The Next Step 2019

DATES: September 24th – October 2nd, 2019
INSTRUCTORS: Carol Panaro-Smith & James Hajicek with special guest, Mary Virginia Swanson
LOCATION: Villa San Rocco, Benabbio, Italy
COST: $2,975–$3,275 per person


Imagine 7 days, nestled in a rambling Baroque villa in a medieval town surrounded by chestnut forests in the hills of Tuscany. What better setting to immerse yourself in a supportive community of faculty and peers and focus entirely on your creative process.

Group critiques, informative visual presentations and individual meetings with faculty are designed to help you further understand your work and prepare it for presentation to a wider audience.


  • Develop skills in editing and sequencing your work into a cohesive body of images
  • Engage in group critiques designed to help you see, distill, and focus your creative work
  • Become savvy on the markets for fine photographs today
  • Gain greater understanding on how to present yourself and your work

In addition, each participant will have an individual critique with Carol and James to further distill and refine a body of work and meet with Mary Virginia to identify supportive audiences and venues for your projects.

Each evening we will dine around a communal table for memorable meals and further discuss the topics of the day.

Throughout the workshop there will be opportunities for you to photograph in our beautiful Tuscan mountaintop village and neighboring forest. We have also set aside a day to visit the historic city of Lucca for a refreshing day of sightseeing, and bicycle ride around the town on its famous Renaissance-era intact city walls.


Portrait of Carol and James

JAMES HAJICEK is a Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University where he taught fine art photography for 34 years. As a practicing artist his area of specialization is late 19th century photographic printing processes.

CAROL PANARO-SMITH has held a number of positions both as a teacher and arts administrator throughout the Phoenix area for over 30 years. Some highlights in her career include establishing Alchemy Studio, a working and teaching studio in Phoenix and Program Director & Curator of Art Intersection in Gilbert, Arizona.

Together, Carol and James have spent decades mentoring artists. Their seminars on taking your work to the next level have helped numerous artists accomplish their goals of project completion, exhibitions and/or gallery representation. The works that they create in their own collaborative artistic practice are in numerous public and private collections throughout the world.

Portrait of Mary Virginia Swanson by Jamie WilliamsMARY VIRGINIA SWANSON is an educator and author who guides artists to find the strengths in their work, identify appropriate audiences, and present their work in a professional, informed manner. Her broad background in the photography industry encompasses the fine art, editorial, commercial and licensing arenas, bringing an important range of perspectives on both the making and marketing of art to her students and clients. Swanson’s workshops on marketing opportunities have proven to aid photographers in advancing their careers. She is based in Tucson, Arizona and New York City.

Website: Instagram: @maryvirginiaswanson Portrait of Mary Virginia Swanson by Jamie Williams.


Inclusive of tuition, housing, meals and local transportation from Florence, Italy:
  • 7 Spaces available with private room and ensuite bath at $3,275 per person
  • 4 Spaces available with shared room/shared bath at $2,975 per person
  • Couples sharing a room and bed at $2,975 per person


Workshop fee includes all of the following:

  • Pick up and return to the Florence airport (Airfare to and from Florence, Italy not included)
  • 7 full days and 8 nights at the Villa San Rocco, a Baroque villa with 11 bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms. The villa itself is a photographer’s dream with eclectic rooms, period furniture and the most beautiful light that has been inspirational since the Renaissance. (Private rooms are booked in order of requests)
  • All meals are included both at the villa and when we dine together at local restaurants. The food is glorious in this region of Italy — local cheeses, cured meats, porcini mushrooms, truffles, honey, the freshest fruit and vegetables and of course PASTA in every shape and form. Every morning there’s a hot loaf of whole grain home-made bread on the table with local butter & jams. The coffee, tea and cappucinos flow all day and the local wine comes out promptly at happy hour. In the villa a well-stocked kitchen is available to you 24/7 if hunger or thirst strikes between meals. We are happy to accommodate any dietary restrictions.
  • An all-day, all-inclusive trip to the nearby medieval walled town of Lucca


This experience has been created for photographers who seek a deeper understanding of their creative process as they prepare to present their work to a broader audience.  Accepted photographers should be prepared to share at least one body of work that is in progress or nearing completion, and be ready to find an appreciative audience for this work.

Email to receive an application and detailed instructions.


Within 10 days of acceptance, a $500 deposit will be required to secure your place in this workshop. You will be sent additional and more detailed information after receiving your deposit. The remaining balance will be due July 15, 2019.


  • All deposits and payments will be refunded in full if the workshop does not make minimum enrollment and is cancelled.
  • If you cancel before March 15th: 100% of deposit less $50 administrative fee will be refunded.
  • If you cancel before July 15th: 90% of tuition will be refunded.
  • If you cancel within 4 weeks of start of workshop refunds will be offered only if your space can be filled.
Adjustments to the above policies can be made if cancellation is the result of immediate personal or family emergencies.