The Pen & The Camera
My week-long workshop at The Maine Media Workshops & College will not spawn a travelog of where I went and what I saw, though you can read what I did write about that here.
One could say this is a different type of journey, certainly a journey of discovery, as is every period of life when you challenge yourself to do something new and to look inside yourself for the strength and courage to let go and just try.
You, my readers, know me as a writer and a photographer, but I have only begun to embrace that identity for myself, to actually label myself as “writer” and/or “photographer.” In these times, everyone with a cell phone claims to be a “photographer,” every blogger a “writer.” Perhaps, (except for the cell phone) in every time people who have engaged in any pastime have claimed the right to label themselves with the professional title.
But those labels carry weight.
There is the weight of pretension, first and foremost, and that I do not want to claim – now or ever. I do not want to pretend to be a photographer or a writer.
There is the weight of justification – justifying why you spend so much time in your head with your camera or in your head with your pen (keyboard). The creative process is not well-tolerated by those who don’t indulge in it.
And then there is the weight of responsibility. If you are going to claim the title, you must also claim the work. That work is practice, study, execution; practice, study, execution; practice… I cannot label myself as a writer if I don’t learn about and practice writing. I do that, but accepting the last (execution) is the crux. Execution is more than publishing a blog. It is putting your work in front of the eyes of critics and teachers and asking for guidance, before you start the practice, study, execution cycle again.
And that is the journey I am making this week in my workshop. I have dared to put my words and images in front of peers and instructors. I have bared my creativity and, naked, it awaits judgement. One of the scariest things I have ever done, as it turns out. A real adventure!
And like a real adventure, there is exhilaration and excitement. Moments of calm are glorious, moments of creative fury are energizing and life-affirming. This is who I am, who I want to be. I am a creative person. I can let my light shine, embrace the pretensions, the justifications and the responsibilities and just get on with it.
Each student submitted photography samples and a writing sample prior to the workshop. Mine were from a project I am working on about “reflections.” Since it is still very much in a draft state, I won’t bore you with it.
Our writing instructor for the week was Richard Goodman. Learn more about him here. Our photography instructor was Eddie Soloway. You can read about him here.
Our first class assignment was to submit four images of the “same thing” and write 2-4 sentences about each one. Here is what I submitted. My subject was the Rockport Harbor. (We had specific instructions about what person to write in – that explains some of the stranger things you will read here.)
“You walked to the harbor early that morning, and you studied the white boats, so many shapes and sizes, drifting silently, anchored in safety. You marveled at their loveliness. The first warm rays of sunshine sparkled in the tiny ripples as they dozed. Lingering, wisps of clouds sketched across the Wedgwood sky. You sighed knowing that the day’s heating would send them on their way. But the world was peaceful; The dreams of that day were still possible.”
“The waves against the wharf send the pilings’ reflections dancing, swaying from side to side like conga players, back and forth, beating out the rhythm. The white and black wires at the wharf’s edge flash like the skirts of a bomba dancer, the ruffles now high, now low, now shaking. There is music in the air! What a glorious morning!”
“Her friend, her rescuer, her escape, her boat. He waits for her patiently, secured to the dock. He beckons to her, bright and clean, white and blue. Adventures await them. Their partnership is sure; There is love on both sides. The black water, softened by the dawn clouds, does not frighten them. They’re ready to go.”
“Sailors’ delight and mine, too. I don’t sail, but I love a good weather day. Today has been a day of new ideas and challenges, a satisfying day, a day lived, used, wrung out for knowledge and more. Today was good day. The red sky promises another. I will sleep well and maybe dream, but I will awaken refreshed, to greet another day with optimism.”
Our second class assignment was to take two images from our photography instructor and to write about them. Again, our instructor is Eddie Soloway. These images are his, the words are mine.
“Hey! Girlfriend! Photobomb!”
“Charlene! No! See those tourists in the jeep? They wanted to take home a picture of a stately creature (moi!) posed artfully in front of the trees we love to nibble…they call it “native fauna.” You wrecked their picture!”
“Relax, girlfriend! One giraffe or two? Two is better is better, right? They’ll go home happy. They don’t even know they’ve been photo-bombed. It is our little secret.”
He awoke, dazed, no pain. “What happened?” he asked.
I sat holding his head. It had been hours, and I was cold and stiff, and the ocean was still dark and stormy. “There was something in the sky,” I told him. “There was a light that shone from the underside. And you. It was like you were in a trance. You started walking into the water. I called you. I begged you to return. I was too scared to follow you.
“You continued wading out – you never hesitated. At the edge of the light, that final step, you disappeared in a flash. That’s when I heard the buzz, the hum. Looking up there was a void in the sky above the strange light on the waves. I staggered back up the beach away from it. I sat down. Actually, I stumbled backwards and fell on my butt. I don’t know how long it lasted and, suddenly, there was another flash, and I found you in my lap.
“Are you okay?” I whispered.
Our final photography assignment was to create two images for each of three different techniques for making interpretive images. The list of techniques is pretty long, but I tried for movement, abstract and shooting through a filter (one natural and one man-made). These were the results:
Meanwhile we were working on a longer piece of writing about the place we missed most. Mine was about Camp Osoha. I am not going to share it here, but I might share it someday with my Osoha friends.
For the final project – the one that would be shown to the entire school in residence that week, we had to choose a photo from the week and write something about it, or choose a writing from the week and a photo to go with it. We would be recorded reading the piece while our image showed on a huge screen. (Thank goodness it was recorded! Can you imagine the nerves of having to read it live?)
Our final project was awesome as part of the show. We had read our work to each other but never had we heard our work read by ourselves, the way we did when we were recorded. It was so amazing. I remain astounded at the talent of all my colleagues in the workshop!
This video is almost 6 minutes long. Mine is the first, but I hope you will persevere and listen to them all. It is not a professional recording, so bear with it. Make sure your volume is turned up!
If you don’t want the 6 minute experience, this is the picture I showed and the piece I read. Try to mimic my voice for the full effect!
The fabric moves with the wind. Sometimes rustling furiously, sometimes it’s a slap-crack. My hair whips around helplessly. The temperature is dropping and there is a memory of winter in these early days of summer. I sense melancholy in this wind. It yearns for the season when it drives our sails with reckless laughter.
Here is a tribute to my colleagues – our class picture!
Both Richard and Eddie did wizards’ work pulling the best out of us, nudging us along to experiment and try new things. Their individual teaching styles complimented each other and the result was a very productive and cohesive class, without competition or envy. We laughed a lot, too (those smiles are genuine). I felt that all of us we’re proud to be a part of this group. I certainly was and I can credit my fellow students, along with Eddie and Richard, for experience I had.
You can return to the full Maine narrative here.
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