Happy Monday, and welcome to a new feature I’d like share, Mondays with M! I’d like to take one day a week to answer questions, talk about what’s going on in our business, and…. well, just anything that comes to mind. One of my goals this year is to stretch my creative boundaries, so let’s get this kicked off and see what happens! If there are any questions you have for me, just ask! Why Monday?? It really is the worst day of the week, isn’t it? But I couldn’t pass up the alliteration … Wednesdays with M just doesn’t have the same ring now does it?
I’ll start by addressing a question that I was asked by several people last week after I shared a post from Momenta Workshops on Project New Orleans. They wanted to know about that experience. “It was great”, I replied, “It was ah-mazing”, I said … but that doesn’t really tell you about the experience, now does it? So here goes.
In early 2011, I was studying documentary photography at Loyola University and working on a project at the St. Joseph Rebuild Center. I was looking for a way to make my project better when I learned about Project New Orleans and immediately enrolled. I was assigned to document the Louisiana SPCA. Easy, peasy, I thought! I have been documenting the homeless population and now I get puppies and kittens?! I really don’t know what I was thinking and I guess the joke was on me, because I have never worked so hard in my life!
The workshop began on the first afternoon and after the requisite introductions, we jumped right into lectures. The lectures were incredible and chocked full of information about working with non-profits. The business savvy of the Momenta group is quite remarkable. Then came the portfolio reviews. Ruh-roh! … these guys know their stuff, and I was not ready for the truth! My portfolio was met with somewhat of a “meh” … and there was no sugar-coating. I had never experienced anything quite so … real, and it was eye-opening. Wow … this was my first hint that this might be harder than I thought. It was also, right about this time that I got a message from the LA/SPCA telling me that their public relations director was going to appear on the news in the morning, so I could start my assignment by documenting her while she was on air? “Are you kidding me!!?,” I thought as the panic and terror began to rise inside of me. You mean, I actually have to stand in the middle of a live broadcast and photograph you? I wasn’t just stepping … I was LEAPING out of my comfort zone!
The next morning I awoke early, and drove downtown to the news station. Because I was so nervous, I arrived extra early to, low and behold, find that there was a fire in the same block as the news station and the fire trucks were blocking the way. It would have been so easy to turn around go back home and say I couldn’t get there … but I said to myself, “self … you want to study documentary photography, right? Get out there and document it.” So I parked, grabbed a camera, and headed to the scene of the fire. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. And no, I did not keep back 500 feet.
I finally made my way inside the newsroom and shot while the LA/SPCA segment aired … but very few of my images were clear because there was a lot of camera “shake” coming from my knocking knees!
From the newsroom, I headed to the LA/SPCA and began working down my given shot list. There were very specific images that they wanted for their marketing and website. I worked and worked for several hours and then returned back to the workshop for my first edit. I was met by Chris Usher who looked at my images and pretty much told me they were awful. “Bad use of a wide angle lens” he stated time and time again and forbade me to come back the next day with an image of someone’s back. Exhausted and disheartened, I came home in tears. I was angry and hurt and hearing that my work was less than perfect was painful. But I returned the second day with a fire in my belly, and something remarkable happened! I internalized the constructive criticism and began shooting differently. I felt compelled to get up into the action and l waited for moments … moments, moments, moments!
After three intense days of shooting and editing late into the night, the workshop ended with a slideshow and after-party. Family, friends and representatives of the various non-profits that were documented were in attendance. I can barely find the words to express how moving the slideshow was, and how much pride I felt at having completed the work that went into the presentation. I felt like I had learned so much in three very long days, and I didn’t even feel like the same person coming out on the other side of the experience. My work was changed and forever will bear the influence of the Momenta experience … and I guarantee you I will never again make bad use of a wide angle lens! Furthermore, I feel bonded to the Momenta family and have stayed in touch with instructors, Jamie Rose and Chris Usher, through the years. I have loved going back to the after party in subsequent years to view the next years’ student work. I have so much admiration and respect for this group and definitely have attending another workshop on my bucket list!
So for those of you who asked about my workshop experience, there you go! What are you waiting for … go do it! I’ll be more than happy to answer any other questions about this workshop … just shoot me an e-mail.
See you next Monday!