in Cuba. It’s not like you have to be on time someplace. It’s not like you are stressed about this. You need to be relaxed.”

She opened the screen door and breathed in the warm, salty air. “And how can you not be here?” she posed. “Why go to Santorini? You live here, you know what I mean? This a little bit like a foreign country. There’s so many beautiful places to photograph and so many famous artists live here. Learn a little bit about that place and it can be your muse.”

For Ms. Zill, it definitely is. Every morning at 5:30 a.m., she grabs her camera and walks out onto the grounds, she said, photographing the place she now calls home.

“It’s so magical. It’s, like, beyond,” she said. “Each day, I can’t believe I’m here.”

Photo Workshop Adventures will host the five-day, four-night photography excursion, “Long Island’s East End,” from Saturday, September 28, through Wednesday, October 2. With accommodations, the fee is $2,795, or $1,995 for the course alone. For more information, call (888) 834-0288 or visit photoworkshopadventures.com.

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